El Dorado County, New Placerville Courthouse

Placerville Courthouse

Superior Court of California, County of El Dorado

Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010

Historic Placerville Courthouse, inadequate to the court's needs

Current Status
This project is in site acquisition with an expected completion date of 2 Q 2020.  

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 6
Square footage: 77,559
Current authorized project budget: $79,669,000
More information

In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.
The Superior Court of El Dorado County provides services in two facilities within Placerville. The Placerville Main Street Branch was originally built in 1913 and is severely overcrowded. The three-story building houses four courtrooms serving criminal, family law, juvenile delinquency and dependency, and domestic violence caseloads. The court also occupies about 20 percent of the Placerville Building C Branch, located in the county government center. This building contains two courtrooms, one of which must be shared with the County Planning Commission. This facility houses administration, criminal, traffic, and civil divisions.

Both buildings are significantly lacking in security and other features to current standards. The historic courthouse lacks a jury assembly area, so prospective jurors assemble and wait in hallways. Because the building has no holding cells for in-custody defendants, they are held in jury deliberation rooms. Building C has no security screening for one of its courtrooms, lacks separate hallways for in-custody defendants, and has only two single-occupant holding cells which are frequently over capacity. Both buildings have other severe functional and physical deficiencies.

The proposed project would replace these two buildings and consolidate operations in a modern, secure facility to handle all case types. It would include space for administration, clerks, security operations and holding, a jury assembly room, a self-help center, and building support space. The proposed project also includes secure parking for judges as well as 240 spaces for on-site parking for support staff, visitors, and jurors.

In March, 2011, the State Public Works Board approved the selection of a potential site for the new courthouse. The site is owned by the County of El Dorado and is adjacent to the county jail on Forni Road.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

Judicial Council staff are responsible for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.


April 20, 2012 to May 22, 2012: A Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report was circulated.

Oct 16, 2014 to Dec 1, 2014: a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was circulated.

In response to public comments, council staff completed a Final EIR.

Architecture/Engineering Firm

Dreyfuss & Blackford

Construction Manager at Risk

To be selected, schedule TBD

Subcontractor Bidding

Schedule TBD

April 2015

What is the current status of the project?

The new El Dorado County Courthouse is in the site acquisition phase, with an expected construction completion date in spring 2020. This schedule is subject to change.


Why does El Dorado County need a new courthouse?

The Superior Court of El Dorado County provides court services from two facilities in downtown Placerville. The historic Main Street Branch, built in 1913, handles criminal, family law and family law mediation, adoptions, and domestic violence cases. The Building C Branch, located ten minutes away in the county government center, hears criminal and traffic calendars. Together, these two facilities have numerous security problems. The Main Street Branch has no jury assembly space, so jurors must meet in hallways open to the public. The lack of adequate holding space for both courthouses means in-custody detainees are held in unsecure waiting areas and public corridors while awaiting trial, creating potential security risks. In addition, the Court’s space in both county-owned courthouses is overcrowded and has severe seismic, physical, functional, accessibility, and efficiency issues that limit the Court’s ability to provide adequate access to justice to west El Dorado County residents.

Examples include:

  • Deputies escort in-custody detainees in chains through public corridors and stairways, creating potential security risks.
  • Noise from public areas outside courtrooms complicates and sometimes disrupts court proceedings.
  • With no interview/conference rooms, attorneys must confer with clients, victims, and witnesses in crowded public corridors and waiting areas.
  • Most features, such as service counters, courtrooms, restrooms, and elevators are inaccessible to people with disabilities.
  • Other issues include inadequate systems for HVAC, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical and cramped and inefficient working conditions for court staff.

What is the plan for the new courthouse?

The New El Dorado County Courthouse will include six courtrooms in approximately 77,000 square feet. It will replace the Court’s space in the county-owned Main Street Branch and Building C Branch and provide basic services not currently offered to county residents due to the limited space in the Court’s current facilities. The new courthouse will include appropriately sized courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, an adequately sized lobby and court administrative space, a self-help center, attorney/client conference rooms, and accessibility for people with disabilities. Enhanced security features will include entrance screening of all court users, adequately sized in-custody holding, and improved fire and life safety. The new courthouse will handle all case types and consolidate Court services currently offered at the two Placerville facilities under one roof, providing a modern, secure courthouse for the county’s population center.

Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?

The Judicial Council evaluated renovation of the Court’s space in the historic Main Street Branch and found that it would not be feasible, due to the building’s space limitation and security, safety, physical, and accessibility issues. In addition, the County owns both the Main Street and Building C facilities. In the majority of cases, the state cannot renovate a building it does not own.

Who is the Judicial Council, and why are they managing this project?

The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California court system, including the trial courts, known as Superior Courts, based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the council through its Capital Program office is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.

More information:

Judicial Council
Judicial Council Staff

How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process included a number of opportunities for community input on the project, including:

  • A Notice of Preparation was issued to the public and published in the local paper, announcing the preparation of a draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the project. The Notice of Preparation was circulated for 30 days, from April 20 to May 22, 2012.
  • A public meeting was held on May 15, 2012, to take comments on the Notice of Preparation and answer any questions from the public.
  • A Notice of Availability was issued to the public and published in the local paper on October 15, 2014, announcing the availability of the draft EIR for the project. The draft EIR was circulated for public review from October 16 to December 1, 2014.
  • A public meeting was held on November 6, 2014 to take comments on the draft EIR and answer any questions from the public.
  • A Notice of Availability was issued to the public on February 25, 2015, announcing the availability of the Final EIR. A notice was published in the local paper on February 25 and 27, announcing the availability of the Final EIR.

Following the CEQA process, the Project Advisory Group, required by Rules of Court and state law, is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. The Project Advisory Group is composed of community, legal, and government leaders. Judicial Council staff work with the group throughout the site selection, design, and construction process. Project updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones.

What will happen to the court’s current facilities when the new courthouse is completed?

In September 2014, the City and County convened a committee to determine possible uses for the Main Street Branch building, once the Court vacates its current space for the new courthouse. Judicial Council staff will work with the Court, the County, and the City of Placerville to help determine the disposition of the Court’s space in the Building C Branch.

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Where will the new courthouse be located?

Judicial Council staff are in the site acquisition process, working closely with the Superior Court and the County to obtain an 8.27-acre site adjacent to the jail on Ray Lawyer Drive in an area that has long been identified for a new courthouse as a part of a county justice center. The state will acquire the property from the County through an equity exchange for the Court’s space in the Building C courthouse. As a part of the transaction, the County will also make improvements in utilities and road access before the courthouse will be built.

What is the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff works closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which includes community, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Council staff follow a standard site selection process. The process involves objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for residents of El Dorado County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.

Why does the Judicial Council decide where the new court is built? Why isn't this a County decision?

Historically, trial courts functioned largely as county departments, but that changed in 2002, with passage of the Trial Court Facilities Act. This law made the State of California responsible for court facilities statewide, rather than the counties. The law gave the Judicial Council responsibility for facilities owned or occupied by the courts and made it responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. Council staff work closely with each affected Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group throughout the site selection process.



Was an environmental review completed for the project?

The Judicial Council is the lead agency responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with public meetings and invitations for written comments. The Notice of Determination for this project was filed on February 25, 2015.

Will the new building be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?

Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it for a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.



How is the new courthouse being funded?

The courthouse was ranked as a “Critical Need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in bond funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.

How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?

Council staff develop each project budget by first determining the building size, site size, and number of parking spaces. Then it provides this information to a professional cost estimating firm that creates a hard construction cost for the building and site work. To this, staff add all project soft costs, which includes all costs associated with evaluating, selecting, and acquiring a site, analysis required to comply with CEQA, the fee for the architecture and engineering team, geotechnical testing, project management and construction management fees, commissioning fees, and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

How can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?

To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, criminal penalties and assessments, parking offense penalties, and civil filing fees were created or increased. This ensured a revenue stream to finance courthouse construction and renovations, promising these projects would be paid for from within the court system rather than drawing on the state's General Fund or local taxes. When the project is ready for construction, the state will sell bonds to finance the project. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 25 years.

What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?

Since 2009, $1.5 billion in court construction funds have been borrowed, swept to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations. As a result, this project, as with other courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to delays. In addition, every Senate Bill 1407 project has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo budget reductions. These reductions are overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts established by the Judicial Council.



Who will design the new courthouse?

Sacramento-based Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects was selected to design the new El Dorado County Courthouse. In business for over 65 years, the company provides architecture, planning, interior design, sustainability, and construction observation services for civic, commercial, healthcare, and education projects. In 2014, the firm was ranked number 31 in Architect Magazine’s, The Architect 50 and received the American Institute of Architects Central Valley Chapter Design Award, Regional Recognition, for the new CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento.

How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?

Judicial Council staff follow a competitive, qualifications-based process to select the architects. Qualifications under consideration include the experience of the design and technical staff, the previous experience of the firm, and other criteria. Once the firm is selected, the fee is negotiated, and an award is made.

What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?

  • A Request for Qualifications is issued to find and secure the best-qualified architecture firm.
  • Once site acquisition is completed, the architects begin the design, draw floor plans and elevations, and illustrate the design through renderings or scale models.
  • Once the design is complete and agreed upon, the preliminary plans are approved.
  • The design phase moves into working drawings.
  • Working drawings are approved and the project moves into construction.

Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?

When available, renderings will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?

Most courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to qualify for LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings. The courthouse design will be designed to meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.



Who will build the new courthouse?

A Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) will be selected through a request for Qualifications and Proposals.

How will the CMAR be selected?

The CMAR will be selected through a competitive process factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. The CMAR is retained early in the project for preconstruction services. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor. Selection criteria include an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, the process, and the timeline.

What are the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?

Once bonds are sold for this project and it is ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor. Before the project goes into construction, the contractor will conduct an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers will be considered.

What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?

  • When the project is in architectural design, a Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best-qualified CMAR.
  • The CMAR in turn issues bid packages to qualified construction professionals to build the construction team.
  • The construction site is prepared, the foundation is poured, and the core of the building and protective shell are completed.
  • The building is enclosed and infrastructure systems are completed.
  • Interior fixtures and finishes are completed.
  • The newly constructed building undergoes quality control checks and the major systems are tested.
  • The finished new building is inspected and issued a certificate of occupancy.

When will the courthouse be completed and operational?

Construction is currently scheduled to begin in fall 2018; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in spring 2020. This schedule is subject to change.


Contact Info

Judicial Council of California
Capital Program

455 Golden Gate Avenue, 8th Floor
San Francisco, California

Customer Service Center:
888-225-3583 or csc@jud.ca.gov
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