Glenn County, Willows Courthouse Renovation/Expansion

Superior Court of California, County of Glenn

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

Architect's rendering: Renovated Glenn County Courthouse with addition

Current Status
This project has completed architectural design-working drawings, and awaits further funding before moving into construction.

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 3
Square footage: 41,867
Current authorized project budget: $40,953,000 
More information

In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.

Video: Statewide Tour of Courthouse Needs Includes Willows (3:53)

The Superior Court of Glenn County operates from two facilities—the Orland Branch, and the main facility, the Historic Courthouse in downtown Willows. The historic courthouse, built in 1894, has two stories totaling 16,100 square feet. The building received additions in the 1940s—three single-story structures that sit behind the original courthouse.

The proposed project will improve security and functionality and increase efficiency by consolidating the two facilities into one—a renovated and expanded historic courthouse in Willows. The proposed project is being planned consistent with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The previous additions will be demolished, returning the historic building to its original form before an addition is built behind it.

The historic courthouse will undergo a seismic strengthening and improvements to its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The historic courthouse will house the main entrance and lobby, security screening, self-help center, mediation and settlement spaces, court administration, and one courtroom. A planned two-story, 26,900 square-foot addition will be located behind the historic courthouse, on state property and on a small parcel to be acquired from Glenn County. The addition will house clerk's offices and court operations, two courtrooms, the sheriff, and holding areas for in-custody defendants. The addition will be designed as compatible with, but differentiated from, the historic building.

During construction, the court will vacate the main courthouse, operating at the Orland Branch and at the Willows Memorial Hall, which houses the Board of Supervisors. Staff will relocate to leased swing space (and a modular building) in Willows until construction is complete.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

The Judicial Council complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project on December 1, 2010.

Architect's rendering: Renovated Glenn County Courthouse with addition

Architecture/Engineering Firm

Page & Turnbull

Construction Manager at Risk


Construction Manager Vanir

Construction Subcontractors


August 2017

What is the current status of the project?
The renovation and expansion of the historic Willows Courthouse in Glenn County is currently in the architectural design-working drawings phase, with an expected completion date of fall 2020. This schedule is subject to change.


Why are renovations needed to historic Willows Courthouse in Glenn County?

The Superior Court of Glenn County serves the public from the historic courthouse in downtown Willows and a branch court in Orland. The Orland Branch is a county-owned facility in which the court leases space. The state-owned, historic courthouse is the main courthouse, built in 1894 with two small, single-story additions constructed in the late 1940s. Despite these additions, the historic courthouse remains undersized, outdated, and in desperate need of renovation. The building’s load-bearing walls are un-reinforced brick, making them seismically unsafe. The electrical system consists of an antiquated, unsafe pole-mounted transformer and a main service switchboard, located in a nearby driveway and open to the elements. The historic courthouse has other significant physical, functional, safety, security, accessibility, and efficiency problems that hinder the court’s ability to provide adequate access to justice to Glenn County residents. Examples include:

  • The courthouse lacks adequate security screening due to the limited entrance area, which also doubles as a public waiting area.
  • There is no dedicated assembly space for jurors and confidential court users.
  • Deputies escort in-custody detainees in chains from the nearby jail to the courthouse in public and inside the courthouse through public corridors and stairways, creating security risks.
  • Plumbing fixtures are inefficient and have numerous maintenance issues. Because of low water pressure, the toilets have a high failure rate and are in constant need of repair.
  • Most features, such as service counters, courtrooms and restrooms, are inaccessible to people with disabilities without assistance.
  • Other issues include inadequate systems for HVAC and mechanical and seismic issues, and inefficient working conditions for court employees.

What will the renovation include?

The renovation and expansion of the historic Willows Courthouse in Glenn County will include three courtrooms in approximately 42,000 square feet. It will consolidate court services from the current buildings, which are overcrowded, outdated, and unsafe, into the newly renovated historic courthouse. Renovations will include an enhanced main entrance and lobby area with modern security screening, an adequately sized self-help center and clerk’s office, mediation and settlement spaces, and court administration. In addition, the historic courthouse will undergo seismic strengthening and improvements to its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

The project will entail tearing down the two, single-story additions behind the courthouse and returning the building and historic courtroom to its original form prior to construction. The addition will include two courtrooms, administration and public counter space, in-custody holding, and a secure sallyport for the transportation of in-custody detainees.

The project is being planned consistent with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, and the addition is being designed to be visually compatible with the historic courthouse. When completed, the renovation and expansion will provide significant improvements in safety, security, and accessibility, enabling the court to better serve the residents of Glenn County. After the court occupies the newly renovated historic courthouse, the Orland branch will be closed.

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.

More information:

Judicial Council
Judicial Council Staff

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

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 design and construction process. In addition, project updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones.

Where will the court operate from during the renovation?

During renovation and construction, the Glenn County Superior Court will vacate the historic courthouse for a nearby modular complex that will act as a courtroom. Other court services will be located in the existing Resource Center. The Orland Branch will remain open and provide full court services to the public during the renovation.

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Where will the addition to the historic courthouse be located?

The two-story addition will be built directly behind the historic courthouse on state property and on a parcel of land acquired from Glenn County. The County is also providing long-term leases of two nearby lots for off-site parking.

Why is the Judicial Council in charge of the renovation project? Why isn't this county project?

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 local government throughout the process. The Judicial Council owns the historic Willows Courthouse.



What environmental review was conducted on the site before the renovation?

Judicial Council staff are responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff evaluated potential project impacts and filed a Notice of Exemption for this project in December 2010.

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

Yes. The building will be renovated with great attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features will include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling and state-of-the-art lighting and plumbing, as well as an ample flow of natural light throughout the courthouse and specially treated window glass to mitigate heat gain. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it to receive a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.



How is the renovation project 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 to renovate the courthouse, 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 renovation is completed and the court once again occupies the courthouse, 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 of all courthouse projects statewide, was subjected to delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions in its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts.



Who is the architect on the project?

The San Francisco-based architect firm of Page & Turnbull was chosen to design the renovation and addition. Specialists in historic renovation and sustainability, the 40-year-old firm has broad experience in renovating historic buildings for public use. It has designed renovation projects throughout the state, including government, civic, and commercial buildings. Page & Turnbull was recently awarded the William C. Ralston Award from the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society in recognition of decades of architectural work committed to the historical preservation of the Bay Area.

How was the architect 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.

Where can I see a rendering of the renovation?

For a rendering of the renovated courthouse, please see the GALLERY tab on the project webpage.

Will the renovated 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 meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.



Who is the construction manager at risk (CMAR) on the project?

Kitchell Construction was chosen as the construction manager at risk on the historic Willows Courthouse renovation and addition. In business for over 60 years, Kitchell is one of the top builders in the Western United States and 100 percent employee owned. The company has completed a diverse array of civic projects including the Mammoth Lakes Courthouse in Mono County and the new San Benito Courthouse in Hollister. A recipient of numerous awards for their work, Kitchell Construction was named General Contractor of the Year by the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

How was the CMAR selected?

The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. Selection criteria included 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. In this case, three firms were prequalified, from which Kitchell Construction was chosen.

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?

The Judicial Council requires that the contractor conduct 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.

When will the renovations and addition to the Willows Courthouse be completed?

Construction is currently scheduled to begin in the fall 2017; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2020. This schedule is subject to change.


Contact Info

Judicial Council of California
Capital Program

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San Francisco, California

Customer Service Center:
888-225-3583 or
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