Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
The Delano courthouse has experienced a caseload increase of more than 80% in the last ten years. It is overcrowded, physically deficient, and significantly lacking in security features to current standards, including adequate holding facilities for in-custody defendants.
The proposed project would replace the Delano courthouse with a modern, secure facility for criminal, traffic, civil, family, probate, and juvenile cases. It would enable the court to provide basic services it cannot currently offer due to space restrictions: jury assembly space, a self-help center, a children's waiting room, family court mediation, attorney interview/witness waiting rooms, and secure circulation for court staff and court visitors, as well as secure in-custody holding. It would also provide an additional courtroom to accommodate one planned new judgeship.
On October 26, 2012, the Judicial Council voted to delay this project indefinitely, due to unprecedented cuts to the judicial branch budget.
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
The state Budget Act for fiscal year 2011–2012 contained unprecedented cuts to the judicial branch budget in general and to the account that funds SB 1407 projects in particular. Taking account of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis, in April 2012 the Judicial Council approved cost-reduction measures affecting all projects funded by SB 1407. News release.
As a result, this project is being reassessed to explore lease option opportunities and evaluate renovation of the existing courthouse. The reassessment will also evaluate lower-cost construction methods, with the goal of significantly reducing the project’s hard construction costs where that does not jeopardize the building’s safety, security, building performance, or court operations. At this time, the timeline for reassessment is not known, so the impact on the project’s overall schedule remains to be seen. Until the state Legislature resolves the budget for the coming fiscal year, any future impact on funding the next phases of this project is unknown. This web page will be updated with any changes.
Who is the AOC, and why are they managing this project?
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is the staff arm of the Judicial Council of California. 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 AOC is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of court facilities.
Why does the AOC 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 the AOC responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. The AOC works closely with each affected Superior Court and justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses, but ultimately the decisions are made by the Judicial Council or delegated to the Administrative Director of the Courts, the director of the AOC. By Rules of Court, the AOC involves the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, the AOC also seeks direct public input at various stages.
Why is a new courthouse needed?
The current courthouse in Delano has significant deficiencies that adversely affect access to justice. The facility has severe security problems and is overcrowded. The Judicial Council's functional study of the courthouse indicates that the court needs more than five times the square footage it currently occupies in order to meet design standards for proper security, public access, and operational efficiency.
For example, on peak days, approximately 400 people enter the building, and that number will increase as northern Kern County continues to grow. In addition, the new courthouse’s caseload will increase with the handling of cases from Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern State Prison. The public enters and exits the building through one set of double doors, making ingress and egress very congested. The building lacks a jury assembly room, so current juror check-in and assembly take place in courtroom waiting areas. The building lacks secure hallways and holding cells adjacent to courtrooms, so in-custody defendants use the same hallways as the public and staff. There is also no secured sallyport for safe transfer of in-custody defendants. The courthouse does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the site has very limited parking for public and staff and no secured parking for judicial officers.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse will be funded from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by Senate Bill 1407, which passed in 2008. This bill approved the issuance of up to $5 billion in lease-revenue bonds to fund this and 40 other projects throughout the state. The bonds will be repaid with court fees, penalties, and assessments.
Who decides where the new courthouse will be located?
In deciding where to locate the new courthouse, the AOC is working closely with the Superior Court and a Project Advisory Group, which includes members of the Superior Court, and representatives from the local community, the Sheriff’s Office, and the County of Kern. The AOC and the Project Advisory Group followed the Judicial Council’s standard site selection policy and process. The process involves objectively defining criteria for potential courthouse sites, evaluating all potential available sites, and selecting at least two sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse for the Delano area and that fit within the limits of the project’s budget and schedule. With the assistance of a local real estate broker, the AOC identified possible sites, and the Project Advisory Group ranked the sites according to the selection criteria.
How much land is required for the project?
Approximately 3.5 acres are required for the courthouse and associated surface parking.
What potential sites have been considered?
The AOC and the PAG considered more than six sites, but ultimately focused on two potential sites― one in downtown Delano and the other near the Delano Municipal Airport. The downtown site is approximately 3.5 acres of the Delano Redevelopment Agency’s property at the southeast corner of 11th Avenue and Fremont Street. The second site is approximately 3.5 acres of an 11-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Wolloomes Avenue and Lexington Avenue. The State Public Works Board (SPWB) approved these sites on April 8, 2011. Although the AOC and PAG seriously considered the downtown site, the Lexington Avenue site is now considered the best site for the project. Pending completion of environmental review, the AOC will request approval of acquisition of the Lexington/Woollomes site by SPWB in spring 2012.
Who is the lead agency for CEQA? How and when are environmental reviews being conducted?
The AOC is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The AOC has developed and issued a draft mitigated negative declaration for the project, available under the "Background" on this web page. The CEQA public comment period began on November 29 and ends on December 28, 2011.
Why is money being spent on a new courthouse when there are so many other local needs and there is a state budget crisis?
The project is solely funded and managed by the State of California. Funds have been specifically approved by the state Legislature for courthouse construction. These funds come from increased court fees and fines; therefore, construction of new courthouses is paid by “user fees” and not money from the state's General Fund.
How will the local community have input regarding the courthouse project?
Key community leaders have been involved as members of the Project Advisory Group; members are listed in this news release. The AOC will conduct public information meetings at several stages in the project.
How many courtrooms will be in the new courthouse? Will the new courthouse provide space for any county departments?
The proposed courthouse is approximately 39,780 square feet and includes three courtrooms. The AOC is not authorized to use any SB 1407 funds for construction of County facilities.
Will new county offices be located close to the new courthouse?
The AOC and the Court have been approached about potentially utilizing space within the building to house justice partners. The AOC is not authorized to use any SB 1407 funds for construction of county facilities, so the construction and operation of a new county building would be the County’s responsibility. However, the new courthouse will provide “hoteling” space for justice partners to use during their courthouse visits.
Who will design the building?
The AOC conducted a search for an architecture and engineering firm for this project. The request for qualifications went out January 29, 2010, and the AOC reviewed numerous proposals from highly qualified firms. The AOC and the Court participated in interviews of a short list of candidate firms. On July 1, 2010, the AOC announced the final selection of LPA Architects. LPA is a California-based, integrated design firm founded in 1965. The firm has extensive experience with sustainable design and has completed numerous civic architecture projects statewide. LPA intends to serve the Kern County project from their Southern California office in Irvine.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers? Will this project help our community?
When the project is in architectural design, the AOC will select a construction manager, currently scheduled for summer 2012. The construction manager will perform local outreach to ensure that qualified local subcontractors and suppliers have the opportunity to bid on construction work when that phase nears. These projects provide valuable economic stimulus in local communities—the Delano courthouse project is estimated to create between 800 and 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. All courthouse projects to be funded by SB 1407 are being designed to achieve LEED Silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a national standard for sustainable design, and energy efficiency is among its key criteria.
What are next steps on the project?
The AOC is currently performing real estate due diligence activities, site acquisition negotiations, and environmental review under CEQA. Once these activities are complete, the AOC expects to obtain site acquisition approval from the State Public Works Board in spring 2012. Architectural design of the new courthouse is scheduled to begin in July 2012. Construction is tentatively scheduled to extend from 2014 through early 2016. This timeline is subject to change.
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