Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
The proposed project would replace the existing facility with a modern, secure courthouse designed specifically for mental health court proceedings. It would enable the court to improve security and provide basic services currently not possible because of space restrictions, including a jury assembly room; appropriately sized courtrooms, waiting areas, and jury deliberation rooms; adequate space for security screening and public counter queuing; adequate in-custody holding facilities; attorney interview/witness waiting rooms; physician/patient conference rooms; and a children's waiting room.
The proposed project also includes hoteling work spaces for key mental health support-agency staff, secured parking for judicial officers, surface parking for court users, jurors, and staff, and space for a future building addition to support two more courtrooms.
A site has not been selected for the new courthouse. Once the new courthouse is completed, the court will vacate the existing building, and the state will dispose of the property.
A.C. Martin Partners
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.7 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 several delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions to its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts. Funding of future phases of this project depends in part on what happens to court construction funds in future fiscal years.
As a result, this project will be required to undergo a budget reduction of 10 percent or more of hard construction costs. Further reductions beyond the minimum are expected if no compromises to safety, security, building performance, or court operations will result. This project is still in site acquisition and has not yet started architectural design, so this action is not expected to delay the project. 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.
Why is a new courthouse needed?
The existing Los Angeles Mental Health Courthouse is inadequate to serve the current needs of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. This court is the only one in California that uses a centralized facility for cases involving mental disorders and mental health legal issues. The courthouse serves all of Los Angeles. The building, originally constructed in the 1930s as a factory and later converted to a courthouse, is overcrowded and has numerous deficiencies in access, security, efficiency, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Building systems, including heating, air conditioning, sprinklers, lighting and telecommunications, are aged and in poor condition or outdated.
Who owns the existing courthouse?
In 2002, the Trial Court Facilities Act made the state responsible for court facilities statewide, and the state now holds title to the current building.
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 unit--is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
What is the plan for a New Los Angeles Mental Health Courthouse?
The proposed facility will replace the existing building near downtown Los Angeles with a modern, secure courthouse designed specifically for mental health proceedings, with three courtrooms in approximately 43,445 square feet. The proposed project would enable the court to improve security with adequate space for security screening and in-custody holding facilities. It would also enable the court to provide space and services currently not possible because of space limitations, including adequate public service counters; a jury assembly room; appropriately sized courtrooms, waiting areas, and jury deliberation rooms; attorney/client conference rooms; physician/patient conference rooms; and a children's waiting room. The proposed project also includes hoteling work spaces for key mental health support-agency staff, and space for a future building addition to support two more courtrooms. It also includes construction adequate parking for the public, jurors, and staff, and secure parking spaces for judicial officers.
Why can’t the existing courthouse be renovated?
The building is too small to accommodate the court’s current space needs, and the state’s evaluation indicated that renovation would be both impractical and more costly than building a new courthouse designed specifically for mental health case needs.
Why is the County spending money on a new courthouse when there are so many other local needs and there is a state budget crisis?
The project is funded and managed by the state and not the County. The courts are a separate branch of government, now independent of the County administrative structure. The new courthouse will also be funded without reliance on the state’s General Fund.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse will be funded through statewide increases in court fees, penalties, and assessments 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 project and 40 others throughout the state. Since the funding from these projects comes from court “user fees” collected by all 58 courts in California, the projects do not affect the state's General Fund.
What is the project’s current status?
The project is currently in site selection. No final decisions about a site have been made.
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, following a standard site selection policy and process. The process, established by the Judicial Council’s Site Selection and Acquisition Policy, involves objectively evaluating all potential sites and selecting at least two sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for Los Angeles County residents, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
The court identified site selection criteria of greatest relevance and importance. Working with a local real estate broker, the AOC is identifying possible sites that meet the criteria. Among the key criteria was location within or near downtown Los Angeles. All sites which met this and related criteria were then ranked. The site selection will be validated by the court’s executive office and the presiding judge, who will then sign off on a preferred and alternate site as required by the policy. The site selection must also be approved by the State Public Works Board before the AOC can begin negotiations with the sellers. Site selection and acquisition typically take about two years.
Is the AOC considering a site on 3rd Street near the Southern California Institute of Architecture for this project?
No. At an earlier stage of the project, the AOC was considering a potential site in this area, but for a variety of reasons that site is no longer under consideration.
What is the timeline for the project?
The project was originally authorized in May 2010, with a five-year schedule, with completion originally planned for 2015. However, this timeline may change.
What delays might this project face?
The AOC and the County of Los Angeles have been working toward a joint agreement that would enable the County to co-locate certain of its court-related functions in this facility and several other courthouse projects the AOC is undertaking in Los Angeles. The agreement would involve a cost-sharing arrangement between the County and the State. The agreement will affect the overall space plan for this courthouse and others affected, so once negotiations are finalized, the AOC will need to submit a new scope, budget, and schedule for each project for review by the state legislative and executive branches. This process is likely to lengthen the overall timeline for this project, but the AOC believes the arrangement will ultimately benefit both the County and the public served by these courthouses.
Who is the architect for the project?
The architect selected for this project is AC Martin Partners. However, architectural design cannot begin until site acquisition is completed. In the meantime, the architect will develop preliminary conceptual studies of the height, bulk, and footprint of the building to validate the size and configuration of potential sites.
Will the local community have input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group is the main source of ongoing community input to the project, but the AOC understands that the public will have questions about it as well. The AOC will provide accurate and timely information throughout site selection, design, and construction: Updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones. Public meetings on environmental issues will be held, and other public outreach will be conducted as needed.
How will environmental reviews be conducted? Who will be the lead agency for CEQA?
The AOC is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
What is the timeline for the CEQA process?
The CEQA process will begin after the AOC receives site selection approval by the State Public Works Board. We anticipate this to occur in the latter part of 2011 or early 2012.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers?
The AOC will contract with a construction manager at risk to provide preconstruction services and then to manage construction of the project. The selection of that firm and their work on the project will include local outreach to ensure qualified local first-tier and lower-tier subcontractors and suppliers have the opportunity to bid on the construction work.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
All courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (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. More information on LEED
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