San Benito County, Hollister Courthouse

Hollister CourthouseSuperior Court of California, County of San Benito

Funded by Senate Bill 1732
Initial Funding Year: FY 2007-2008

Hollister Courthouse

Current Status
This project was completed in 1Q 2014.

Vital Statistics
Occupancy date: March 17, 2014
Courtrooms: 3
Square footage: 41,500
Authorized total project cost: $37,378,000 
More information

Awards and Recognition
American Institute of Architects' Academy of Architecture for Justice: 2011 Citation Award, Justice Facilities Review
Western Council of Construction Consumers: 2014 Outstanding Project Award
Prior to construction of the new courthouse in the City of Hollister, San Benito County's population of 58,000 accessed judicial services at a single trial court located within a civic center building that was shared with county. According to current standards, this building had inadequate security (other than courtroom bailiffs) and was functionally deficient. There was also no room for expansion. The outdated, undersized building was incapable of meeting the region's growing demand for judicial services. Because of its constrained size, the court had to lease off-site space for its family law and mediation services and to process juvenile delinquency cases.

The State of California's fiscal year 2007-2008 Budget Act included initial funding to replace the existing facility with a new courthouse downtown Hollister.

The new building is a two-story, approximately 41,500-square-foot structure that includes space for three courtrooms, a jury assembly room, a centrally located public counter for civil and criminal issues, family court services, court administration, security operations, a holding area, and facility support space. The project includes surface parking for jurors and visitors, secured parking for judicial officers, and a secure sallyport for transportation of in-custody detainees. Under the direction of the Judicial Council, staff accepted a 3.1-acre site donated by San Benito County and located at 450 Fourth Street in Hollister for the new courthouse and associated parking.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

Through its staff, the Judicial Council is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.


March 25, 2009 to April 23, 2009: Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration circulated. The draft study evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommended mitigation measures.

April 13, 2009: Public meeting held.

In response to public comments, Judicial Council staff completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.

On May 7, 2009: Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.


Project History
Final CEQA Report
Feasibility Report

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Architecture/Engineering Firm


Construction Manager at Risk

Kitchell Contractors, Inc.

Subcontractor Bidding

Completed. Construction began 4/12.


Why do we need a new courthouse?

Although considered modern when built in 1962, the existing Civic Center Building in Hollister where the court shares operational space with the county did not meet current standards for judicial services. By current standards, the facility had several design flaws that posed significant security risks for the public, court staff, and justice partners as well as severely limiting the Superior Court’s ability to provide access to or expand judicial services. In 2006, the Judicial Council of California adopted a statewide Trial Court Capital Outlay plan that ranked San Benito County in “immediate need” of a new courthouse.

What did the plan for the new courthouse include?

This project solved the current space shortfall, increased security, replaced inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidated court operations that were located in the Civic Center Building and in additional leased space under one roof. Upon completion, the new courthouse has become a one-stop location for public access to court services.

The new three-courtroom, approximately 41,500 square-foot courthouse with a jury assembly room is located in downtown Hollister, one block north of the Civic Center Building on approximately 3 acres. The parcel was donated by the County of San Benito and made available with the generous assistance of the Hollister Redevelopment Agency.

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

Since the county owns the Civic Center Building, the state could not obtain title. Owning the building was necessary for the state to make needed improvements and bring all court services under one roof. For that reason, renovation was ruled out. Also, the Civic Center Building has other functional and efficiency problems. Examples:

  • The building is obsolete and inadequate and lacks a central lobby and interior public corridors.
  • There was no available space for a security checkpoint, and security screening was not enforced at the many entrances to the building.
  • Queuing area for the clerk of court was extremely limited, and lines for services spilled out the door and around the block.
  • The two courtrooms and hearing room were undersized according to state standards, lacked adequate entryways, appropriate soundproofing, and jury support space. They were not accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The hearing room’s jury box was too small to accommodate high-volume proceedings, such as arraignments.
  • Lack of a holding area adjacent to the courtroom meant that in-custody detainees entered the courtroom through the same doors as the public and court staff.
  • The building lacks a fire sprinkler and alarm system.
  • Other problems included no sallyport for transporting detainees, guardrails and handrails that were not up to code, and the presence of asbestos.

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 is owned by the judicial branch.

For more information about the Judicial Council and it's staff, refer to:

Judicial Council

Judicial Council Staff

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

The Project Advisory Group (including members of the San Benito Superior Court, local government representatives and other justice partners) worked with San Benito County, accepting their gift of a 3-acre parcel north of the Civic Center Building in downtown Hollister. The California Environmental Quality Act process also enabled the public to review and comment on the environmental report before it was finalized. In addition, Court leaders previewed the courthouse design to the community at a special meeting. Throughout the process, members of the advisory group were available to the community to answer questions about the construction process.

What happened to the space the court occupied inside the Civic Center Building when the new courthouse was completed?

Once the Superior Court occupied the new courthouse, the Board of Supervisors for San Benito County became responsible for determining how the vacated court space would be utilized.

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Who was the construction manager at risk on the project?

Kitchell was the construction manager at risk on the San Benito Courthouse project. 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. A recipient of numerous awards for their work, Kitchell named General Contractor of the Year by the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

How was the contractor selected?

Staff to the Judicial Council used the construction manager at risk (CMAR) method for delivery of major capital projects such as the new San Benito Courthouse. The competitive selection process factors 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 became the general contractor for the project. For this competitive selection, council staff received 12 submissions and conducted interviews with several firms, from which Kitchell was selected.

When did the new courthouse open?

The new courthouse opened in March, 2014.

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

Once bonds were sold for this project and it was ready to be put out to bid, CMAR Kitchell became the general contractor on the project. Prior to the project going into construction, the contractor conducted an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timelines. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers that applied were considered.



What is the location of the new courthouse?

The new courthouse is in downtown Hollister, one block north of the existing Civic Center Building on a parcel of approximately 3 acres. The property is located at 450 Fourth Street. The land was donated by the County of San Benito and made available with the generous assistance of the Hollister Redevelopment Agency.

What was the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and with the Project Advisory Group to determine the best site for the new courthouse. After investigating several potential properties, council staff and the advisory group accepted a generous gift from San Benito County of 3-acre parcel north of the Civic Center Building in downtown Hollister. The City of Hollister Redevelopment Agency financed site demolition and clean up services, as well as a seismic study of the site. The contributions made by the city agency and the county enabled the project move more quickly into design and reduced overall costs to the state.

Why did the Judicial Council decide where the new court was to be built? Why wasn't it 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 Superior Court and justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, staff involve the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group. Depending on the needs of the project, public input may be sought at various stages.



What environmental review was conducted on the site before it was developed?

Through its staff, the Judicial Council was the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2009, council staff approved a mitigated negative declaration for the project. The mitigated negative declaration evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the project and identified appropriate mitigation measures. Some of the mitigation measures applied during construction include watering disturbed earth to limit dust emissions and establishing protection zones around endangered wildlife and vegetation.

Is the new building energy efficient?

Yes. The building was designed with attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include light emitting glass walls and advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling, artificial lighting, and plumbing. The building’s sustainability features qualify it to receive LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.



How was the new courthouse funded?

The courthouse was funded without the use of taxpayer revenues. Revenues to fund courthouse constructions and renovation projects come from statewide court user fees, authorized by the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002. This bill approved the issuance of lease-revenue bonds to fund the project, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments. Bonds were sold for the new courthouse in fall 2011.

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

Judicial 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 preparation. To this, council 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?

The San Benito Courthouse was authorized for construction under the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002, which transferred responsibility for court facilities—their repair, renovation and construction—from counties to the state. To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, penalty assessments and parking offense penalties were increased, and civil filing fee surcharges were created. 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 taxpayer revenues or local taxes. The state sold lease-revenue bonds for this project in November 2011. Now that the courthouse is completed and occupied, that same revenue stream will repay those bonds over the next 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support San Benito’s critical needs in years to come.



Who were the architects on the project?

The SmithGroupJJR was the architectural firm for the new San Benito Courthouse. Founded in 1853, it is the oldest continuously practicing architecture and engineering firm in the U.S. The company serves a diverse clientele, including federal government agencies, colleges and universities, research institutions, and Fortune 500 corporations. The American Institute of Architects’ Academy for Justice selected the architectural design for the new San Benito Courthouse for one of its top awards.

How was the architect selected?

Judicial Council staff used a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee. The architectural company was retained early in the project to begin architectural design.

Where can I see photos of the new courthouse?

Photographs will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab after the dedication.


Contact Info

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Capital Program

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