Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Criminal Courthouse

Front of Santa Barbara Courthouse

Superior Court of California, County of Santa Barbara

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

Proposed project would replace the Figueroa Courthouse

Current Status
This project is in architectural design-preliminary plans. Project construction start date is to be determined.

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 8
Square footage: 92,331
Current authorized project budget: $99,409,000 
More information

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

The Superior Court of Santa Barbara County serves residents of South County from the historic Anacapa courthouse, the Figueroa courthouse across the street, and a small Jury Services building nearby. These facilities are overcrowded and have severe security problems and many physical deficiencies, including inadequate parking.

The new Santa Barbara Criminal Courthouse will increase efficiency and security by consolidating all criminal and traffic court operations in one modern, secure building for the south district. It will also co-locate jury services with the criminal courtrooms. The new facility will relieve the historic Anacapa courthouse of criminal proceedings and replace the Figueroa courthouse and Jury Services building, both of which would be vacated by the court once the new building is completed.

The project will also provide basic services not currently provided to south district court users due to limited space, including appropriately sized courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, an adequately sized self-help center, a children's waiting room, attorney/client interview rooms, and ADA accessibility. Enhanced security features would include entrance screening of all court users and adequately sized in-custody holding.

The new courthouse will be located on Santa Barbara Street, next to the Figueroa courthouse and across the street from the historic courthouse. Site acquisition was completed in mid-2012.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

Judicial Council staff has complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project on April 12, 2011.

Architecture/Engineering Firm

Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners

Construction Manager at Risk

Rudolph and Sletten

Subcontractor Bidding


January 2017

What is the current status of the project?

The new Santa Barbara Criminal Courthouse is in the architectural design-preliminary plans phase. Project construction start date is to be determined. This schedule is subject to change.


Why does Santa Barbara County need a new courthouse?

The Superior Court of Santa Barbara County serves South County residents from the historic Anacapa Courthouse, the Figueroa Division across the street, and the nearby Jury Services building. The Court has criminal courtrooms in both courthouses, but these courtrooms and supporting facilities no longer function well for criminal proceedings. The Anacapa Courthouse, built in 1929—a National and State Historic Landmark—lacks entrance security screening. The courthouse also has no holding cells. In-custody detainees must be escorted from the Figueroa Division, across the same street used by court users and tourists visiting the historic courthouse. At the Figueroa Division, those in custody must travel from holding cells in the basement to the courtrooms through corridors used by the public and court staff. Both situations create serious security risks. In addition, these overcrowded facilities have severe physical, functional, accessibility, and efficiency issues, limiting access to justice for South County residents. Examples include:

  • Lack of smoke detectors, pull-down fire alarms, a multi-floor sprinkler system, and emergency strobe lights potentially endager the lives of visitors and staff.
  • Dead-end corridors and open staircases create significant fire and life-safety risks.
  • Most features, such as service counters, courtrooms, restrooms, and elevators are inaccessible to people with disabilities. Judge's chambers are accessible from the public hallways and open to intruders, creating security risks.
  • Other issues include inadequate systems for HVAC, mechanical and plumbing, seismic issues, and inefficient working conditions for court employees.

What is the plan for the new courthouse?

The New Santa Barbara Criminal Courthouse will include eight courtrooms in approximately 92,000 square feet. The new courthouse will increase efficiency and security by consolidating all criminal and traffic court operations into one modern, secure building for South County residents. It will also co-locate jury services with the criminal courtrooms. The new facility will relieve the historic Anacapa Courthouse of criminal proceedings and will replace the Figueroa Division and the Jury Services building The project will also provide basic services not currently provided to South County residents due to limited space, including appropriately sized courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, an adequately sized self-help center, a children’s waiting room, attorney/client conference rooms, and accessibility for people with disabilities. Enhanced security features will include entrance screening of all court users, a secure sallyport, adequately sized in-custody holding and improved life safety, providing better access to justice for South County Santa Barbara residents.

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

The Judicial Council evaluated renovation of the Figueroa Division and found that it would not be feasible, due to the building’s critical physical problems, and space, accessibility, seismic, and security issues. Renovating the courthouse, including an addition to solve the space issues, would cost as much or more as building a new courthouse.

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

Unique to this project is the Design Advisory Group. Made up of members of the local community, the Design Advisory Group provides input during the design phase of the new courthouse at identified milestones. The group was formed in recognition of the unique and historic nature of downtown Santa Barbara and the effort to ensure community input.

Council staff will also hold public meetings at key milestones in the design process to ensure the community is informed about the project and will solicit input regarding the project design. These meetings will include the participation of the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission and Planning Commission.

These three vehicles are being established so that the project architect is able to develop a building that meets the court's operational needs, as well as reflects community input. The architect is committed to producing a highly functional, high-quality courthouse design that will complement and enhance the architectural context of historic, downtown Santa Barbara.

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

Prior to construction, the Court will vacate the Figueroa Division, which will be demolished to make way for the new criminal courthouse. When the new courthouse is completed, the historic Anacapa Courthouse will continue to hear civil cases. The County, which owns the Jury Services building, will decide what to do with that facility when the court vacates it.

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Where will the new courthouse be located?

The new courthouse will be located across the street from the historic Anacapa Courthouse.

What was the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which includes community, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate site. Council staff followed a standard site selection process. The process involved objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting at least two sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for residents of Santa Barbara 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 was the lead agency for the environmental review for the new courthouse under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed a thorough analysis of the proposed project before filing a Notice of Exemption on April 12, 2011.

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 an “Immediate 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 is the architect on the project?

The Santa-Monica based architectural firm of Moore Ruble Yudell was selected to design the new Santa Barbara County Courthouse. In business for over 30 years, the company provides architecture and sustainable design services and urban planning and interior design for civic, government, education, and transportation and mixed-use projects. The firm’s award-winning work includes the Robert E. Coyle Federal Courthouse in Fresno, the Darling Law Library at UCLA, and the United States Embassy in Berlin, Germany.

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 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 qualifed construction professionals to build the construction team.
  • The construction site is prepared, the foundation is poured, and the core of the building and protective shells 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?

This project is currently in preliminary plans phase with construction start date to be determined.


Contact Info

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Capital Program

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