- How Bad Are California Courthouses? Statewide Video Tour Including San Bernadino
- Superior Court of San Bernardino County
Initial Funding Year: FY 2007-2008
The Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino serves residents of the City of San Bernardino and the surrounding communities of Redlands, Fontana, and Twin Peaks in nine separate facilities. These facilities poorly serve the growing needs of the superior court, and the lack of consolidated facilities exacerbates the functional problems of the main court facilities.
The nexus of court operations is the downtown court complex, consisting of two facilities. The historic San Bernardino Courthouse was constructed in 1926 as a county office and court facility and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This courthouse originally had 2 courtrooms and a boardroom and now houses 15 marginal courtrooms. This facility was expanded in 1958 with the construction of the adjoining San Bernardino Courthouse Annex behind the historic courthouse. This facility, referred to as the "T-Wing," was originally designed as offices for county agencies with no courtrooms. The T-Wing now houses 11 makeshift courtrooms. These facilities have significant security problems, are very overcrowded, have many physical problems, and prevent the court from operating safely and efficiently.
This project will provide a new 36-courtroom facility on a site donated by the City of San Bernardino directly across the street from the historic courthouse. The project will consolidate court operations, replacing seven facilities, and include space for court administration, a court clerk, court security operations, a holding area, and facility support space. The 11-story building will occupy a site of about 7 acres, which will also include 385 surface parking spaces for court visitors and staff.
The design, by architects Skidmore Owings and Merrill, incorporates several innovative features, including ways to draw daylight into the building without heat and to collect and reuse rooftop rainwater. The building's sustainability features will qualify it to receive LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Construction began in November 2011 and was completed in spring 2014.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The AOC is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.
March 19, 2008 to April 18, 2008: 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 9, 2008: Public meeting held.
In response to public comments, the AOC completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.
On May 7, 2008, the AOC filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Construction Manager at Risk
Rudolph and Sletten, Inc.
Why do we need a new courthouse?
Stretching from the Los Angeles basin cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana to the mountain towns of Twin Peaks and Big Bear to places such as Needles and Joshua Tree in the desert east, San Bernardino County is one of the most diverse and fastest-growing counties in California. It is also one of the largest counties in the United States. Over the past two decades, the county’s population has increased by 91 percent. By 2020, it’s predicted the population will top 2.45 million residents.
The Superior Court of San Bernardino County serves residents through 17 separate facilities, including the historic San Bernardino Courthouse, constructed in 1926. Originally built to provide two courtrooms and a boardroom, the courthouse now houses 15 antiquated courtrooms. The historic courthouse was expanded in 1958 through the addition of an administrative “T-Wing” annex which now hosts 11 undersized courtrooms. Many of the other courthouse facilities throughout the county are also significantly overcrowded and have numerous physical, functional, and efficiency problems as well as safety and security issues. The deteriorated condition of the court facilities coupled with the exploding growth in population and approved judicial officers and funding far below the demonstrated need limits the ability of San Bernardino Superior Court to meet the growing needs of its residents.
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The new, seismically safe San Bernardino Justice Center will be located at 247 West 3rd Street, directly across from the historic courthouse. The new 11-story facility will house 35 courtrooms plus 2 hearing rooms, consolidating court operations from nine existing facilities into one justice center by replacing all of these other facilities with the exception of the historic courthouse and “T-Wing annex”. The new, modern courthouse will eliminate severe overcrowding and provide adequate space for court administration, facility support, security operations, and a holding area with a secure sallyport for the transportation of in-custody detainees. The seven-acre site will also provide adjacent surface parking spaces for visitors, jurors, and staff.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
Current court operations being consolidated are spread among nine separate facilities, making access to court services unwieldy and inefficient. The current historic courthouse is less than half the size needed to accommodate existing and future operating requirements. Insufficient in size, the current courthouse lacks adequate space to serve the needs of a growing population. The old courthouse and ancillary facilities have many other functional, efficiency, and security challenges which include:
Who is the AOC, and why are they managing this project? What is the Judicial Council?
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, renovation and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
For more information about the AOC and the Judicial Council, refer to:
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
During the site selection and acquisition phase, local members of the Project Advisory Group (including members of the San Bernardino Superior Court, local government representatives and other justice partners) worked with the City of San Bernardino, accepting their gift of 7.1 acres as the site for the new San Bernardino Justice Center. Court leaders also previewed the courthouse’s design at community meetings.
What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
The new courthouse will relieve significant overcrowding in the historic courthouse, which will continue to be used for civil proceedings.
Who is the construction manager at risk on the project?
In business for more than 50 years, the California firm of Rudolph and Sletten has completed numerous public and private projects throughout the state. The company has won numerous awards, including the Achievement Award from the Construction Management Association of America and the Best Practice Award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for its work on the Helios Energy Bioscience Building.
How was the contractor selected?
The AOC uses a construction manager at risk (CMAR) for delivery of projects such as the new San Bernardino Justice Center. The CMAR method entails a commitment to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price. 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 subcontractors and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor for the project. Selection criteria for the project CMAR includes an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. For this competitive selection, the AOC conducted interviews with six qualified firms, from which Rudolph and Sletten was selected.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
Construction began in November 2011; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014. This timeline is subject to change.
What are the AOC’s policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How did members of the public find out about those opportunities?
Once the AOC selected the construction manager at risk, that company became the general contractor on the project. It did an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers were considered.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The new courthouse is being built on a seven-acre site located at 247 West 3rd Street in downtown San Bernardino, across from the historic courthouse.
What was the process used to select the site?
The site was donated to the state by the City of San Bernardino with the approval of the Project Advisory Group for the project. In addition, San Bernardino County contributed approximately $8.8 million to the project from funds originally budgeted to improve the courthouse “T-wing” annex. These significant contributions from the city and county enabled the project to progress more quickly, reducing the overall cost of the new San Bernardino Justice Center to the people of California.The Project Advisory Group for the San Bernardino Justice Center included:
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. Recognizing the importance of this project to the city and county of San Bernardino, both entities were closely involved from the beginning, making economic contributions that resulted in the decision to accept the city’s donated site, which also kept the new building in close proximity to the historic courthouse.
What environmental review was conducted on the site before it was developed?
The AOC is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2008, the AOC 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 that will be applied during construction include watering disturbed earth to severely limit dust emissions, relocating young trees and planting multiple trees for every mature tree removed from the site, soil erosion control measures, and a water retention program as well as a storm drainage system during and post construction.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse is being funded without impact to the state’s General Fund. The funds come from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002. This bill approved the issuance of lease-revenue bonds to fund this project, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments. Bonds were sold for this project in the fall of 2011.
How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?
The AOC develops 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, the AOC adds 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 Bernardino Justice Center was authorized 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 the state's General Fund or local taxes. The state sold bonds for this project in November 2011. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support San Bernardino’s critical needs in years to come.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
The recent cost-cutting initiatives on statewide court construction, including reassessment of 13 projects and budget trimming on 24 other projects, will not affect construction already underway on the new San Bernardino Justice Center. Because the state has already sold bonds for this project and has an identified funding pool to repay them, and because the building is already under construction, no further budget-related delays are expected.
Who is the architect on the project?
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP was the architect selected to design the new San Bernardino Justice Center. Established in 1936, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP provides architecture and sustainable design services, as well building services/MEP engineering and urban design and planning. The company has won numerous awards for its work including several Merit Awards from the American Institute of Architecture, California Council, as well as the American Architect Award from Chicago Athenaeum. Its projects have included the new courthouse for the Superior Court of San Diego County, beginning construction in December 2013, and the new federal courthouse in Los Angeles, also currently under construction.
How was the architect selected?
The AOC uses a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience in similar projects, quality of past work and meeting schedules and budgets. The architectural company is retained early in the project to begin preliminary drawings.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?
Renderings are posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.
Will the new courthouse be energy efficient and sustainably designed?
The San Bernardino Justice Center is designed to qualify for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This award is a national standard for sustainable design. The LEED Rating System for New Construction includes criteria for green practices that embrace sustainability, water efficiency, appropriate use of energy, materials, and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design processes. Sustainability features such as window louvers to block out harsh sunlight and afternoon heat and an insulating rooftop garden will save energy and make the building more efficient to operate over the life of the courthouse.