Initial Funding Year: FY 2007-2008
New San Bernardino Justice Center
Photo: Bruce Damonte
Awards and Recognition
The Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino formerly served residents of the City of San Bernardino and the surrounding communities of Redlands, Fontana, and Twin Peaks in nine separate facilities. These facilities poorly served the growing needs of the superior court, and the lack of consolidated facilities exacerbated the functional problems of the main court facilities.
The nexus of court operations was 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 later housed 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. Over time, the T-Wing was pressed into service as a courthouse, housing 11 makeshift courtrooms. These facilities had significant security problems, were very overcrowded, had many physical problems, and prevented the court from operating safely and efficiently.
This project provided 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 consolidated court operations, replacing seven facilities, and includes space for court administration, a court clerk, court security operations, a holding area, and facility support space. The 11-story building occupies a site of about 7 acres, which also includes 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 were designed for it to receive LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project went on to achieve LEED Gold certification because of the shared sustainability goals of the Judicial Council, the court, the architect, and the builder. 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 did San Bernardino County 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.
At one time, the Superior Court of San Bernardino County served 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 eventually housed 15 antiquated courtrooms. The historic courthouse was expanded in 1958 through the addition of an administrative “T-Wing” annex which eventually housed 11 undersized courtrooms. Many of the other courthouse facilities throughout the county were also significantly overcrowded, with 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 limited the ability of San Bernardino Superior Court to meet the growing needs of its residents.
What was the plan for the new courthouse?
The new, seismically safe San Bernardino Justice Center is located at 247 West 3rd Street, directly across from the historic courthouse. The new 11-story facility houses 35 courtrooms plus 2 hearing rooms, consolidating court operations from nine facilities into one justice center. 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?
Court operations were formerly spread among nine separate facilities, making access to court services unwieldy and inefficient. The historic courthouse is less than half the size needed to accommodate existing and future operating requirements. The old courthouse and ancillary facilities have many other functional, efficiency, and security challenges which include:
Who is the Judicial Council, and why did they manage 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.
How did the local community have 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 was 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?
Judicial Council staff use 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, Judicial Council staff conducted interviews with six qualified firms, from which Rudolph and Sletten was selected.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When was the courthouse completed and operational?
Construction began in November 2011; the courthouse was completed in spring 2014.
What are 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 those opportunities?
Once bonds were sold for this project and it was ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk became the general contractor on the project. It conducted 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 occupies seven acres 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. 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 Judicial Council decide where the new courthouse 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. 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 Judicial Council was the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2008, Judicial Council staff completed 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 were 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 was the new courthouse funded?
The courthouse was funded without impact to the state’s General Fund. The funds came 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 fall 2011.
How did the state arrive at its 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 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 could 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. The same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years.
Who was 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?
Judicial Council staff followed 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 was retained early in the project to begin preliminary drawings.
What were the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see images of the new courthouse?
Renderings and photographs are posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.
Is the new courthouse energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
The San Bernardino Justice Center was originally designed to qualify for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Because of the shared sustainability goals of the Judicial Council, the court, the architect, and the builders, the courthouse achieved LEED Gold certification at no added cost. The LEED certification program 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. The courthouse is situated near mass transit. Sustainability features such as window louvers to block out harsh sunlight and afternoon heat and an insulating rooftop garden save energy and make the building more efficient to operate over the life of the courthouse. Water-conserving landscaping and water reuse features are attuned to the area’s desert climate. The design incorporated recycled materials, and care was taken during construction to reduce waste and limit environmental impacts on the nearby creek and park.