San Benito County, Hollister Courthouse


Superior Court of California, County of San Benito

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

Architect's rendering: New 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



3:14 transcript
San Benito County's population of 58,000 accesses judicial services at a single trial court located within a civic center building that is shared with county offices. According to current standards, this building has inadequate security (other than courtroom bailiffs) and is functionally deficient. There is also no room for expansion. This outdated and undersized building is incapable of meeting the region's growing demand for judicial services. Because of its constrained size, the court has had to lease off-site space for family law and mediation services and find other off-site, shared space 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 in the City of Hollister.

The new building will be a two-story, 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. The Administrative Office of the Courts has acquired a 3-acre site northwest of the intersection of 4th Street and Monterey Street in Hollister for the new courthouse and associated parking.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

The AOC 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, the AOC completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.

On May 7, 2009, the AOC filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.

Project History
Final CEQA Report
Feasibility Report

San Benito Groundbreaking Ceremony


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 constructed in 1962, the existing courthouse does not meet current standards for judicial services. By current standards, the existing courthouse has several design flaws that pose significant security risks for the public, court staff, and justice partners as well as severely limits the Superior Court’s ability to provide access 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 is the plan for the new courthouse?

This project will solve the current space shortfall, increase security, replace inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidate court operations currently located in three separate buildings. The new courthouse will become a one-stop location for public access to court services.

The new three-courtroom, 41,500 square-foot courthouse with a jury assembly room will be located in downtown Hollister, one block north of the existing courthouse on approximately 3.1 acres. This parcel was made available via the generous assistance of the Hollister Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors and the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

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

Since the county already owns the Civic Center Building, the state cannot obtain title. Owning the building would be 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 which include:

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

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.

More information:

Judicial Council

Judicial Council Staff

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 Benito Superior Court, local government representatives and other justice partners) viewed and ranked prospective sites based on standard criteria. In addition, the California Environmental Quality Act process enabled the public to review and comment on the environmental report before it was finalized. Court leaders previewed the courthouse’s design to the community at a special meeting.

What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?

Once the Superior Court occupies the new courthouse, the Board of Supervisors for San Benito County will determine how the vacated court space will be utilized.

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Who is the construction manager at risk on the project?

Kitchell is 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 owned by its employees. 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 was recently named General Contractor of the Year by the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

How was the contractor selected?

The AOC uses the CMAR method for delivery of major capital projects such as the new Lakeport 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 becomes the general contractor for the project. For this competitive selection, the AOC received nine submissions and conducted interviews with five short-listed firms, from which Kitchell was selected.

What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?

  • A Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best qualified general contractor.
  • The CMAR in turn issues bid packages to qualified construction professionals to build the construction team.
  • The construction site is prepared, the foundation is poured, and the core of the building and protective shell are completed.
  • The building is enclosed and infrastructure systems 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?

Construction began in April 2012; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in August 2013.

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 will be located in downtown Hollister, one block north of the existing courthouse on a parcel of approximately 3.1 acres. The property is bounded by Fourth, West, Third and Monterey Streets. This parcel was made available via the generous assistance of the Hollister Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors and the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

What was the process used to select the site?

The AOC worked closely with the Superior Court and with the San Benito County Courthouse Project Advisory Group that included judges and court staff, and county government representatives and officials. The AOC followed a standard site selection policy and 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 this portion of San Benito County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. The Presiding Judge signed off on a preferred and alternate site, and the site selection was approved by the Administrative Director of the Courts (who heads the AOC) and the State Public Works Board.

The Project Advisory Group for the San Benito County Courthouse included:

  • Hon. Harry J. Tobias, Presiding Judge
  • Hon. Steven R. Sanders, Judge
  • Mr. Gil Solorio, Court Executive Assistant
  • Mr. Doug Emerson, Hollister City Council
  • Ms. Priscilla Hill, former member, San Juan Bautista City Council  
  • Ms. Pat Loe, former member, San Benito County Board of Supervisors 
  • Mr. Don Marcus, former member, San Benito County Board of Supervisors
  • Mr. Reb Monaco, former member, San Benito County Board of Supervisors  
  • Mr. Brad Pike, former member, Hollister City Council
  • Mr. Clint Quilter, Manager, City of Hollister
  • Ms. Susan Thompson, former San Benito County Administrative Officer

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. The AOC works closely with each affected Superior Court and justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, the AOC involves the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, the AOC also seeks direct public input at various stages. County officials were closely involved in the siting process.



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 2009, 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 being applied during construction include watering disturbed earth to severely limit dust emissions and establishing protection zones around endangered wildlife and vegetation.

Will the new building be energy efficient?

Yes. The building has been 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 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 fall 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 include 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 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 Benito’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 Benito County Courthouse.



Who is the architect on the project?

The SmithGroup JJR is the architect 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 San Benito Courthouse for one of its top awards.

How was the architect selected?

The AOC uses a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee. The architectural company is retained early in the project to begin preliminary drawings.

What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?

  • A Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best qualified architect firm to begin the design process.
  • The architects complete design development, floor plans, and elevations, illustrating the design through renderings or scale models.
  • Comments are solicited on the design at key points.
  • 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?

Renderings are posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

Will the new courthouse be energy efficient and sustainably designed?

All courthouse projects are designed to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a national standard for sustainable design. Energy efficiency is among its key criteria.


Contact Info

Judicial Council of California
Capital Program

455 Golden Gate Avenue, 8th Floor
San Francisco, California

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