- Santa Clara Celebrates Start of Family Justice Center Construction
- Superior Court of Santa Clara County
Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
These buildings are also undersized and overcrowded, creating challenges for families who must use them. For example, the Family Law courthouse, located on Park Avenue, is a former bank. It lacks attorney/client conference rooms, so confidential discussions take place in public lobbies, in areas separated only by low partitions. There is no space for a children's waiting room in this location. The building also lacks in-custody holding and secure circulation, which means that in-custody detainees must be escorted through public corridors.
The 20-courtoom Family Justice Center will replace six leased facilities and consolidate all family-related services, including Family Court, Juvenile Dependency, and Drug Court, into a single facility. It will include a self-help center, family court services, a child waiting area, and space for justice partners. It will also include a secure central holding area as well as separate hallways for in-custody detainees.
The AOC, the Superior Court, and Santa Clara County are collaborating on the proposed project. The County donated the proposed site, located across the street from the San Jose Downtown Superior Court on the block bounded by North 1st Street, West St. James Street, North Market Street, and Devine Street. Funding for the project will come from SB 1407 funds, court funds, and proceeds from the sale of a vacated courthouse.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The AOC is the lead agency responsible for CEQA compliance. A Mitigated Negative Declaration was prepared for the project.
January 19, 2010 through February 17, 2010: Draft report circulated.
February 10, 2010: Public meeting held.
After receiving public comments, the AOC completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration
On April 12, 2010, the AOC filed a Notice of Determination (PDF), completing the CEQA process.
Zimmer Gunsul Frasca
Construction Manager at Risk
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
The state Budget Act for fiscal year 2011–2012 contained unprecedented cuts to the judicial branch budget in general and to the account that funds SB 1407 projects in particular. Taking account of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis, in April 2012, the Judicial Council approved cost-reduction measures affecting all projects funded by SB 1407. News release.
As a result, this project will be required to undergo a budget reduction of 3 percent or more of hard construction costs. Further reductions beyond the minimum are expected if no compromises to safety, security, building performance, or court operations will result. Until the state Legislature resolves the budget for the coming fiscal year, any future impact on funding the next phases of this project is unknown. This web page will be updated with any changes.
Why is a replacement courthouse needed?
The proposed New Family Resources Courthouse would consolidate all Santa Clara Superior Court family justice services, replacing five facilities with a single courthouse. The project’s objectives are to:
The Judicial Council ranked this project as a Critical Need; making it one of the highest priority capital outlay projects for the judicial branch throughout California.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The AOC is considering a potential site across the street from the San Jose Downtown Superior Court and near to the city’s Historic Courthouse. The site is within the block bounded by North 1st Street, West St. James Street, North Market Street and Devine Street. The County of Santa Clara owns most of the site, and the County has offered to donate its parcel to the AOC for the new courthouse. The AOC is also considering potential acquisition of an adjacent additional parcel from the Valley Transportation Authority, but the parties are still negotiating terms for acquisition, and the parties may not reach an agreement.
That site is currently a parking lot. What parking will replace the lot?
Court staff, county staff, and jurors currently use the County’s parcel for parking. If the AOC acquires the parcel for the courthouse project, the AOC expects drivers to park in nearby public parking facilities. A future parking plan may include parking space arrangements in nearby facilities to ensure that adequate parking spaces are available.
Where will courthouse visitors, jurors, and employees park?
The plan for the proposed courthouse includes limited surface and secured parking in the basement for judicial officers. The plan does not include parking for the public, jurors, or most of the Superior Court’s staff. The Court is working with the City of San Jose to establish an agreement to provide a limited number of spaces at a discounted rate for employee parking. Also, as part of its environmental assessment of the proposed site, the AOC has conducted studies that indicate there is ample public parking in the area to accommodate the needs of the proposed courthouse facility. It is also important to note that most of the Superior Court’s existing family justice facilities are within walking distance of the proposed site, so parking lots and garages currently used to accommodate visitors, jurors, and staff at those facilities would likely continue to be used. The proposed site is also very accessible to public transit.
How big will the building be?
The proposal involves a building of approximately 194,000 square feet, with 20 courtrooms and other support functions.
How tall will the building be?
Since the project has not yet started, there is no project design. Design will not begin until site acquisition is completed and approved by the state Public Works Board. Initial studies anticipate that to include all of the required functions, the building would be between approximately 7 and 10 stories tall, with a maximum height of 200 feet, depending on whether it is built on one or both sites. If the AOC acquires the second parcel from the Valley Transportation Authority, the proposed building’s bulk and height may be revised for a lower profile, depending on how design progresses. If a portion of the building is constructed on the parcel currently owned by Valley Transportation Authority, that portion will adhere to height limits within the St. James Square Historic District.
What about security issues?
Subject to future studies of options for the building’s design, current studies anticipate that the new courthouse will face southeast towards West St. James Street, and the building’s single public entrance will face the intersection of North 1st Street and West St. James Street.
What about the mature trees along the site?
The project will retain existing trees along the perimeter of the site where possible and will provide additional landscaping as well.
What are the most significant findings in the AOC’s environmental analysis?
The environmental report found potentially significant impacts in air quality, cultural resources, hazards and hazardous materials, and noise. Most of these findings relate to construction activities during the AOC’s planned two-year construction period, from 2013 through 2014. The AOC is adopting mitigation measures to reduce the impacts to less-than-significant levels.
Did you find hazardous substances on the VTA site?
The AOC’s analysis found that a gasoline station occupied a portion of the Valley Transportation Authority’s parcel during the mid-20th century. Investigations indicate there are three underground storage tanks, two of which were empty and one of which contains gasoline or a fuel-like substance. The AOC collected soil samples and groundwater samples to assess the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons or petroleum-related organic compounds on the site and found low levels of the substances in some samples. If the AOC and the Valley Transportation Authority successfully conclude negotiations for the AOC’s acquisition of the Valley Transportation Authority’s parcel, the underground storage tanks and other debris will be removed in compliance with hazardous materials regulations. The AOC is continuing to analyze additional samples to further evaluate the contamination and is adopting contingency measures to ensure that construction of the courthouse does not aggravate the existing contamination.
Who is participating in this project?
The project is a collaboration among the County of Santa Clara, the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, and the AOC.
Who is providing the funds for the new courthouse project?
The funding plan includes resources from the Court, Santa Clara County (by virtue of its land donation offer), and the state.
Why are you spending money on a courthouse in a time of state fiscal crisis?
All partners in this project consider it of critical importance to improving access to justice and promoting efficient judicial operations in Santa Clara County. State courthouse construction funding comes from the judicial branch, not the state general funds, and cannot be used for anything but courthouse construction. The state’s funding is from a dedicated capital construction fund, so no services or operating fund resources will be reduced when the project is funded.
Also, courthouse construction projects provide vital economic stimulus in local communities in the form of design and construction jobs and purchase of goods. This project makes good economic sense because of the security and efficiency savings that will be realized. Additionally, exchanging leased facilities for an owned facility eliminates not only the cost of the current leases but also the risk of escalating lease payments.
Will the local community have input regarding the new courthouse project?
Yes. A Project Advisory Group with broad participation by local officials and community leaders has been formed to work with the Administrative Office of the Courts for the duration of the project. This group includes individuals with relevant positions of expertise as well as key governmental leaders who represent their community constituencies. In addition, members of the public were invited to review and comment on the project’s draft environmental report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). As the project progresses, the public will be kept informed of key project milestones. During construction, a monthly newsletter will inform neighbors of upcoming work and potential impacts.
When will construction start?
Site environmental work, CEQA analysis, and land acquisition activities are expected to conclude in mid-2011. The project team expects to proceed with design in 2011–2012. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2013. This schedule is subjecct to change.
When will the new courthouse be completed and operational?
The current project timeline calls for completion of construction in 2015. After completion of the new courthouse, the Superior Court will vacate the current leased facilities.
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