Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
The Siskiyou Superior Courthouse is multiple connected structures, with the original structure dating from 1857. The remaining structures were added through the years. This overcrowded facility has significant security deficiencies. For example, it lacks on-site in-custody holding and separate circulation for in-custody defendants, staff, and the public. The current courthouse also has severe functional and ADA access deficiencies. It lacks enough courtrooms for all assigned judges, and one of the four courtrooms must be shared with the County Board of Supervisors. The courthouse's lower level routinely floods during the rainy season. The building's limited space has forced the court to lease an annex building about one block away.
The proposed project would replace the current courthouse and annex with a modern, secure courthouse for all case types and functions, including criminal, family, traffic, juvenile, probate proceedings and investigations, and civil settlements. It would also enable the court to provide basic services it cannot currently offer due to space restrictions: adequately sized jury deliberation rooms, a self-help center, a children's waiting room, family court mediation, attorney interview/witness waiting rooms, and secure circulation for court staff and visitors. The proposed courthouse would contain enough courtrooms for all assigned judges.
The existing facilities in Yreka require court staff, judicial officers, and the general public to park on the street, as no on-site parking is available. The proposed project includes a parking structure with 180 spaces to facilitate public access to court services.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The AOC complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project's preferred site on May 18, 2011.
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 10 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. This project is still in site acquisition and has not yet started architectural design, so this action is not expected to delay the project. 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.
Who owns the courthouse in Yreka?
The building is owned by the County of Siskiyou, and the County occupies a majority of the space. The Superior Court occupies about a third of the building.
The Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002 made the state responsible for court facilities statewide. Under the transfer agreement executed between Siskiyou County and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the County holds title to the courthouse, and the AOC has responsibility for the space occupied by the Court.
What is the AOC?
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 primarily responsible for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of court facilities.
Why is a new courthouse needed?
The main courthouse has multiple structures, the oldest portion over 150 years old, and the entire building is not up to current seismic standards. The court occupies less than 10,000 square feet of the building, resulting in significant overcrowding. When compared against current state standards, the court operates in about one-sixth the space it needs for the caseloads and services it provides. The building is so overcrowded that the court has had to lease space in a nearby annex, and that building is also deficient. Neither building is accessible for people with disabilities.
Courtrooms are substandard in size and lack jury facilities, and the building does not have enough courtrooms for all judicial officers. One courtroom is shared with the Board of Supervisors. The wiring, plumbing, and electrical systems are badly deteriorated. The basement, which houses two courtrooms and the Self-Help Center, routinely floods during the rainy season, causing damage to furniture, equipment, and files.
The courthouse also fails current security standards. For example, state standards call for secured entrances and separate hallways for in-custody defendants. The current courthouse has neither, so police vans park on the street, and in-custody defendants are escorted through the same hallways used by the public, judicial officers, and staff.
Why can’t the current courthouse be renovated?
Courts are state functions, and the current courthouse is owned by the County, which occupies about two-thirds of the building. The County will retain full ownership of the building and expects to use the courthouse for County functions after the court leaves, so the state cannot renovate it for exclusive court use.
What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
The County owns the building, and any future use of the building will be determined by the County.
Who decides where the new courthouse will be located?
The AOC is working closely with the Superior Court and with a Project Advisory Group, which includes the Court as well as community leaders representing the Sheriff and other offices of city and county government. The AOC follows a state-mandated site selection policy and process. The process involves objectively evaluating all potential sites and selecting at least two sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for the Yreka area, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
The AOC and the Project Advisory Group identified site selection criteria of greatest relevance and importance for the new courthouse. The AOC identified possible sites that meet the criteria; a local real estate broker was engaged to assist with this process. Then all site alternatives were ranked against the criteria by the Project Advisory Group. The Presiding Judge signed off on the site selection criteria and the preferred and alternate sites. The site selection must also be approved by the State Public Works Board. Site selection and acquisition typically take a year or more.
How many courtrooms will be in the new courthouse?
The proposed courthouse will include six courtrooms in approximately 86,000 square feet.
Why is the County spending money on a new courthouse when there are so many other local needs and there is a state budget crisis?
The project is funded and managed by the state and not the County. The courts are a separate branch of government, now independent of the County administrative structure. We share the same building, the County collects court-imposed fees and fines, and we work together in many areas, but we are separate branches of government. The new courthouse will also be funded without reliance on the state’s General Fund.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse will be funded primarily from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by Senate Bill 1407, which passed in 2008. This bill approved the issuance of up to $5 billion in lease revenue bonds to fund this project and 40 others throughout the state, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments.
Will the local community have input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group will be the main source of ongoing community input to the project, but we understand that the public will have questions about it as well. The AOC will provide accurate and timely information throughout site selection, design, and construction: Updates will be posted to the California Courts Website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones. We will conduct other public outreach as needed.
Will the new courthouse provide space for any county departments?
The state funding for the new courthouse cannot be used on county facilities.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers?
When the project is in architectural design, the state will select a construction manager (currently scheduled for 2012). The construction manager will perform local outreach to ensure that qualified local subcontractors and suppliers have the opportunity to bid on construction work when that phase nears. Construction is scheduled for fall 2013 through the end of 2014.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient?
Yes. All courthouse projects to be funded by SB 1407 are being designed to receive LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a national standard for sustainable design, and energy efficiency is among its key criteria.
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