Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
This project is in architectural design-preliminary plans with a current expected completion date of 2 Q 2020.
Square footage: 169,342
Current authorized project budget: $175,429,000
In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change
At the Jun 28, 2013, Judicial Council meeting, council member and Judge Mary Ann O'Malley describes deteriorating conditions at the Sonoma Hall of Justice, slated to be replaced by this construction project.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The Judicial Council is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.
May 25, 2011, to June 24, 2011: Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration circulated. The draft study evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommended mitigation measures.
June 16, 2011: Public meeting held.
In response to public comments, the Judicial Council staff completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.
On July 27, 2011, the Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.
Richard Meier & Partners
Construction Manager at Risk
What is the current status of the project?
The New Sonoma County Courthouse is in the architectural design-preliminary plans phase, with an expected construction completion date in fall 2019. This schedule is subject to change.
Why does Sonoma County need a new courthouse?
The main facility for the Superior Court of California, County of Sonoma is the Sonoma County Hall of Justice. This large, two-story courthouse was constructed in 1965. It contains 15 courtrooms for criminal, traffic, juvenile dependency, probate, and family law proceedings, and is shared with several county agencies. Two courtrooms are located in the attached current jail or Main Adult Detention Facility. These overcrowded facilities have significant security problems, numerous accessibility deficiencies, and many physical problems, preventing the court from providing safe and efficient court proceedings and services. Examples include:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The New Sonoma Courthouse will be located in the Sonoma County Administration Center campus, north of downtown Santa Rosa. The new courthouse will house 15 courtrooms in approximately 169,342 square feet. It will consolidate in one location all criminal, traffic, juvenile dependency, and probate proceedings as well as family court mediation, probate investigative services, and enhanced drug court support. The new courthouse will also include features and services that the court was previously unable to provide due to space restrictions, such as appropriately sized jury assembly and deliberation rooms, adequately sized in-custody holding, attorney interview/witness waiting rooms, a children's waiting room, and security entrance screening of all court users, providing improved access to justice for Sonoma County residents.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation as an option and found that it would not be feasible. The Hall of Justice is outdated and overcrowded, and there is not enough space to accommodate the Court’s consolidated space needs and efficient operations. In addition, the County owns the courthouse, and in most cases, the State cannot renovate a facility it does not own.
Who is the Judicial Council, and why are they managing 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 will be owned by the judicial branch.
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project
The Judicial Council was the lead agency for the environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). During that process, the Judicial Council issued a number of notices and held a public meeting, to inform the public about the proposed project and answer any questions related to environmental impacts. In May 2011, the Judicial Council issued a Notice of Intent announcing the availability of the Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND). The Notice of Intent was mailed to interested parties as well as published in the local paper. The IS/MND was publically circulated from May 25 to June 24, 2011. The public could access the IS/MND on the Judicial Council website, as well as at the Santa Rosa Central Library and City Hall. On June 16, 2011, a public meeting was held to inform the public about the proposed project and project schedule as well as take any comments and questions related to the new courthouse.
Following the completion of the CEQA process, the Project Advisory Group, required by Rules of Court and state law, remains the main source of ongoing community input to the project. The Project Advisory Group is composed of community, legal, and government leaders. Judicial Council staff work with the group throughout the site selection, design, and construction process. Project updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones.
What will happen to the court’s current facilities when the new courthouse is completed?
The criminal court will vacate its space and move into the new courthouse. Council staff, with input from the local Court and County, will determine the disposition of the court’s space in the building.
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Where will the new courthouse be located?
The project site is located adjacent to the Hall of Justice and across the street from the current jail in the Sonoma County Administration Center campus, north of downtown Santa Rosa. The site is bounded by US Highway 101 on the west, Paulin Drive on the east, county offices and multi-family housing on the north, and Administration Drive and Fiscal Drive on the south. Ventura Avenue bisects the project site. The new courthouse will be located where the Old Jail facility was previously located, just east of the Hall of Justice. The site includes the surface parking adjacent to Ventura Avenue. Locating the courthouse close to the jail would enable the County in the future to build a tunnel connecting the jail to the new courthouse.
What was the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which includes community, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate site. Council staff followed a standard site selection 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 residents of Sonoma County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
Why does the Judicial Council 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 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.
Was an environmental review completed for the project?
The Judicial Council was the lead agency for the environmental review for the new courthouse. The CEQA process included:
Will the new building be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it for a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse was ranked as an “Immediate Need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in bond funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.
How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?
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 can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?
To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, criminal penalties and assessments, parking offense penalties, and civil filing fees were created or increased. 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. When the project is ready for construction, the state will sell bonds to finance the project. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 25 years.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project
Since 2009, $1.5 billion in court construction funds have been borrowed, swept to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations. As a result, this project, as with other courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to delays. In addition, every Senate Bill 1407 project has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo budget reductions. These reductions are overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts established by the Judicial Council.
Who is the architect on the project?
The Los Angeles office of Richard Meier & Partners Architects was selected to design the new Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa. The company provides architecture and sustainable design services, and urban design and land-use planning for government, commercial, education, and industrial projects. In 2014, the company received a GSA Design Awards Citation for its design of the federal courthouse in San Diego and the Architecture Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its design of the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building at the University of California.
How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?
Judicial Council staff follow a competitive, qualifications-based process to select the architects. Qualifications under consideration include the experience of the design and technical staff, the previous experience of the firm, and other criteria. Once the firm is selected, the fee is negotiated, and an award is made.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?
When available, renderings will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Most courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to qualify for LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings. The courthouse design will meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.
Who will build the new courthouse?
A Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) will be selected through a request for Qualifications and Proposals.
How will the CMAR be selected?
The CMAR will be selected through a competitive process factoring 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. Selection criteria include an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, the process, and the timeline.
What are the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?.
Once bonds are sold for this project and it is ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor. Before the project goes into construction, the contractor will conduct an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers will be considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
Construction is currently scheduled to begin in summer 2017; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in fall 2019. This schedule is subject to change.
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