Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
The historic Sutter County Courthouse (referred to as Courthouse West) was built in 1904. Courthouse West, with three courtrooms, handles all case types except civil and juvenile cases. These case types are heard in The Annex or Courthouse East, built in 1962 across the street. Courthouse West has two courtrooms and also houses the Court Executive's office and the District Attorney. The Family Law Center operates in a leased facility with one courtroom.
The proposed project would provide a modern, secure courthouse with seven courtrooms. It would consolidate and replace all court facilities in Sutter County and provide one additional courtroom for a new judgeship. The project will improve court operational efficiency, access to justice, and overall public service.
In April 2011, the State Public Works Board approved a site at 1077 Civic Center Boulevard for the new courthouse. Adjacent to City Hall and the County Jail, the site has been set aside for the new courthouse for many years, and the jail already has a partially built tunnel to the proposed location of the new courthouse.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The Judicial Council has complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project on December 24, 2009.
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What is the current status of the project?
The New Sutter County Courthouse is currently in construction, with an expected opening date in early October 2015.
Why does Sutter County need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Sutter County currently provides criminal, civil, small claims, traffic and juvenile court services out of two facilities in downtown Yuba City: Courthouse West—the County-owned historic courthouse, built in 1906—and Courthouse East. Both facilities are overcrowded, in poor physical condition, and have significant security, operational, seismic, safety and accessibility issues which prevent the court from providing safe and efficient court services to the public. Examples:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
An important addition to Yuba City’s Civic Center, the new courthouse is adjacent to City Hall and the County Jail. The three-story building will include six courtrooms in 73,853 square feet, with a seventh courtroom “shelled out” to reduce costs and hold space in anticipation of the county’s population doubling over the next 20 years.
The new courthouse will provide significant improvements in security for the public, staff, and in-custody detainees, as well as improved access and efficiency for Sutter County residents, consolidating all court services under one roof.
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 state does not own the two Sutter County court facilities, and therefore cannot renovate them.
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.
What will happen to the existing courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
After the court occupies the new building and vacates its current space, the County will decide what to do with the vacated space in the two County-owned courthouses.
Who is the architect on the project?
RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture, an award-winning firm experienced in building courthouses and civic projects, designed the new Sutter County Courthouse. The AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice chose the new courthouse for inclusion in its "2013 Justice Facilities Review" publication, an annual compendium of the nation's top justice projects.
How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?
Judicial Council staff use a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see a rendering of the new courthouse?
For a rendering of the new courthouse, please see the GALLERY tab on the project webpage.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
This project complies with the California building codes for energy-efficiency, water conservation, resource efficiency, and environmental quality. Sustainability features include drought-tolerant landscaping, water-efficient-irrigation and plumbing systems, and extensive use of natural light throughout the building.
What design approach was used for the new courthouse?
The unique architectural design for the new courthouse features landscaped, open-air courtyards in each corner of the building, creating an inviting and stress-free environment where court users can gather. The building’s cross-shaped design emphasizes openness and accessibility and takes advantage of the views of the Sutter Buttes to the northwest. The contemporary design is intended to both reflect historic precedents in local civic buildings and revitalize an evolving government center in downtown Yuba City.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
In exchange for the court’s equity in the Courthouse East building, the County provided a 3.5-acre site set aside long ago on Civic Center Boulevard in Yuba City’s downtown business district when the County developed a jail on an adjacent site.
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 local government throughout the site selection process.
Was an environmental review completed for the project?
Judicial Council staff are responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed the CEQA process by filing a categorical exemption for this project on December 24, 2009.
Will the new building be energy-efficient?
Yes. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling and state-of-the-art artificial lighting and plumbing, as well as an ample flow of natural light throughout the building.
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 funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund. Bonds to finance construction were sold on this project in the spring of 2013.
How did the state arrive at its initial 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, 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. Bonds to finance construction were sold in spring 2013. 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 the new Sutter Courthouse in years to come.
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 of all courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions in its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts.
Who built the new courthouse?
Swinerton Builders is the general contractor on the project. In business for 125 years, the company is employee owned and provides preconstruction, construction, and green consulting services. Experienced in civic and government construction, the company was named Engineering News-Record’s Contractor of the Year in 2013. Swinerton is also the construction manager at risk on the new Merced County Courthouse project in Los Banos.
How was the general contractor selected?
The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. Selection criteria included an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were 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?
The Judicial Council requires that the contractor conduct 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 were considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
The project is nearing the end of construction, with a current expected opening date in early October 2015.
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