- How Bad Are California Courthouses? Statewide Video Tour Including Woodland
- Superior Court of Yolo County
Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
Planning for a New Courthouse in Yolo County (3:36)
The historic courthouse has been renovated as the court has grown and now houses eight marginal courtrooms. This facility has significant security problems, severe accessibility deficiencies, is very overcrowded, and has many physical problems, preventing the court from providing safe and efficient services to the public. To meet current space needs, the court operates five other facilities, many with courtrooms, spread throughout the downtown Woodland area.
The proposed new 14-courtroom, 163,000-square-foot facility will replace all seven court facilities in Yolo County. The county will retain title to the historic courthouse and occupy the building once the court vacates the space.
The new courthouse will be located in downtown Woodland, in the city block bounded by Main, Fifth, and Sixth Streets and Lincoln Avenue. The Woodland Redevelopment Agency has expedited the state’s purchase of the land to create a convenient, accessible location for the new courthouse. The AOC is also finalizing negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad for a parking lot at Lincoln Avenue and Sixth Street, across the street from the new 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.
February 16, 2010 to March 18, 2010: Draft report circulated.
February 24, 2010: Public meeting held.
After receiving public comments, the AOC completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration (10 MB)
On April 20, 2010, the AOC filed a Notice of Determination, completing the CEQA process.
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Architect's rendering of New Yolo County Courthouse
High resolution version (4.5 MB)
High resolution version (5.3 MB)
Fentress Architects, in association with Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects
Construction Manager at Risk
What is the project's current status?
The New Yolo County Courthouse is in construction, with a current expected completion date of 3 Q 2015.
Why do we need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of California, County of Yolo provides services from seven separate buildings. These buildings are physically and functionally inadequate to serve the needs of the county's growing population, projected to double by 2050. The main building is the historic Woodland Courthouse, built in 1917 as a shared court and county structure. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse has been renovated as the court has grown and now houses eight marginal courtrooms. It is severely overcrowded and has significant security and accessibility problems.
The other six buildings are also overcrowded, and pose security and accessibility problems. Altogether, the numerous physical and logistical deficiencies of the buildings, and the fact that they are spread throughout downtown Woodland, prevent the court from providing safe, efficient, and effective services for county residents.
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The new 14-courtroom, 163,000-square-foot courthouse will solve the current space shortfall, increase security, replace inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidate court operations in a single building. With all court functions under one roof, the new, modern courthouse will become a one-stop location for court services. The new courthouse will be the most significant civic building to be constructed in Woodland in nearly a century.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
Current court operations are spread between seven separate facilities; making access to court services unwieldy and inefficient. The historic Courthouse is less than half the size needed to accommodate existing and future operating requirements. Because the county owns the historic Woodland Courthouse, it is impossible for the state to renovate it, and renovation of the historic courthouse under the State Historic Preservation guidelines was deemed substantially more costly than building a new courthouse. The old courthouse and ancillary facilities have many functional, efficiency, and security challenges which include:
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 Project Advisory Group is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. Members are:
In addition, the California Environmental Quality Act process enabled the public to review and comment on the environmental report before it was finalized.
What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
Once the Superior Court occupies the new courthouse, the county, which owns the building, will use the vacated court space for county agencies.
Who is the architect on the project?
Fentress Architects, in association with Dreyfuss & Blackford, did the design work on the new courthouse. Dreyfuss & Blackford has nearly 60 years of experience in Northern California, including court buildings in Placer, Butte, and Napa counties. Denver-based Fentress Architects specializes in public buildings and has extensive California experience, including the San Joaquin County Administration Building in Stockton, an addition to Sacramento's City Hall, and an expansion to the Pasadena Convention Center. Both firms have extensive experience in sustainable design.
How were the architects selected?
Judicial Council staff use 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?
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?
This project incorporates forward-thinking elements of sustainable design, and it is expected to qualify for a LEED Silver rating from U.S. Green Building Council. This is the national standard for sustainable design. Numerous energy-saving features will make the courthouse more economical to operate over time.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The new courthouse will be located in downtown Woodland, on a 3.76-acre site bounded by Main, Fifth, and Sixth Streets and Lincoln Avenue.
What was the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and with the Project Advisory Group, which includes judges, court staff, representatives from city and county government, justice partners, and the business community, to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Staff 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 Stanislaus County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. A cost reduction subcommittee of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee, which oversees the court construction program statewide, directed the project team to pursue the city block bounded by G and H Streets and 9th and 10th Streets in downtown Modesto as the preferred site. The presiding judge signed off on the preferred and alternate site, and the site selection was approved by the council's Administrative Director of the Courts and the State Public Works Board.
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 justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, staff involve the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, public input may be sought at various stages.
What environmental review was conducted on the site before it was developed?
Through it staff, the Judicial Council is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2010, 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 that will be applied during construction include watering disturbed earth to severely limit dust emissions, establishing protection zones around endangered wildlife and vegetation, and a storm water pollution prevention plan.
Will the new building be energy efficient?
Yes. The building has been designed with attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling, artificial lighting, and plumbing. The building’s sustainability features will qualify it to receive a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building initiative.
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.
How did the state arrive at its initial budget for the project?
Judicial 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, council 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. 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 Yolo’s critical needs in years to come.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.7 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 several delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions to its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts. Funding of future phases of this project depends in part on what happens to court construction funds in future fiscal years.
Who is the construction manager at risk on the project?
In business for more than 70 years, Hensel Phelps has completed numerous California public projects, including courthouses, and is consistently ranked among the top general contractors and construction managers in the nation by McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record. Two of the firm’s California public projects won McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2010 Best of the Best Awards, a national competition that recognizes design and construction excellence.
How was the contractor selected?
Staff to the Judicial Council use the construction manager at risk (CMAR) method for delivery of major capital projects such as the new Yolo 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, council staff received 12 submissions and conducted interviews with 5 short-listed firms, from which Hensel Phelps was selected.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
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 on the project. Prior to the project going 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.
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