Four more California courthouse projects have been indefinitely delayed by the Judicial Council, but Santa Barbara’s proposal was “positively received” by one of the council’s advisory groups, according to Santa Barbara County Superior Court executive officer Gary Blair.
Santa Barbara’s project has been long approved for Senate Bill 1407 grant funding, but since the bill was passed in 2009, nearly $1.5 billion of court construction funds have been diverted to the state’s general fund or to bankroll trial court operations.
The new building would consolidate all the criminal courtrooms and use the 1.3-acre Hayward Properties at 1025 Santa Barbara St., which already has been purchased for the project.
As of now, 11 grant-funded courthouse construction projects across the state have been indefinitely delayed because of that money being diverted to other areas. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget would transfer additional money out of construction funds, and as a result, delay most remaining projects for a year.
“That’s the fear — losing a year,” Blair said.
The Court Facility Working Group’s cost-reduction committee met with Blair last Friday to look over three lower-cost options for a new criminal courthouse and essentially approved a three-story, eight-courtroom building to be built behind the current Figueroa Street courthouse, Blair said.
He added that the committee will recommend to the full group — and hopefully the Judicial Council at its February meeting — that the project move forward.
He’s cautiously optimistic and said it’s a big step to get a plan recommended to move forward.
If the Judicial Council and Department of Finance sign off, the planning process could begin in July.
However, “I think we still have to shave some costs,” Blair said.
The cost-reduction committee recommended “Option A,” which would cost about $51 million to build a new facility then demolish the current one, with an entry plaza in its place. It’s much smaller than the original plans, now devoid of any plans for parking or integrating the current facility.
Other options the committee considered were: to build a six-room courthouse connected to the current facility, which would have to be renovated and converted mostly to staff use; and to add two courtrooms to the current facility to alleviate using the Anacapa courthouse for criminal cases.
These two options were more costly, since any renovations on the current building would require massive seismic and HVAC upgrades, as well as bringing it up to code for fire, safety and ADA, Blair said.
They also would address the security problems of transporting in-custody inmates through public hallways, public elevators and public streets to get between the holding facility and courtrooms.
The Court Facilities Working Group is scheduled to meet again next Monday.