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State Eyeing Two Sites in Santa Barbara for Downtown Courthouse

Environmental review and negotiations will begin for the preferred location, the Hayward properties at 1025 Santa Barbara St.

The California Judicial Branch has its eye on two Santa Barbara properties for a new courthouse downtown.

The State Public Works Board approved pursuing the so-called Hayward properties at 1025 Santa Barbara St. as the preferred location, which includes a parking lot and vacant buildings, and will decide whether to approve an MTD-owned property as an alternative around February, said Teresa Ruano, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Council of California.

A $151 million, 97,266-square-foot courthouse will consolidate the Santa Barbara County Superior Court criminal and traffic courts, as well as adding jury deliberation rooms, a self-help center, a children’s waiting room, a holding area for people in jail custody, attorney/client interview rooms and a parking structure. Senate Bill 1407 started funding the project in 2009, but it’s still in the site selection stage.

Work already has been done to alter the existing Figueroa Division’s first floor to enable security to screen all court-goers as they enter the building instead of on a courtroom-by-courtroom basis.

Now that the Hayward property has been approved as the preferred site, it will undergo environmental review, and negotiations will begin with the property owners. There is $41.5 million budgeted for buying property, and Ruano said the state can’t pay a penny over appraised value.

Architectural design of a project beyond basic preliminary planning can’t begin until a site is acquired, and the state doesn’t expect to close escrow until September 2011.

The Hayward property alternative includes 2.8 acres and four properties. The county Probation Department and Garden Street parking lots amount to about half the land, which is already state-owned as it was acquired from the county in 2002, according to the Public Works Board documents. The other 1.3 acres includes a paved parking lot and vacant buildings that used to be Hayward’s furniture store, Karastan Carpet and Rugs and a dog grooming shop.

The time line estimates so far include approving preliminary plans in September 2013 and completing construction by December 2015.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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