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County Donates Pitchess Land Parcel To State For New Courthouse

In a move that could cut down on inmate transportation expenses, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to donate a 10-acre parcel of land within the Pitchess Detention Center for consideration as a new Santa Clarita Valley Superior Court facility.

The current facility on Magic Mountain Parkway is slated for replacement and bond money to finance the project is a possibility, according to Anna Pembedjian, justice deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

"Several months ago, letters went to cities, counties, representatives, development agencies and CEOs seeking donations of land or cash or reduced costs of land for purposes of courthouse projects," she said. "What is driving this activity at the state level is a legislative act, SB 1407 that created a revenue-generating bond for courthouses and a courthouse for the Santa Clarita Valley is included on the list of projects to be funded by this bond."

Pembedjian said despite the state's fiscal crisis, the bond monies are relatively safe.

"There is some possibility that a portion of that bond, we've heard as little as $25 million, maybe $50 million, could be used to cover other gaps, but we've also heard that there may be no effect."

Teresa Ruano, spokesperson for the Administrator of the Courts, the agency that sent out the donation requests, said that the financing for projects in SB1407 will be requested in the fall and a new court facility in Santa Clarita isn't on the horizon until at least 2015.

"Every single project goes through a series of approvals and each phase goes through multiple approvals," Ruano said. "We're way, way ahead of a timeline on Santa Clarita. Typically the entire process, from requesting the funding until somebody walks into a court building, is five years."

The intent of the bill is to pay for a courthouse that duplicates the one currently in use. Additional space and courtrooms are a possibility, Pembedjian said, but they are not a done deal - a fact that Ruano emphasized as well.

"The site that we are donating would allow them to build up to 10 courtrooms, but the initial plan by the state is to build the exact number of courtrooms that exist today, which is four," Pembedjian said. "Eventually it probably will be 10, but not in the beginning."

"What we are looking at is a four court facility," Ruano said.

The county's donation of land on prison grounds would result in significant savings for inmate transportation; they would no longer need to be bussed to various courtrooms throughout the county for adjudication.

The land donation is the second being considered by the AOC and Ruano said that even though two donations have been received, the state will still hire a broker and examine the community to find the site that best fits the needs of that particular jurisdiction.

The City of Santa Clarita donated a 3.5 acre parcel on Golden Valley Road near the current site of Los Angeles County Fire Station 104 in March, then doubled the acreage to a resulting 7 acre parcel in May.