Funding for a new courthouse for Santa Clarita Superior Court was approved Monday by the State Public Works Board, the first step in getting a replacement facility built for the aging complex on Valencia Boulevard.
The courthouse and annex currently in use were built in 1971 as part of a Los Angeles County complex that includes space for the sheriff, library and public health. The facilities are overcrowded and have numerous security shortfalls, physical problems and deficiencies with accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Santa Clarita complex was ranked as "immediate" or "critical" need because of its condition and funding will be obtained from SB 1407 court fees. The projects must now be approved for funding by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the State Legislature. The first approval allows the Administrator of the Court to begin the process of site selection, environmental review and preliminary plans. Courthouse construction projects traditionally take five years, from first finance to first gavel.
The City of Santa Clarita indicated its support of the program beginning in March, when it allocated 3.5 acres on Golden Valley Road for a courthouse complex. It added to the property in June, increasing the parcel to 7 acres. In July, Los Angeles County stepped in with a donation of 10 acres on the ground of Pitchess Detention Facility in Castaic, reasoning that it would cut down on inmate transportation expense if they didn't have to be bussed to locations in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys or downtown Los Angeles.
The land donations don't guarantee that the courthouse will be placed at either location; the state, as part of the process, will now hire brokers and consultants to find suitable land and put those parcels into consideration for the new courthouse complex. The funding approved Monday is also restricted to replacing the four courtrooms currently in use; any expansion of the facilities would have to be financed with other monies.
The Office of Court Construction and Management said that the project will provide a modern, secure courthouse for criminal, traffic, small claims, limited civil and unlawful detainer proceedings. The new facility would enable the court of provide basic services not currently provided due to space restrictions; a self-help center, appropriately-sized courtroom waiting areas, jury assembly and deliberation rooms, attorney interview/witness waiting rooms and a children's waiting room, as well as an adequately-sized in-custody holding area.