State panel greenlights $320 million SB Project
Selicia Kennedy-Ross, SB Sun Staff Writer
SAN BERNARDINO - The state Judicial Council unanimously voted Friday to build a new $320 million courthouse on a vacant parcel downtown, marking it a "high priority project.''
The move by the Judicial Council of California, the policy-making body for the state court system, will help restructure and unify the state and county court systems.
The council approved the San Bernardino Justice Center project as part of a host of projects totaling $1.3 billion, said Mayor Pat Morris, a former Superior Court judge who once served on the council.
San Bernardino County was the most in need of a new courthouse, Morris said.
"We've got the highest level of case loads, the oldest, most decrepit courthouse and more than any other county in the state we have a deep need for more judges," he added.
The new court building would likely be an eight-story, 36-room courthouse built on a 7.5-acre parcel at Arrowhead Avenue and Third Street.
On Monday, the San Bernardino City Council voted to donate the $5 million parcel to the state and waive all permit fees to help pave the way for construction of the new courthouse.
Although the Judicial Council has given the project the green light, it must still go through the state Department of Finance, then be approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and survive the state budget process.
The new courthouse could be a reality within the next four years. Once built, the existing Central Courthouse would remain in use for civil cases only.
"This substantially raises San Bernardino's profile as a government center," Morris said. "It will be a mighty symbol of importance for the city where justice is administered in this county."
A new justice center would also help with San Bernardino's downtown revitalization by attracting more business and employers to the area, especially law firms and legal support professionals, said Emil Marzullo, economic development adviser to the mayor.