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Dear Justice Hill and Members of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee:
Warm greetings, again, from the Judges of the Nevada County Superior Court. As promised, we have the following thoughts regarding the three proposed options discussed in the draft “New Nevada City Courthouse Planning Study” by HOK (the “study”).
First and foremost, we are extraordinarily pleased that the Judicial Council and the Court Facilities Advisory Committee (“Cf AC”) recognize the critical need for a new Nevada City courthouse. As you know, the study notes that our current courthouse is “considered unsafe, undersized, substandard, overcrowded and functionally deficient.” We urge CFAC to take immediate action to choose one of the three courthouse options during its 17 June 2022 meeting. The citizens of our county deserve a modernized courthouse as soon as that is reasonably possible.
Second, in our judgment, the ideal scenario for our community would be Option Two, construction of a state-of-the-art courthouse at the current downtown site. Our downtown courthouse has been a historic, civic, cultural and economic centerpiece for Nevada County for over one-hundred and fifty years. Option Two allows the court to have a highly functional courthouse that meets all the court’s space needs to serve the public. Option Two significantly improves safety and security for the courthouse as well as accessibility for courthouse patrons. Option Two allows the court to stay conveniently proximate to numerous critical courthouse participants (including the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Probation Office and private counsel) whose offices (and scores of employees) are located in the core of Nevada City.
Furthermore, option Two promotes the “local community goals” of maintaining a vibrant downtown Nevada City.
In addition, and of great importance, we have grave reservations about relegating this prominent, public edifice at the heart of our county seat to dormancy and potential decay for years to come. There is a foreseeable risk that an empty, downtown courthouse could become a blight for the entire community, with significant long-term and adverse consequences for Nevada City and Nevada County. We note, with concern, that there are presently two prominent commercial/government buildings in or immediately proximate to the county seat (the Alpha Building and the Nevada County Health, Education and Welfare buildings) that have been vacant and/or abandoned for years. The continued existence of a downtown courthouse, in our view, is critical to ensure the sustained and long-term vitality of our county seat.
Third, we do not recommend selection of Option One, renovation of the existing courthouse. Simply put, any Option One courthouse would be substandard and inadequate to meet the required needs of the community we serve. As the study notes, the courthouse itself would have “unresolved functional issues” and would not meet all of the facility standards ordinarily required for California courts. Moreover, the site would have “inherent, unresolved security, access, and functional issues.”
We recognize that CFAC must act as a steward for numerous statewide capital projects for the judiciary, including ours, and that CFAC ultimately must make its own measured decision of the appropriate choice given the totality of the relevant considerations.
We respectfully wish to underscore, again, our ardent desire that CFAC move forward on one of the three options during its June meeting; the time is now ripe for this essential modernization of our Nevada City courthouse. Thank you for considering our suggestions and for all of the work you perform for the benefit of our court, as well as the judicial branch as a whole.