August 2016 – Family court is in session starting Aug.15 at the new Family Justice Center, a joint project of the State of California and Santa Clara County.
After three years of construction, courtrooms previously strewn about six different locations will consolidate into the $233 million facility. The new courthouse, eight stories and 233,906 square feet, is at the corner of St. James and North First streets.
Its 20 courtrooms will be used for family, child support, dependency and drug courts.
“We can happily say goodbye to the old buildings that were undersized, overcrowded, unsafe, inefficient and uncomfortable,” said Presiding Judge Risë Jones Pichon. “The public can take care of all their family law needs under one roof now.”
The building was designed to be calming, stress-free and friendly to children and families. But it also presents an architectural vocabulary that is dignified and traditional. The public entry faces a plaza with a striking courtyard colonnade above long-fluted stone columns kitty-corner from St. James Park.
“We always wanted to open the building to the park,” said David Yama- saki, Superior Court CEO for Santa Clara County. “We know there are lots of plans for the park. We wanted to do our part by fronting the park and encouraging people to get over there after a long day in court.”
The colonnade includes three skylights close to the building that will keep people dry as they line up early to get through security screenings. A spacious lobby will get plenty of natural light from the windows lining the stone-and-concrete building. A self-help center and other public functions are located off the lobby. The family court and child waiting
Architect Zimmer Gunsul Frasca(ZGF) and builder Hensel Phelps will join county and state representatives at a building dedication Aug. 15. The county donated the major portion of the site, which includes a purchase of a small piece of land from the Valley Transportation Authority. Funding came mostly from Senate Bill 1407 funds. SB1407, passed in 2008, desig- nated up to $5 billion to renovate and build new courthouses, using court fees, penalties and assessments to pay off the debt rather than state taxpayer revenue.
Yamasaki said that over the next 30 years, the state would have paid over $270 million in leases had this building not been completed. “It makes sense to own our building and save the taxpayers money,” he said.
Previous locations for family justice in downtown included:
- 115 Terraine St.: juvenile dependency, and criminal plus adult drug court; 184,000 served per year, built for commercial purposes.
- 170 Park Ave. (City View Plaza): family law; 160,000 served per year; former bank.
- 99 Notre Dame Ave.: child support, property mediation and child custody; 101,000 served per year; former warehouse
- 191 N. First St. downtown Superior Court, civil, probate and small claims;
- 161 N. First St. – Old Courthouse, civil and some criminal case.
- A court in Sunnyvale is also closing.
Limited parking exists in the new basement for judges. The court and city of San Jose have an agreement to provide 400 spaces at a discounted rate for employee parking.
For peace, quiet and fresh air, court users can go to a rooftop garden off the third floor facing Market Street. Unlike the previously used “court- houses,” the new center has a secure central holding area and separate hallways for those in custody.
“The security in the building is completely state-of-the-art,” Yamasaki said. “We considered everything, including the size of the buses and the easy route from the jail down Guadalupe Parkway to our building holding dock on Market Street. Detainees will go to the basement, take an elevator to their floor and stay in a secure holding area that leads into the courtroom. It’s all done electronically.”