Congresswoman hails construction of new courthouse

LOS ANGELES - Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard last week celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the long-planned federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.The congresswoman coordinated federal efforts in the decades-long effort to build a replacement for the current Spring Street facility which houses the federal court for the Central District of California. Last Thursday's ceremony is a culmination of those efforts and marks the start of the final stage to deliver a new courthouse for the seven-county area served by the court. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) awarded the design-build contract to Skidmore, Owings & Merril, in partnership with architecture engineering firm Clark Construction. The new 550,000 square foot building will be a "sustainable, cost-effective, state-of-the-art court facility" that includes security upgrades that are not available in the current 312 N. Spring Street courthouse, officials said. The courthouse is anticipated to open in 2016. Roybal-Allard delivered the following statement at the groundbreaking ceremonies: "I am absolutely thrilled to be at the groundbreaking ceremony for our new federal courthouse. And it's about time! As many of you know it has been a long and hard fought battle in which we have had to overcome many challenges and obstacles in spite of the tremendous need for a new courthouse. More than 15 years have passed since we began the journey to replace our current aging courthouse which is: a seismic and fire hazard; a safety and security hazard with inmates, witnesses and the public having to use the same hallways and elevators; An ill-equipped facility struggling to handle its burgeoning caseload and the increasing number of multi-defendant trials; With no room to grow and the current operations split between the courthouse and the Roybal Building two city blocks away; It is also a courthouse that lacks the capabilities for modern day communications and protections against real world threats; In fact the conditions are so bad that the project was rated the number one priority for the Judicial Conference of the United States in 2000 and a "space emergency" in 2003. When I was approached about a new courthouse over 15 years ago, I toured the current facility to see the conditions first-hand and the undeniable conclusion was: LA desperately needed a new federal courthouse! Unfortunately, after securing the necessary authorization and funding, for a variety of reasons, such as scope and escalated costs, the project was stalled several times along the way. Unfortunately these setbacks allowed the project to become an easy target in Congress, and on several occasions we had to fight off efforts to zero out the funds or stop them from being redirect them to projects in other Congressional Districts. And of course we had to fight against members of Congress who, for whatever reason, are simply opposed to courthouse construction in general, and the LA courthouse in particular. Our opponents were relentless, determined and bipartisan. The proposed LA courthouse was the subject of various congressional inquiries, site visits, reports and hearings. It seemed that as soon as we cleared one challenge we quickly faced another, and then another. After years of working tirelessly to secure the land, to get Congressional authorization and federal funds, and after reaching a final hard-fought compromise plan up to the very end, we feared the project would die. But it survived because our stakeholders -were just as, if not more, resolute as those who opposed us. It is only because of our unity, steadfast commitment and determination that we stand here today to start work on the courthouse. I would like to acknowledge our many fellow crusaders who over many years supported us and helped to make our victory possible: Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. Bush who funded the project; President Barack Obama and GSA Administrator's Martha Johnson and Dan Tangherlini who believed in our cause and gave the final approval to proceed; Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, who from their positions on the Senate Appropriations and the Environment and Public Works Committees, respectively, provided essential leadership at critical moments throughout the process; My House colleagues who signed onto numerous letters supporting our efforts and in particular former Congressman Howard Berman and Congressman Adam Schiff, who helped me coordinate many of our efforts; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who has always been an enthusiastic proponent of the courthouse and rightly saw it as a key element of Downtown LA's continuing revitalization; The judges of the District Court including the various chief judges during our campaign and Judges Terry Hatter and the late Matthew Byrne who led the effort for several years; Judge Margaret Morrow who for more than a decade has been the Court's voice on the project and who has been a tireless, decisive and effective advocate for the courthouse; Our local labor and business leaders who lent their support advocating for this economic boom for jobs and our local economy; The staff of the Administrative Office of the Courts who worked closely with us providing volumes of testimony, talking points, and fact sheets for more than a decade; and From my own office Kimberlee Tachiki-Chin, my senior advisor, and Victor Castillo, my Chief of Staff, both of whom have spent the past dozen years coordinating the efforts of our many stakeholders. Soon, LA Lake will be no more. Construction cranes will tower over where we stand today as this block of downtown again bustles with activity. In a few years, Downtown LA will have a new gem in its sparkling skyline; the District Court, the District Clerk and the US Marshals Service will have a new home. Thousands of new jobs will have been created, and the people of Los Angeles and residents in the Court's seven-county jurisdiction will have a secure, energy-efficient, seismically sound, cost-effective, accessible and modern facility to receive and deliver justice. Thank you all for your efforts. Let's start digging!"

********** Published: Aug. 15, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 18