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Stimulus Plan Lacking in Funding for Downtown's Federal Courthouse

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, March 09, 2009, at 02:36PM
Proposed Federal Courthouse Site Eric Richardson

This lot at 1st and Broadway has been empty since the old State Building was torn down in early 2007. File Photo from January 2008.

Los Angeles' new Federal Courthouse is a high priority for the General Services Administration, but that wasn't enough to get the project funded in the recently passed federal stimulus package. The project is eventually slated to rise on an empty lot at 1st and Broadway, but has stalled over a lack of funds.

According to an article in the National Law Journal, the Los Angeles courthouse project would be the top priority of James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, but only "if more than the $300 million for new construction . . . becomes available."

Los Angeles' courts currently house 45 judges in two buildings -- the 1936 U.S. Courthouse at Temple and Spring and the 1991 Edward R. Roybal Federal Building on Temple.

A new courthouse has long been slated to rise on the site of the old State Building at 1st and Broadway, but funding for the project has never been secured. In the interim, costs continue to rise.

From the National Law Journal:

The biggest problem with the proposed Los Angeles courthouse, judges say, is the cost.

"I'm neither optimistic nor pessimistic," said U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow of the Central District of California. "I realize that it would be easier to fund some other projects because they're smaller, and the amount of money is not as much as we need."

In December, the new Los Angeles courthouse was estimated to cost $530 million. But last fall, an audit released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the planned building, originally with 41 courtrooms, had escalated to an estimated $1.1 billion and is no longer economically feasible. The audit provided two smaller alternatives, ranging in cost from $282 million to $733 million in additional funds, for a new courthouse.

But Morrow said a scaled-down version, with 36 courtrooms, would not be big enough to replace the two existing courthouses that house about 45 judges — leaving courthouse operations in downtown Los Angeles divided among three buildings, one of which was a WPA project.

The old State building was torn down in early 2007, and the courthouse site has sat as a fenced-off empty lot ever since.

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