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New Courthouse in Simi Valley to Bring Justice a Bit Closer to Home

January 05, 1989|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Construction is to begin Tuesday in Simi Valley on a courthouse that will enable residents of eastern Ventura County to take care of many judicial matters close to home, officials said Wednesday.

The courthouse will be the sixth of nine Simi Valley Civic Center buildings to be erected. The Civic Center is a regional government and arts complex that will include a 1,100-seat theater, offices and a state Department of Motor Vehicles facility, said Jay Corey, Simi Valley deputy city manager.

The Civic Center will make it easier for residents of eastern Ventura County to obtain government and other services, Simi Valley Mayor Gregory Stratton said. Most residents of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks now must go to court in Ventura, where 29 of the county's 30 courtrooms are located, he said.

The other courtroom is in an older county building at Cochran Street and Galena Avenue in Simi Valley, Stratton said. It will be closed when the new courthouse opens in March, 1990, said Tom Morgan, Ventura County deputy director of public works.

The courthouse will be built on the northwest corner of the 44-acre Civic Center site on Tapo Canyon Road, between Avenida Simi and Alamo Street.

Contains 5 Courtrooms

It will contain two Superior Courts, two Municipal Courts and a courtroom to be shared by both branches, as well as several court-related agencies, including a branch of the district attorney's office, said Sheila Gonzalez, executive officer for Ventura Municipal Court.

"With the growth in eastern Ventura County, we really need a larger facility out here," she said.

Court dockets at the facility on Cochran Street have been so crowded that the two judges there have had to hold court in a lunchroom, she said.

The additional courtrooms will be staffed either by new judges or by attorneys who volunteer to preside, Gonzalez said. State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature to create six new judgeships in the county, she said.

Simi Valley officials did not originally envision the new courthouse when they first planned the Civic Center complex in 1972, 3 years after the city was incorporated, Corey said. The original plans, which called for such features as an artificial lake, have been revised twice as the city grew--once in 1976 and again in 1983--he said.

The site now contains five buildings, with four more planned, including the courthouse, Corey said. A branch of the Ventura County Public Library was the first building constructed on the site in 1976, Corey said. Government offices, which now contain the city's Planning Department and a branch of the state unemployment agency, were built in 1977, he said.

Simi Valley built its City Hall and a senior citizens center in 1984. The $1.6-million DMV facility, the fifth building on the site, will be completed by early February, he said. The city will lease it to the DMV for $8,875 a month, he said.

In addition to the courthouse, three more structures are planned for the complex, Corey said. The Simi Valley Boys and Girls Club is raising funds to build a $2-million clubhouse with a gymnasium, he said. The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Assn., a private nonprofit organization, is raising money for a $10.2-million performing arts center, which voters approved in 1986.

The city plans to build a $7-million commercial office building on the site, with construction to begin in January, 1990, Corey said. Attached to the building will be a restaurant that will be privately built by whoever leases it under a long-term contract, he said.

Ventura County obtained the 5.8-acre courthouse site from the city in a land swap, Corey said. In exchange for the courthouse site, the county gave the city the Cochran Street facility, which the county owned, he said. Because the Cochran Street site is only 2.2 acres, the county also paid the city about $116,000 and agreed to help pay for building a driveway from Avenida Simi to the new courthouse, Corey said.

The county will begin Tuesday to pay Simi Valley $11,192 a month to rent the Cochran Street building until the new courthouse opens.

SIMI VALLEY CENTER PLAN A DMV FACILITY: To open Feb. 1989 B GOVT. OFFICES: Existing C COUNTY COURTHOUSE: Construction begins Jan. 10 D PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: Planned E BOYS/GIRLS CLUBS: Planned F SENIOR CENTER: Existing G LIBRARY: Existing H CITY HALL: Existing I COMMERCIAL: Planned

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