On April 15, the California Judicial Council unanimously voted to award a new state appellate courthouse to the city of Santa Ana instead of UC Irvine. Although UCI officials hoped that a courthouse would help bring a law school to campus, they are not discouraged by this setback.
Michael Gottfredson, UCI’s executive vice chancellor, believes UCI presented a viable proposal to the state but accepts the state’s decision not to award the $17 million courthouse to UCI.
‘We thought we had a good proposal that would have been favorable to the court and to UCI,’ Gottfredson said. ‘We put in a bid that was in the best interests of the campus, but they picked Santa Ana, but that’s OK. We congratulate Santa Ana.’
Desperate to keep the state appellate courthouse within its city boundaries, the city of Santa Ana offered to sell 2.47 acres of land to the state for $1. Their original offer was $2.3 million. UCI’s best offer was to sell 2.5 acres of University Research Park land, valued at over $4 million for $2.4 million.
The judicial council’s staff weighed the options and recommended that the council select the Santa Ana proposal.
In a report by the judicial council’s staff, they recommended the Santa Ana proposal because ‘the site exceeds the site requirements in terms of economy of purchase price, provisions for parking and flexibility for future expansion of the facility.’
Santa Ana representatives lobbied the state and argued that the appellate courthouse in Santa Ana would provide more access to public transportation and be close to other courts, the Orange County Bar Association and law enforcement agencies.
The proximity to these other governmental agencies played a part in the judicial council’s decision, as the report told the council to consider unquantifiable measures, stating that the ‘selection of a site for an appellate court involves more than an analysis of price and technical details. It is a symbolic statement about the significance of the court, its role in the community and purpose.’
With so many factors, Gottfredson was unable to point out any one reason why the UCI proposal was rejected.
‘I don’t really know the full basis for the decision. Obviously there were several differences to our proposals, in addition to cost,’ Gottfredson said. ‘I’m not sure which one was the overriding consideration, but I think we were competitive. I think we got a fair hearing.’
Although UCI administrators hoped that the courthouse would provide support for the creation of a law school, the university is moving forward to bring one to campus.
‘We are still very excited about the prospect of a law school, and we’re pursuing it vigorously,’ Gottfredson said.