I share the concerns some have expressed regarding the adverse impacts to the people of Clearlake and the South County resulting from the proposed closure of the Clearlake branch of the Lake County Superior Court.
Those impacts will consist of the difficulty that many – mostly low income people – would have in making it to court in Lakeport in a timely manner on public transportation.
Add to that the further consideration that the present facility in Lakeport, consisting of the fourth floor of the courthouse building on N. Forbes Street, simply cannot safely absorb the extra traffic that this change would entail.
Anybody who doubts this should go up there on a Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. and view how crowded the situation there is and contemplate what adding another 50 to 100 people to that scenario would do.
Aggravating that prospect is the fact that access is allowed only by elevators, which have become notorious for breaking down. Therefore, before any such scheme is implemented, the local fire marshal should be allowed to weigh in with a study of the impacts of this proposed change.
As to the boondoggle of the proposed new courthouse – for which the prospects of it ever being built are dimming – I am surprised that no one has proposed a much simpler and more cost effective solution, which would be that the courts would take over the third floor of the courthouse through a long-term lease.
A variation of this option occurred in Mendocino County about 20 years ago. The county administration vacated the courthouse in Ukiah for new premises on Low Gap Road, allowing the courts to expand into the entirety of the structure on State Street.
Obviously, the Lake County Superior Court is not in need of all four floors, but could abide with expansion into one other level. That would allow for at least two new courtrooms, a sizable lobby for the public to congregate and a jury assembly area, in addition to the additional space the court clerk’s offices would need.
Yes, this option would involve a cost of several million dollars, but that cost would be a fraction of the nearly $56 million for the new courthouse project.
Finally, I am dismayed that no public comment period was instituted before this misguided proposal was enacted.
Tom Quinn is a defense attorney. He lives in Lower Lake, Calif.