LAGUNA NIGUEL : City Formally Asks for U.S. Courthouse

With competition increasing among Orange County cities that want a $75-million federal court built within their boundaries, Laguna Niguel officials now agree that their city should compete for the project.

In a special session held to discuss the subject, the City Council agreed Thursday to inform a congressional subcommittee considering the matter that Laguna Niguel wants to be home to the courthouse, City Manager Tim Casey said.

In April, the General Services Administration recommended building a new federal courthouse and office building for Orange County on 92 acres in Laguna Niguel about a block from City Hall. The land is already owned by the federal government.

The selection process, however, is in the earliest stages, and Santa Ana and Irvine are also interested in having the courthouse in their cities.

When the GSA first made its recommendation, Laguna Niguel officials reserved judgment, saying they needed to study the impact of developing such a project in their city.

But when Irvine threw its hat in the ring last month, Laguna Niguel officials realized that "we probably needed to be a bit more assertive and competitive, just to show our interest," Casey said.

With a congressional subcommittee meeting about the courthouse scheduled for Monday in Newport Beach, Thursday's special meeting was called to develop an official city position on the subject, Casey said.

The council voted 3 to 0 to direct Mayor Patricia C. Bates and Casey to attend the meeting at Harbor Municipal Court to express "strong interest in being designated as a site for the project," Casey said. Councilmen James F. Krembas and Paul M. Christiansen did not attend the meeting but called the city beforehand to express support for the project, Casey said.

"This is the first step in a very long process," Casey said, since the 218,000-square-foot courthouse will probably not be built for at least five years.

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