By Senator Christine Kehoe
Anyone who has stood in line at the DMV in Hillcrest knows how unpleasant it can be waiting to renew a license, take a road test, or register a car. As a North Park resident, I am familiar with how it is inconvenient and not very customer-friendly.
Many of us renew what we can by mail in order to minimize trips, and if you’re organized enough to schedule an appointment, the wait and frustration is lessened compared to anyone who shows up unannounced.
The 47-year-old facility is cramped and dilapidated. According to the DMV, the location at Normal Street processed 296,000 driver license and vehicle registrations requests in Fiscal Year 2007-2008, making it the third-busiest site in San Diego County.
Despite the high volume, the State of California could not replace the aging structure because it lacked the funding and the legal authority to have a private developer rehabilitate the site.
That’s why in 2007 I successfully introduced legislation to allow a public-private partnership to demolish the Normal Street building and construct “green” DMV offices, retail, and housing on the site. A modern facility would make DMV visits more comfortable and efficient, and a redeveloped parcel with homes and stores would better complement the surrounding neighborhood. We now have a “win-win” situation for the state and the public, particularly given our current economic downturn and declining budgets.
Under the law, the builder must pay for developing the site and in return the State of California receives a new facility. A company has been hired for the project, San Diego-based Lankford and Associates, which has also constructed the Hall of Justice downtown. Lankford will begin the design phase next year and plans to complete construction in 2012.
Equally important to developing the site is preserving the popular farmers’ market that has operated there each Sunday since 1997. To ensure this community asset continues offering locally-grown fruits and vegetables, my legislation requires that the market be allowed to conduct its regular business at the location.
I’m committed to a design process that involves neighborhood residents and planning groups, current DMV users, and Farmers’ Market vendors and patrons. I also want to ensure that the site is attractive, accommodates pedestrians, and provides adequate parking.
At a time when government is asked to do more with less, this new DMV facility is a creative way to better serve the public and enhance the surrounding area.