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Wrought-iron fence to surround Hillcrest DMV if project approved

DMV wants to put up a decorative iron fence around their updated property.
Photo credit:
Google Street View

The Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) isn't happy with a proposed metal enclosure that the Hillcrest DMV wants to install around their property on Normal Street and they are calling on the public to contact the organization to voice their opposition. 

Currently, there is a plan which is going through an environmental review to tear down the existing 14,319 square-foot building and replace it with an 18,540 square-foot structure. 

According to ABC 10, the new DMV would serve about 931 customers a day with 141 parking spots, the estimated cost is $20.7 million. 

In an environmental notice, the DMV stated, "The existing DMV Normal Street field office is not sized appropriately to accommodate the existing staffing and service demand levels needed at this location."

But this plan is being seen as a missed opportunity. Originally the plan called for a mixed-use building with a new DMV built on the southern end of the lot, but that has since been scrapped. 

"This wouldn't be a deadzone every evening, which is what it's become," Mat Wahlstrom, a member of the Uptown Planning Group said. "It was supposed to have been a dual use site."

Speaking with ABC Christina Valdivia, a DMV spokeswoman, said the mixed-use plan was not favorable to their vehicle-centric business model.

The new proposal also includes the "7-foot-high, ornamental wrought-iron fence" and that has some locals worried about the aesthetic of Hillcrest's landscape and further, where some vendors of the Hillcrest Farmers Market would park. Currently, parking is allowed in the lot after business hours.

"About a year ago, we'd heard that the building was getting renovated and a fence proposed from a neighbor," Benjamin Nicholls, Executive Director of the HBA told SDGLN. "Chris Ward confirmed it and we've been watching it ever since. The comment period closes on this environmental document tomorrow [Thursday]. People have to get comments in by then if they're concerned. There will be robotic gates that will let people in and out."

Nicholls says that the HBA pays about $500 rent to use the lot on Sundays and the Uptown Parking District pays about $2,000.

The DMV defends the metal barrier saying it would thwart vandalism, theft, damage, and even human waste. But Nicholls says doing so will only transfer those problems to the sidewalks making it worse and it will cut the Farmer's Market in half. 

"This is going to be like a fortress or a prison in the heart of Hillcrest," said Nicholls. "Imagine homeless camps along that fence line with things hanging off the fence. We see that kind of thing in the East Village all the time with these kinds of fences."

He adds: "It'll be a horrible thing for Hillcrest."

Senator Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Todd Gloria will also weigh in on the project. 

If the proposal passes environmental review the project would begin at the beginning of  2020 with an estimated completion time of early 2021. 

The Hillcrest Business Association is asking that the public reach out to the DMV during the comment period which will end on Friday. 

"Email NormalStreetDMV@dudek.com (in subject line please include: “Normal Street DMV MND Comments”) and let them know that a fence like this will not work in Hillcrest," the posted on Facebook. "While you're at it copy nick.serrano@asm.ca.gov, bnbailey@sandiego.gov, and Jason.Weisz@sen.ca.gov to so our representatives at the City and State know we don't build walls in Hillcrest!"