New Fresno DMV will process licenses for undocumented immigrants

The Fresno BeeJanuary 14, 2014 

Long before the state decided to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for California driver's licenses, the Department of Motor Vehicles wanted to replace its old field office at Olive and Weber avenues in Fresno.

But it seems the $9 million building going up next to the old office will be finished and staffed just in time to field a surge of applications that is expected to result from the new driver's license law.

Assembly Bill 60, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, requires the DMV to issue licenses to people who cannot prove that they are in the U.S. legally, "if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof ... of his or her identity and California residency."

The DMV estimates that it may receive about 1.4 million more applications for licenses over the next three years starting in 2015, when the law takes effect.

At 19,808 square feet, the new Fresno field office is about triple the size of the old building, where the DMV has operated since May 1961. It will have plenty of room for more computer work stations and a larger staff -- but just how many more people is not known yet, said Jan Mendoza, a DMV spokeswoman. About 44 people work in the old office, which will be demolished after the new building is open.

"This was in the works long before AB 60," Mendoza said. "We needed a bigger office because the city is continuing to grow."

Brown's proposed 2014-15 state budget includes about $64.7 million for the DMV to deal with the AB 60 requirements, including hiring nearly 900 more people statewide, opening five large temporary DMV offices and increasing the capacity of Fresno's Olive Avenue office and leasing a new office in the Palmdale-Lancaster area to handle the increased number of license applications.

The new Fresno DMV office was put out for contractors' bids in June 2012. Engineers for the state had estimated it would cost about $13 million, but the winning bid by Durham Construction Co. in Clovis came in at just under $9 million. Work started early last year. The contract includes demolition of the old building.

"It's optimistic, but we're hoping to be open in June, but it could be more like August," Mendoza said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, or @tsheehan on Twitter.

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