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Santa Rosa DMV to close for renovations, offer temporary service at fairgrounds

Santa Rosa's busy Department of Motor Vehicles office, which serves more than 130,000 customers a year, will close next week for a major renovation that will spiff up the timeworn facility and give the Sonoma County Fair a welcome bit of cash.

The office at 2750 Corby Ave. will shut at noon Jan. 17 and reopen two and a half months later at 9 a.m. April 1 with new furniture and flooring and a design that will enable customers “to get to the service windows more quickly,” the agency said in an email Tuesday.

In August, its busiest month last year, the local field office - which is open Saturdays - served 12,737 customers, or 472 per day.

DMV's 170 field offices statewide served 1.9 million customers the same month, or more than 87,000 per day.

In the first 11 months of last year, the Santa Rosa office handled about 129,000 customers, while the count statewide exceeded 18 million.

During the most of the shutdown, DMV services will be available from Jan. 22 until March 27 at a temporary field office in Garrett Hall on the fairgrounds at 1350 Bennett Valley Road.

There will be no service in Santa Rosa from Jan. 17 to 21, when the DMV expects up to half of the Santa Rosa customers may go the Petaluma office, where staffing will be boosted to accommodate the influx, the DMV said.

Garrett Hall is the first building on the right for people coming through the fairgrounds gate on Brookwood Avenue and parking will be available in the large lot on the other side of the avenue.

Becky Bartling, the Sonoma County Fair CEO, said she is happy to have the DMV as a temporary tenant, paying $5,800 a month for use of the hall, which houses arts and crafts exhibits during the midsummer fair.

“We've done things like this before,” she said, noting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had an office at the fairgrounds for several months during the 2017 post-fire cleanup.

The fair is a registered nonprofit organization that receives no funding from the county, Bartling said.

When it reopens, the Corby Avenue office will have a fresher look, with replacements for its 27-year-old furniture and 16-year-old flooring. There will also be a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.

The remodeling cost was “to be determined,” the DMV email said.

Statewide, the DMV handles licensing and other vehicle-related matters for more than 27 million licensed drivers, according to the agency's latest report at the end of 2018.

Sonoma County accounted for 368,343 licenses, equal to nearly three-quarters of the county population that year.

There are nearly 36 million registered vehicles, including motorcycles, in the open road-oriented Golden State.

Many motorists equate a DMV visit with a long wait for their turn for service, and the agency reminds customers that many transactions - including renewal of a driver's license or vehicle registration, ordering replacement vehicle registration cards and stickers and changing an address - may be done online instead of an office visit.

Californians are avoiding office visits en masse, with more than 11 million registration renewals, more than 1 million license renewals and about 3 million notices of release of liability obtained online in 2018, the agency said. In the first 11 months of last year, the DMV handled about 17 million online transactions.

Customers may visit DMV offices in Petaluma, Novato, Napa and Corte Madera during the Santa Rosa office remodeling.

The initial application for a Real ID, which will be required to board a domestic flight within the United States after Oct. 1, must be done at a DMV office. Assistance in preparing for the office visit, including the required documentation, is at realid.dmv.ca.gov/.

A passport or passport card will also allow the holder to board a flight.

California citizens may register to vote at a DMV office or online at www.dmv.ca.gov.

For more information regarding online DMVservices, go to: dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/dmvonlinesvcs.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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