Walnut Creek has lost its state Department of Motor Vehicles field office downtown, and now the North Broadway property may end up housing new apartments.
DMV officials said the Walnut Creek field office closed for the final time at 5 p.m. Nov. 13. They say a "replacement office" for Walnut Creek will open at 8 a.m. this Monday (Nov. 23) inside Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton. That office was opened in July while the DMV's main Pleasanton field office at 6300 W. Las Positas Blvd., just west of Hopyard Road, was closed for major renovations including replacing the roof, the furniture and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
"In searching for new space to replace the Walnut Creek office, there was no space available in the immediate area that met the DMV specifications," the DMV said in an email earlier this month.
The DMV's lease of the North Broadway parcel is expiring, and won't be renewed.
The Stoneridge office, the DMV said, will remain open even as the main Pleasanton office comes back online. There will be no new office in Walnut Creek. The nearest DMV offices to Walnut Creek are Concord (six miles), Pittsburg (18 miles) and the two Pleasanton offices, about 20 miles from Walnut Creek.
There are no plans to reduce the number of DMV offices in California, an agency spokesperson said, but DMV encourages customers to do as many functions as possible through DMV's website whenever possible.
"Most DMV transactions can now be completed without visiting a field office by using our expanded online services, kiosks, business partners or mail," DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a news release.
The 1.5-acre parcel that now hosts the Walnut Creek DMV building and its parking lot was bought in June 2018 by BayRock Multifamily, an Oakland-based developer specializing in infill apartment and condominium projects. BayRock has already built an 11-unit condominium project on the northeast edge of Walnut Creek's downtown.
Walnut Creek spokeswoman Betsy Burkhart said Nov. 12 that the city has not yet received any applications from BayRock concerning housing on the DMV site. BayRock, on its website, describes in very general terms what it calls simply the "1910 N. Broadway, DMV Site," referring to planned development there as a "premier mixed-use development on the site in the future.
Walnut Creek has made a concerted effort in recent years to concentrate residential development, mostly apartments and condos, in the downtown area, to help create and sustain a vibrant downtown area where residents are close to BART and freeway access.
On Nov. 12, dozens of people were waiting outside the Walnut Creek DMV office for their number to be called. COVID-19 restrictions limited the number of people in the building. Jorge Pulido said he had never seen so many people at this office.
"Maybe they're all here today because it's closing tomorrow," said Pulido, a Concord resident and owner of a limousine business. He goes to the DMV five or six times a year -- he would rather do most of his DMV business in person and not online. He also would rather not go to the Concord DMV office.
"I've been coming over here for more than 20 years, and the people here are very nice, very friendly, very polite," said Pulido. "We need a place here; Concord DMV is always packed."
John Aspery of Moraga said he's never been to any DMV office in the East Bay other than Walnut Creek.
"The parking here is good, the service is good ... I wish I could keep coming here," Aspery said. "I guess I'll have to go to Concord now."