Less than a month ago, the county kicked off another project in its continuing effort to centralize many of its operations when it broke ground on the new Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa.
Since the 1980s, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters has called a warehouse-style building at 5201 Ruffin Road its home. That won’t be so in about one year, when a new building — to be located on the campus of the 47-acre County Operations Center — will replace a facility that was never designed for election activities in the first place.
First built in the 1970s as a general warehouse, the existing office building was purchased by the county in the 1980s, according to Jeff Redlitz, a project manager in the county’s Project Management Division.
Over the years, he said, it’s been the home of not just the Registrar of Voters, but also the county’s former Department of Planning and Land Use, the Department of General Services’ mail distribution services and some functions of the county’s Probation Department and Department of Health and Human Services.
Some of those operations have already been removed from the building since the opening of new office buildings at the centralized County Operations Center. County services still in operation at the Ruffin Road office will follow suit, shifting into the new building on the north end of the operations center campus when its construction is complete, around December 2013.
The new Registrar headquarters is the final phase of the county’s 2008 master plan for the County Operations Center, which aimed not only to increase the county’s efficiency by minimizing the geographic spread of its many department offices, but increase its efficiency in terms of energy consumption and environmental impact. Like other projects completed under the master plan, the new Registrar location is planned to receive LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Redlitz said the county will have to wait until the new building is complete to know exactly what level of LEED it’s achieved.
“It’s a very long process,” he said. “We target a rating and then we don’t know until after the construction is complete.”
In August 2012, the county opened the latest additions under the master plan with the completion of Phase 1B in the campus redevelopment plan. With that came two new office buildings, a solar panel-topped conference center and a 1,800-space multilevel parking garage, all earning LEED status. The conference center is certified LEED Platinum, the highest distinction possible.
The overall campus redevelopment, including the Medical Examiner building, is expected to cost $349 million for what has been approved. The first phase of the overhaul has so far come in under budget, allowing for the county to reinvest millions into the new Registrar headquarters.
When the project’s groundbreaking was celebrated in December, the county board of supervisors said the new, more-efficient location will “improve the workings of democracy.”
The new building, District 1 Supervisor Greg Cox noted, will compliment an electorate that’s more than ever turning to mail-in ballots, allowing sufficient space for large-scale counting and storage. It was designed and is being constructed by the same team assembled for the design and construction of much of the already-completed operations center overhaul, including RJC Architects, developer Lowe Enterprises and building contractor Suffolk-Roel.
When the project is complete in late 2013, title to the Ruffin Road property will switch to its future owner, Kaiser Permanente, which has announced plans to build its newest hospital on the site once the land sale is complete.
Including associated permitting and design costs, the total project cost for the county is expected to be around $73.5 million.