San Bruno expedites rebuild process

San Bruno residents who lost their homes in the devastating natural-gas line explosion in September should be able to rebuild their homes as they originally appeared, even if it conflicts with current regulations, city officials said this week.

One Tuesday, the city council is expected to approve an expedited planning process for victims of the Sept. 9 blast, which killed eight people, destroyed 35 homes and caused major damage to 20 other properties.

Proposed new homes that exceed a development regulation — such as the size of the home as compared to the lot size, height or garage size — will only need an OK from the city’s architectural review committee. Currently, those projects must go before the Planning Commission, which takes more time.

If a homeowner wants to rebuild their old home in the same way, he or she could simply go to the building department for review and officials would have discretion to approve features that are out of compliance with the city’s more-modern design standards.

Officials say the changes should cut the time it takes for a typical home’s plans to be approved, from six months to about three months. Also, the city has also agreed to waive all its typical planning and building fees for the blast victims.

“The big reason is to get the neighborhood rebuilt,” Mayor Jim Ruane said. “We think it’s very important from a physical standpoint, of course, but more important from a psychological standpoint. The sooner we get done, the better off we are.”

The changes, which would begin in mid-January, affect 55 properties in an area termed the Glenview Overlay Zone, a special zoning district near the blast site that would be active for five years.

Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said no owners of the affected properties, built in the late ’50s and early ’60s, have submitted any formal planning documents, though Ruane has said he has heard that at least five people have told the city they are ready to start the process.

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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