San Bruno begins to rebuild nearly eight months after pipeline blast 

Nearly eight months after 38 homes were scorched off the San Bruno map, city officials have started the Crestmoor neighborhood’s home-rebuilding program by issuing the first permit.

Last week, longtime resident Bob Hensel became the first person to receive a rebuilding permit from the city following the Sept. 9 PG&E natural-gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.

“We’re looking forward to people getting on board and rebuilding this neighborhood,” said Mayor Jim Ruane, adding that he’s eager to shovel that first scoop of dirt.

City officials said they plan to issue the second rebuilding permit this week, with three or four more expected during the next month, City Manager Connie Jackson said.

But a timetable for rebuilding the entire neighborhood is still unclear as families are at different permit or negotiating stages.

“We have a long way to go,” Ruane said.

After losing everything last September, 28 San Bruno residents are participating in PG&E’s Rebuild or Purchase program.

Twenty-one owners have opted to rebuild while the other seven are negotiating buyouts with the company, said Brittany Chord, a PG&E spokeswoman. Four of the seven are in escrow and the rest have yet to reach an agreement with PG&E.

Hensel could not be reached for comment.

Some families are still waiting to find out when their building permits will come through.

“Everything is still a big maybe,” said Tina Pellegrini, whose family’s house was destroyed.

Other residents, while still being displaced, weren’t quite as unlucky.

Bill Magoolaghan’s home still technically stands, but it remains uninhabitable after fire, smoke and asbestos damage. Though Magoolaghan is not one of the 21 in the PG&E program because his home is still standing, the 47-year-old anticipates his building permit to be approved within the next two weeks.

He hopes for construction to start in June so he, his wife and four children can move in by early next year.

“We’re tired of being displaced,” Magoolaghan said. “For the people who lived there, it’s an eyesore to wake up every day and see that empty space. It’s just a big reminder of what happened.”

But while he waits to begin a new life, Magoolaghan reflected on the horrifying day when he and his family lost nearly everything. He remembered arriving that night at a Burlingame hotel.

“My daughter asked me when we checked in, ‘Daddy, where’s our luggage?’” Magoolaghan said. “I said, ‘Sweetheart, you’re wearing it.’”

By the numbers

38 Homes Destroyed

17 Homes Yellow-tagged

53 Approximate number of homes with some damage

28 Rebuild or Purchase Program total

21 Those in the program rebuilding

7 Negotiating buyout

Source: PG&E and San Bruno

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Alexis Terrazas

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