San Bruno neighborhood continues to rebuild three years after fire


Photo by Will Nacouzi/The Skyline View

The progress of the Crestmoor neighborhood at the three-year anniversary of the San Bruno explosion.

PG&E; enter their third phase of construction to the San Bruno exposition site.

Three years ago, on Sept. 9, 2010, the Crestmoor/Glenview neighborhood had a massive gas explosion from the PG&E; pipelines. JMB Construction Inc. is halfway done with the construction project, but still have a long way to go before it’s finished.

Since PG&E; dominates the utility service throughout this region, major changes have occurred to their safety standards so they are able to prevent any possible natural gas explosion from occurring again.

JMB Construction Inc. has been working on the site since it’s beginning. The Project Manager, Harry Burrowes, gives deeper insight into what has been accomplished, what has yet to be done,and the safety standards they have recently implemented along with safety precautions.

The reconstruction project is organized into four major phases. Phase One is broken down into two parts; the sewer replacement project, and the construction of a pressure reducing system. This phase was for tapping into higher pressure water lines, in case of an emergency, for a reliable water source.

The lack of available water was a major issue during the incident. The firefighters tried to connect their hose to a fire hydrant for the main water source, only to find there was no water. This allowed flames to continue burning out of control.

Phase Two aimed at reconstructing the irrigation system including: sidewalks, improve streetscape, a designated area for the bus stop along with the benches, recycle and trash bins. As well as, a safe zone for pedestrians to walk to and from public areas, transit stations and private premises. Both Phase One and Two have already been finished, and Phase Three is currently underway.

Phase Three began on May 28, and aimed to reconstruct the second half of the infrastructure, including: the replacement of sewer, water and storm drain utilities, and new underground streetlight channels. This may sound simple, but it’s very complex and is still going to take at least a year and a half before people start seeing new roads, street gutters, sidewalks, or streetlights.

As the project is in effect, there will be a PG&E; inspector working with JMB Construction’s on-site inspectors to cover every foot, to insure everyone knows where the facilities are.

Meanwhile, PG&E; is also putting work into replacing gas pipelines in the same area of homes that weren’t destroyed. If, for some reason, a PG&E; line is struck, PG&E; is right there to shut off the gas and fix the problem right away. Testing their newest safety project, the automatic shut off valves. They are taking extreme precautions that there won’t be any incidents during the construction.

And finally, Phase Four, will involve rebuilding the park and replanting the Crestmoor Canyon.

Burrowes suggests ways the community can be involved.

“A public visioning process with the neighborhood to seek input as to what they want to see,” He said. “An expanded park, passive park, an active park, should it have some sort of memorial element? As you can imagine some would find it appropriate, whereas others say they don’t want to be reminded of it. It’s something that’s gonna come out of a collaborative process between the city and the community.”

This opportunity will come about at the end of the construction project around May 2014.

Workers are instructed to be considerate and respectful of the residents during the construction for they are still sensitive of the incident and compliance is highly expected from the whole staff.

Construction worker for JMB, Rodney, has built a good relationship with the residents and is very understanding and courteous as he states,
“..they are still healing [from the explosion] and are still very sensitive and they have the right to be. No money in the world could replace the trauma.”

Residents have to deal with the construction noises, thick dust in the air, workers constantly in the field, but have complied with the construction, while maintaining a positive attitude. Residents are finally starting to move in after two years of being dislocated.

Resident of the Crestmoor neighborhood, Nicole Martinez, expresses her experience since the incidence. Although her house was not directly affected by the explosion, residents of the entire neighborhood still have to deal with the aftermath.

“These three past years have been very chaotic.” She said. “We’ve never had people or workers constantly coming in and out [before the explosion.] It’s always very busy now; not like how our calm neighborhood used to be. It’s been a little difficult dealing with these changes, but I believe everyone here is willing to cooperate to get everything done with as soon as possible.”