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S.D. Council Agrees to Waive Building, Demolition Fees

The City Council agreed unanimously today to waive building and demolition fees to help San Diego residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the wildfires.

"While insurance companies cover many of the costs for constructing a new home, they do not cover the fees associated with demolishing the burned foundation, disposing of the leftover debris or pulling building permits for the new house," Councilman Brian Maienschein.

"These fees are very costly and often unforeseen," he said.

Maienschein represents the community of Rancho Bernardo, where 362 homes were destroyed and another 62 were damaged by the Witch Creek fire.

A similar action was taken after the 2003 Cedar fire leveled a significant number of homes in the Scripps Ranch community.

"I think these fee waivers certainly make the cleanup and rebuilding process more efficient, but it also sends a message to the fire survivors that the city is behind them 100 percent in their effort to start over," Maienschein told his colleagues.

The City Council also agreed to establish a voucher program for recycling of concrete slabs and bricks and for the disposal of debris associated with the demolition of fire-damaged or destroyed properties.

The panel also designated fire reconstruction permit applications as the highest priority in order to expedite development review.

At a news conference before the council hearing, Mayor Jerry Sanders said the waivers will "strongly aid" in the recovery effort.

"We think this is critical to the rebuilding efforts," he said.

City staffers told the council the fee waivers would cost about $500,000 in the coming fiscal year, and the voucher program about $1.2 million.

Council President Scott Peters said there is a "good chance" the city can recover some of that money from federal disaster assistance.

Information on the waivers and voucher program will be available at the Rancho Bernardo fire assistance center, 18448 W. Bernardo Drive.

Sanders said San Diego officials will meet with Lt. Gov. John Garamendi later today to consider a program where the city would work with the state to remove fire debris from home sites. A similar program was implemented in Lake Tahoe after fires ravaged that area early this summer.

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