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Speeding up home improvement permits.

As I’m going out talking to voters, I’m hearing from quite a few that the process of dealing with significant home improvement projects is quite cumbersome. One family in Belle Air gave up on doing a second-story addition entirely, and simply moved to a larger place.

While it’s important that we have design reviews for safety, we need to clean up our design standards to reduce the amount of subjective, discretionary review. Sure, we don’t want people to do a second story where they push right up to the property line and cast a big shadow over a neighbor’s whole roof and yard.  But we could set appropriate set-back / step-back guidelines, and clean up our daylight plane requirement (which currently is structured in a very odd way where you can choose which sides it applies to, instead of simply making it apply where the sun shines), and then we wouldn’t have to resolve these issues by dragging people through meetings with the Architectural Review Board, the Planning Commission, and potentially the City Council, all over simply adding an extra room or two. Every project that comes through that process costs the applicant money, and costs the city staff-hours that could instead be focused on the larger, more important projects in the Transit Corridor.

People also need to be able to rely on guidance they receive from the city. I’ve heard multiple stories about people getting asked to change a design, and then having a different member of staff push them back in the exact opposite direction. Or people will submit plans, get comments, send in a new design that responds to those comments, and then get back new comments addressing something that hasn’t changed relative to the original draft. And you definitely shouldn’t need to go petition a Councilmember, or hire a lawyer or other specialist, to try to help you navigate the process — the process should be simple enough that any competent adult can deal with it.

One of the best ways we can meet our regional housing needs is to simply let families adapt their homes to meet their own needs. A city that’s built by many hands, organically, feels more comfortable, more human-scale. We need tear down barriers to incremental growth, and make normal neighborhoods legal again.

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Auros Harman for San Bruno Council
District 4 2022 FPPC # 1449270
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