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Lafayette Residents Pledge To Fight PG&E’s Plan To Remove Trees Along Its Pipeline

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With bitter spats erupting over dog parks, playgrounds, and even the very definition of “semi-rural,” it is little wonder that stirred-up locals have started a digital and analog petition questioning the forthcoming removal of dozens of venerable trees along the Lafayette-Moraga Trail.

The Pacific Gas & Electric Company (aka, the people who keep the lights on for about 99 percent of us in Lamorinda) says removing the trees is essential to the preservation of its gas pipeline – which happens to run under all those trees, not to mention joggers, bikers, and pretty close to more than a few homes.

The utility, still smarting from the scathing it received in the wake of the catastrophic explosion and firestorm which killed eight people and injured dozens more after a PG&E pipeline rupture in San Bruno in 2010, had embarked on a statewide project to clear trees and other obstacles which might block an emergency response in the event of another disaster.

That project is now focused on Lafayette, with 272 trees marked for removal – a “short-list” from what was once a much longer roster of trees to be culled. But, this being Lafayette with a lot of people moving here because trees were so much a part of our landscape, a group formed to challenge PG&E’s plan.

Almost 1,300 locals, many of them living adjacent to the popular walking trail or with old-growth Oaks on their property or nearby, have taken the fight online with a petition questioning the trimming and demanding concessions.

The group, which calls itself Save Lafayette Trees, has approached the city, the utility, and the East Bay Regional Park District and demanded to know which trees have been tagged for removal, and for clarification of owner’s rights regarding their removal if they happen to be growing on private property.

The city has asked PG&E to answer resident’s questions at a future meeting and the utility is, a spokesman said, currently reaching out to individually affected residents now that the short list of 272 trees has been formalized.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I love trees myself, but choose your battles wisely. And learn to focus on things you can control. It’s a smoother ride in the long run, and you’ll find yourself succeeding in other areas of your life that are more important.

  2. Let PG&E do their work! Look on the bright side… satellite signals can improve, solar panels work better while also we are preserving the safety of the gas pipeline.

  3. Danielle,

    What exactly do you mean by that? PG&E is developing this plan in coordination with the Lafayette government. I think the point of the petition/awareness campaign is to raise and voice enough opposition to the project to get the Lafayette city government to reject or force PG&E to revise the plan. The idea is that with the right level of support, the residents can have more control of this process.

  4. The City and PG&E need to be held accountable for the trees they are choosing to remove or are allowing to be removed. Not long ago, Lafayette residents were told to turn in any PG&E employees that were attempting to or were planning on removing trees from this City. Money talks. Well, it turns out that Lafayette has accepted $500K as payment for removing the 272 trees PG&E has slated for cutting. This happened in a nearby city and when forced to actually explain why each and every tree was being removed, the residents were told that actually only 7 needed to be taken down. I suspect it is the same scenario in Lafayette. We do not need new meridians….and Lafayette’s City officers/employees need to start paying attention to its residents rather than making these decisions on their own. Each plan needs to be published on NextDoor’s website just as the police and fire departments post their news. That is the real way to get the news out. LISTEN UP LAFAYETTE.

  5. I’m all for the preservation of our trees especially as they all seem to falling down or taken down as we build but I have to wonder if the greater public good doesn’t rest with making sure the fire department can respond to the area quickly in an emergency.

  6. Tough one. But then you had to mention San Bruno. That kind of seals the deal – and the fate of those trees – I’m afraid. Perhaps we can plant more elsewhere along that corridor and not so close to the pipeline???

  7. Maintaining easy access to a buried natural gas pipeline sounds prudent. I presume they have the legal right as well as the legal obligation to maintain a safe, accessible space for inspectors and equipment. They were likely insensitive (deaf) to the locals when they drew up their first list of trees to remove. I understand this is a much shorter list. From the bleachers, this sounds like a compromise. Let them do their work on their right of way and get out.

  8. I’m no pipeline or emergency response expert, but I have to think the engineers at PG&E can come up with a better way of maintaining this pipeline that doesn’t require cutting down hundreds of trees that are a priceless feature of our town. Lafayette should tell them sorry, $500k for median landscaping isn’t gonna cut it, go back to the drawing board again and come up with a plan that better preserves the existing wildlife. Some 15 gallon plants in a median along Mt. Diablo Blvd. can’t replace a single mature Valley Oak tree. Go down the bike trail and look at how many huge, mature trees are being marked for removal – I was shocked when I saw the fliers. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old – they’ve been here longer than the town of Lafayette or PG&E ever existed.

    Also, the San Bruno explosion was due to faulty welding, not tree roots.

  9. Raised in Laf, what I meant by that is let PG&E do their job. I’m tired of NIMBY’s. They’re narrow minded. I enjoy the Lafayette-Moraga trail myself, but I don’t work for PG&E. Nor do I own the trees, the trail or property in Lafayette. We own in Orinda and La Jolla.

    I’m also mature enough to know “you can’t always get what you want.” The Rolling Stones said it best.

    If people would put more energy into things they can control in their own lives, and let the professionals make their decisions, it would be a better world. And this is coming from a FIGHTER. I learned a long time ago to choose my battles WISELY.

    San Bruno does “seal the deal,” and most of us realize this.

  10. @Danielle – Bringing out the Big Guns of any debate, The Rolling Stones, gives you an unfair advantage in this, Danielle. We’re expecting a Joni Mitchell riposte at any second!

  11. Steve Falk,
    What trees, specifically have you sold to PG &E? You have negotiated a deal behind closed doors to exchange our trees for median improvements. Do you live in Lafayette, Mr. Falk??
    Citizens want information, specifics and transparency with regard to what you negotiated with PG&E, behind closed doors. You have to know what trees are part of the negotiations. Why is this information not available to the public??

  12. As much as it hurts me to say it I am afraid e are going to lose these trees in the interest of public safety. It would be nice to see a coordinated and researched replanting effort after their removal. Perhaps private landowners who lost trees might be considered for alternative landscaping? And when this thread gets around to discussing downtown traffic jams would you all let me know? I had to drive through town yesterday and it was a nightmare.

    • @Carol – Interesting that you should mention traffic as the city is currently soliciting feedback from citizens regarding downtown congestion and – hopefully – ways to alleviate same!

  13. I wonder if the City of Lafayette has fully complied with the California Environmental Quality Act? Is cutting down 272 historical trees considered a project that has a significant impact on the environment?

  14. I’m suing PG&E for not maintaining trees near its power lines, resulting in a fire. I hope I win.

  15. Remembering what I remember of the San Bruno tragedy I have to think this is a nobrainer. I would however like to see some sort of give back by PGE to the city for its extortionate rate hikes – maybe in the shape of an aggressive reforestation effort for Lafayette or other towns or maybe as energy credits for senior citizens. I do believe they have been getting away with too much for too long.

    • @RIF – The cause as we understand it were faulty welds on the utility’s underground pipes. We re not sure what part, if any, the presence of trees had on accessing/fighting the fire as it was pretty much a conflagration once it started. Love to hear from first responders on this one…

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