Officials meeting over plans to remove popular tree

May 17, 2011 1:27:37 PM PDT
San Mateo County officials are meeting with representatives from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission today to see if there's a way to stop a nearly 300-year-old valley oak tree in North Fair Oaks from being chopped down.

The tree, which was nicknamed "Granny" by the residents of 15th Avenue who are trying to save it, stands in the path of a $4.6 billion project to seismically upgrade the Hetch Hetchy water supply system.

Wayne Cruz, who has lived in the neighborhood for 36 years, said residents understand the importance of the SFPUC project but think that alternatives to cutting "Granny" down should be explored more thoroughly.

"We're not trying to stop the project," Cruz said. "We understand the importance of it, but they have not been transparent."

SFPUC spokeswoman Maureen Barry said Monday that project engineers looked into alternative plans -- such as installing the new pipeline beneath the tree's roots -- but that only removing the tree completely could ensure the security of the pipe.

Plans to cut the tree down will likely move forward next week, Barry said.

Cruz said that an arborist from Portola Valley-based S.P. McClenahan Co. determined that the tree is between 250 and 300 years old and is in excellent health.

"We're not just talking about our neighborhood," Cruz said. "This is old growth native forest."

San Mateo County Planning Director Jim Eggemeyer was meeting with county attorneys and representatives from the SFPUC this morning to determine which agency might have jurisdiction to protect or remove the tree, which stands on an SFPUC easement surrounded by private property.

Cruz said the neighbors were waiting to be debriefed on the meeting before planning any future demonstrations to save "Granny."

"Who has jurisdiction is kind of irrelevant," Cruz said. "It's a beautiful tree."

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