PG&E cuts down stunned homeowner's trees for fire mitigation

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Homeowner shocked when trees cut down by PG&E
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A Pleasant Hill man thought he had an agreement with PG&E to trim his trees. Here's what happened when he saw PG&E crews chopping them down instead.

PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- A Pleasant Hill man is outraged after he says a PG&E crew lead him to believe they were entering his yard to trim his trees to keep them safely away from power lines. He was shocked to later discover they had cut two trees down. Was this a case of miscommunication, or a major mishap on the part of the utility?

Patrick Alexander walked toward the area where his two 70-year-old blue oak trees once stood. A stump is the only evidence of one of those trees. What's left of the other tree is buried under debris.

"Here's where my grandchildren had swings. Here's where my great-grandchildren had swings. Here's where my wife and I sat under the tree," said Alexander.

PG&E power lines hang over his backyard in Pleasant Hill. The utility had determined Alexander's tree were coming too close to the power lines and wanted to take action as part of its fire mitigation efforts. They came to his home back in February, unannounced.

"I told them I first wanted to have my arborist come out - and satisfy me," said Alexander. He said PG&E agreed to wait before cutting back his trees, but the next day a crew returned.

"They let themselves in my gate and they were up cutting the tree," Alexander said.

Alexander stopped them, informing them he had an agreement that the utility would wait to give him time to talk to his tree expert.

Alexander spoke with his arborist, and quickly informed PG&E he had no objections to its crew's trimming his tree.

The crew returned two weeks later. He looked out his back window and saw that the crews weren't just trimming the trees. They were cutting them down. "I came out and said what's going on. They came to trim the trees. 'No, we're cutting them down.' Why? 'You sent my tree crew home.'"

Alexander also accused the crews of destroying some of his ground plants. He says they also left without cleaning the debris.

Alexander contacted 7 On Your Side, and we contacted PG&E. It told us the original decision to trim the trees was changed, and it apologized for any confusion.

"Mr. Alexander's trees posed a safety risk within PG&E's right-of-way. Using technology, it was determined these trees needed to be removed, not trimmed. The trees were removed to ensure safety, reliability, and to maintain state and federal compliance."

The crew has since returned to clean his yard.

"Now they've said they will take the dead trees away and I can ask for a voucher to replace these plants," said Alexander.

Patrick has confirmed he finally received that voucher today.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.