272 trees to be axed in Lafayette for PG&E project

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KGO) -- This summer, the ax will fall on 272 trees in the city of Lafayette as part of a PG&E gas pipeline safety project.

Residents are upset that some of those trees will include redwoods and old oak trees.

A huge, twisted old oak tree along Glenside Drive is one of the trees targeted for removal.

Oak trees are protected, as are redwoods, but they're on the PG&E hit list here. The city of Lafayette is going along with PG&E's plan.

"The city's tree ordinance provides that certain trees are protected, but if they do present a hazard to life and property, then they can be removed," Lafayette city manager Steven Falk said.

PG&E has identified 272 trees that could block first responders from accessing their underground gas pipeline in an emergency.

"Really, it's the same principle behind why you can't park your car in front of a fire hydrant keep. It's the same reason you can't have trees directly over the top of the gas transmission line," PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith said.

PG&E promises to plant 272 trees in alternate locations to replace those that are removed. They're paying the city over 400,000 for street median improvements.

So far this summer, 96 trees will be removed from the popular Rim Trail at Lafayette Reservoir. Thirty-six trees will be removed from other trails and 122 trees from private property.

PG&E will offer them compensation. "They can go and tell PG&E I'm not going to sign this agreement. They are legally able to say that and PG&E cannot force them to remove these trees," Lafayette resident Michael Dawson said.

Some residents have launched a petition to save the trees from PG&E buzz saws.

"Taking a 1 ax fits all strategy that's eliminating trees but not addressing the problem of the aging pipeline," Dawson said.

Posters are starting to go up around town this week.

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