Walnut Creek Objects to PG&E Proposal to Remove 700+ Trees

March 22, 2014 23:49 pm · 67 comments

A plan by PG&E to clear a pathway above its pipeline by removing thousands of trees throughout Contra Costa is drawing objection from Walnut Creek officials.

In a March 20th letter (shown above), Mayor Kristina Lawson noted that PG&E has not sought the input of the community or its elected officials, and that more than 700 trees would be removed in Walnut Creek with virtually no exploration of whether the trees pose a public safety hazard, or exploration of whether other alternatives exist that would protect the public while preserving the trees.

For a list of tree types and a map of proposed tree removal in the City of Walnut Creek, CLICK HERE.

Pro Fi March 23, 2014 at 12:16 AM

The powerpoint was useful. It sounds like a lot, but PGE is willing to replace trees with drought tolerant plant options within 5 feet of either side of the pipeline and then trees after that, If this is for public safety, is the city willing to take on the liability if those lines can’t be checked? From the diagrams they provided, it looks like these trees are on top of the lines. I am not an expert, but that doesn’t seem like that would be safe.

Wow! March 23, 2014 at 12:40 AM

After studying all the maps, and trying to be objective, I am saddened at the proposed loss of trees – particularly the valley oaks which are probably well over 100 years old, and the Chinese pistache, which provide such color to Walnut Creek in the fall.

At the same time, it looks like PG&E is carefully mapping their pipeline and removing trees from its direct corridor to avoid breach of the gas pipeline with roots. Of course, that seems highly important, as breach of a gas pipeline can be highly dangerous.

The plants they have listed and shown for replacement also show wisdom for a combination of drought tolerance, beauty, color, variety, maintenance, and lack of root depth.

I am glad to see the depth and breadth of their handout.

Anonymous March 23, 2014 at 12:54 AM

I read the letter and viewed PGE’s proposal and map. That is a lot of trees! And the Live Oaks, they can easily be 300 to 400 years old. Many of the trees are in private front and back yards of people’s homes. Many very large trees. I have a Deodara Cedar tree in my back yard that is 50′ tall. It provides not only beauty but much needed shade for our extreme summer heat. My home is 55 years old, so that tree was either already here when the home was built, or it was planted at the time. I suspect already here or there would be more of the same tree in other yard if the builder planted it. I would be devastated if somebody knocked on my door and told me they needed to remove my tree.

The PGE documents also say “approximate location” pertaining to the pipeline. Well, if it was my tree they wanted to cut, it had better be a definite location, not approximate.

Kudos to Walnut Creek’s mayor for addressing this issue with PGE. What other cities are on this list of tree removals? Why are we only hearing about Walnut Creek? What about Concord? How do we find out? Little investigation Mr. Mayor?

No fan of PG&E March 23, 2014 at 1:02 AM

Yet again, here we see the cold arrogance of PG&E and what happens when there’s no competition and weak accountability. No input from the community whatsoever or seeing if there are alternatives. I grew up in Walnut Creek and trees definitely add to the its attractiveness.


No fan of PG&E March 23, 2014 at 1:06 AM

Once again PG&E shows its cold arrogance of having no competition or much accountability. No input from the community and no trying to see if there are other options. I grew up in Walnut Creek and trees are definitely part of why it’s an attractive area, not just because of the “destination shopping.”


$$$$$$$ Anyone? March 23, 2014 at 1:18 AM

Wow, when I looked at the map and realized the scope of this project I wondered what’s the price tag and who’s going to pay? If they’re subcontracting the tree removal work, someone’s pockets are probably getting lined. Look at the sheer number manhours and equipment requirements. This is a Big Ticket item. And where has PG&E been all the time that these trees have been growing and maturing all over the downtown and residential areas? Like someone who hasn’t bothered going to the dentist for 20 years now needs all their teeth pulled and false teeth put in (notice the foliage replacement suggestions, ca-chinggggg).

LitlleWing March 23, 2014 at 2:53 AM

What is the alternative to removing all of those trees and bushes? Are they saying the pipes will last a whole lot longer after they remove the trees because there will not be roots to grow into the pipes?

Silva March 23, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Nothing appears when I CLICK HERE. Excellent story though. Good for Walnut Creek! I hope we all follow their lead in this.

anon March 23, 2014 at 6:56 AM

Public safety first.

Nowhere in their document March 23, 2014 at 7:13 AM

do I see any explanation as to why the trees need to be removed. Is there a hazard, are roots damaging the piping, is piping due to be replaced….?? I can understand pruning and removal under electric lines, but not over gas lines. Hopefully the City will demand further explanation.

D March 23, 2014 at 7:29 AM

They have taken out some significant sized trees on Concord too. I am wondering how it will change the micro climate.. Takes a while to regrow a 50 foot tree

@ Tree Hugger March 23, 2014 at 7:40 AM

Before we built all these houses and went to the nursery to fill our yards with trees and grass, it was a dust bowl in Claycord. Quit acting like we cut one tree and we’re all going to die.

Anyone care to guess how many trees we have in Walnut Creek alone ?

Anon March 23, 2014 at 7:43 AM

This will be a hot button issue in Pleasant Hill along CC Blvd in the not too distant future – keep your eyes peeled.

Just me March 23, 2014 at 8:10 AM

PG&E does what they want, then get us to pay for it. which as raise prices so they can fix things, then its not fixed, an explosion happens, then they raise the price again. Now they will take out tress have to raise price to do that they they will want to replant trees and raise the price to replace trees

Mark March 23, 2014 at 8:20 AM

WC can object, but they (we) will end up paying for either the liability or the cost of construction to move the utilities. Can you say local tax hike?

94598 March 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Dang- this is all bad! No winners here regardless of outcome.

94598 March 23, 2014 at 8:43 AM

City of WC takes its tree removal seriously! Many years back, I tried to hire Davey Tree to remove a wild Oak from my back yard. They told me they couldn’t remove it unless I got a permit from the City.
City denied issuing a permit- the Oak is still there.

What I've Learned March 23, 2014 at 8:51 AM

1. Homes on all the residential streets listed have just lost value now that they have publicly been identified as not only be directly located above high pressure gas lines but but will soon be barren by losing its mature trees.

2. Being in most places downtown could be risky should a San Bruno situation occur.

3. Being at John Muir Hospital could be risky should a San Bruno situation occur.

4. Being at Foothill Middle School could be risky should a San Bruno situation occur.

5. Being at Rudgear Park could be risky should a San Bruno situation occur.

6. Being at Boundary Oaks Golf Coursecould be risky should a San Bruno situation occur.

The list goes on… Question: why did PG&E allow the plantings of all those trees above their dangerous pipelines to begin with? Obviously the pipes were put into place before the trees and their roots were planted too close.

Just sayin’

anon March 23, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Seems like a wise decision to me for PG&E to be proactive in cutting down trees to ensure the safety of their pipeline. Is it a bummer that some beautiful trees are being cut down? Sure it is. In my opinion better to lose a few trees rather than have another San Bruno explosion on our hands! Rather than being so suspicious of PG&E’s motives maybe we should give them credit for making an effort to improve the safety of their pipelines. Seems ridiculous to think they are doing this with some underhanded motive, which would be what? To make a bunch of people mad and go through the hassle of tearing down trees!?!? Makes no sense, people. They are working to make the pipeline safe. Thank you PG&E!

Michelle March 23, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Must fulfill the need of the people. PG&E already came by my house and asked if they could trim my tree I said they could, but they’re not oing to completely chop it down.

Connie Dobbs March 23, 2014 at 9:04 AM

San Mateo.

Michelle March 23, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The upside to this is at least the smokers will have nothing to start a blaze with when they fling butts out the window.

Plate Fare March 23, 2014 at 9:17 AM

Kudos to PGE for putting safety first.
Boo for choosing this way to do it. The
tree decimation looks positively hateful.
Like after the San Bruno disaster, and the
calls for increased pipeline safety, they
said to themselves, “We’ll show ’em.” It
looks like a hughly expensive project and
moving those pipelines would be cheeper.
Some of those trees predate gas pipelines.
They should be spared and a lesson learned
not to lay pipelines near existing trees, or
in developed areas where people are likely
to plant trees. I say move the pipelines first.

Joe March 23, 2014 at 9:19 AM

It’s to enable PG&E conduct helicopter flyover inspections- foliage has a high infrared index, which makes aerial detection difficult- thus the need for a huge swath on both sides of the line. This has nothing to do with tree roots and line integrity!!!

Of course- the same “sniffer” inspections could be made with ground crews, but… you know, c’mon!

Silva March 23, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Soon, VERY soon, we’ll just see pictures of a mature giant Valley Oak tree, if we’re lucky. Anyone know how Oakland got it’s name? It was wooded by the largest Valley Oak woods ever seen. I know of no survivors. Don’t worry folks, it’ll happen. Like CalTrans, PG&E does whatever it wants, in whoever’s front or back yard they want too. Then we pay.

Wow! March 23, 2014 at 10:03 AM

The good thing is that we have Obama Care for our oxygen needs.

cynic March 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM

I don’t have much of a dog in this fight, but I fear the crucial bit was at the end of the mayor’s letter. Many trees will be cut down, but the city will make sure it gets it’s cut. Some trees will fall, some will be designated too precious. If you have a stately oak growing over the gas line, now would be a good time to showcase it with a reelection garden party fundraiser. If you are unemployed, Davy Tree may soon be hiring.

anon anon March 23, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Shut up with the “San Bruno” FEAR baloney. San Bruno was a HIGH PRESSURE TRANSMISSION GAS LINE BLOW OUT!
Tree roots – If they break a gas line you’re going to smell it.
PS – The line coming off of the main and going up to your gas meter can Never do what San Bruno did, not enough pressure.

94519 March 23, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Yes, let’s get four or five power companies
so there is competition. And see how that works
when a problem comes up.
If they are proven to be a potential safety issue
and is in the best interest of maintenance ,
Do it.
As far as ” who pays”, it will be the consumers
as always, that’s why an objective examination
of this project should be done, quickly , and
thoroughly .

Marissa March 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM

At least that’s clear, but removal of all those trees will have a tremendous effect on the environment. There will litteraly be no shade and shoppers will bake in the sun, electric outages will abound as prices rise, I predict massive riots and such,,,of course I am exaggerating a little……

Antler March 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Yet PG&E arrogantly leaves multiple pole hazards out in the roadbed of Concord Boulevard. And City of Concord goes along with their “ohhhhhh, as soon as we can get around to it” routine.

Winston March 23, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Cutting these trees down will not make us safer, they will just make pipeline inspections cheaper because PG&E will be able to replace ground level inspectors with aerial thermal leak detection. This is about higher utility profits at the cost of our quality of life.

Acorn March 23, 2014 at 11:39 AM

You have done enough damage PG@E. I moved to Northern California from Southern California, because of the trees and shade.
Back off!

@anon anon March 23, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Tell that to the residents,victims of a gas leak
that blew up two buildings in Harlem .
The potential is there, and ease of inspection
is critical.

KJ March 23, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Two questions:

(1) Aren’t the trees on the sidewalks along Locust; they certainly are not in the street. I have been seeing PG&E replacing gas lines in SF and other cities, and they are all under the roadway, not the sidewalks: So why can’t PG&E locate (or relocate, as the case may be) it gas lines under the street and leave the trees alone?

(2) Do tree roots damage gas lines? Of course, they get into water lines, but then water would attract roots: I can’t see a tree root being attracted to gas, and I’ve never had to get someone to clean trees roots out of our gas line, which we have to do regularly with water and sewer lines).

Pro Fi March 23, 2014 at 12:47 PM

This is an issue of social class. If PG&E wanted to do this in specific areas (say the Monument corridor) in Concord we wouldn’t even hear about it. As I said, if Walnut Creek and its’ residents are willing to take on the risk and be held liable, I have no problem with them fighting it. Of course, the litigation will be expensive and that will get passed on to the rest of us in the way of higher PG&E bills.

Marissa March 23, 2014 at 12:48 PM

KJ, the roots damage the pipelines just by growing. Nature does not care what’s in the way. Where you see huge and massive trees, you can believe the root system is extensive underneath. Roots grow huge and can cause a lot of damage. The bottom line, it costs more to have someone cypher out the roots system every few years than it costs to just remove the trees. You have to have a professional botanist or someone who has extensive knowledge of botany to cut the roots as not to damage the trees. That in itself is an added cost. more and more riots…

skeptical March 23, 2014 at 12:50 PM

thank you Joe and Winston – no way is this about safety, it’s about pg&e saving money on inspections. they currently use the helicopter to sniff the pipeline in my neighborhood and it regularly flies lower and faster than the medical helicopters landing at nearby John Muir. if you ask me, reckless helicopter patrols over highly populated areas are far more dangerous than trees.

anon anon March 23, 2014 at 1:12 PM

#34, Sorry. Your Fear and Paranoia is just that.
Maybe in Chicago they put buildings over transmission lines, but that is just not the case here.

Pro Fi March 23, 2014 at 2:15 PM

@39 anon anon – check out some of those photos. A few do show a transmission line running directly below buildings.

Shelly March 23, 2014 at 3:19 PM

@94598 #16; I agree. It’s a lose lose situation.

DJ March 23, 2014 at 3:55 PM

What’s more important? Trees or neighborhoods? Trees can take root in the gas line, it could be tomorrow or 30 years from now for an explosion to happen. Yes the issue has been ignored for years but would you rather the issue go on ignored or addressed. It sucks the trees have to go but it’s for safety. There are gas pipelines everywhere, under buildings, homes, schools and hospitals. A lot of times the pipeline was there first and the developers and PG&E 30-40 years ago had no issue with building on top of gas lines.

KJ March 23, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Marissa (#37) — My family has owned a house in the Bay Area for over 65 years. There are two large pine trees and an oak tree, plus smaller trees in the area of the gas line — not once during that entire time did we, or PG&E, have to clean roots out of the gas line, or had any problems with tree roots being in the vicinity of the gas line. However, during those 65+ years, we have had to clean roots out of the sewer line every few years.

anon March 23, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Getting ready to replace old pipes. Our rates will go up for sure.

KAD March 23, 2014 at 5:48 PM

They also want to cut trees in Concord.I am worried that the City will not watch them close enough.

Boscobear March 23, 2014 at 6:19 PM

I don’t see anywhere that PG&E will pay for replacement trees, just telling us what can be put in

Reality Slap March 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM

If this goes to the Court system Walnut Creek will lose; betting PG&E will not have to pay for the tree permits as well. You are talking about public safety verses landscaping. The most the Courts would demand of PG&E is to pay for replacement landscape. As someone stated it’s a lose-lose situation.

Landana March 23, 2014 at 7:32 PM

wasn’t Walnut creek voted “tree capital ” or something like that?

Anonymous March 23, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Confusing to read PGE’s list, and their chart, of the No Tree Zone, etc. then at the bottom is a list of approved trees. I don’t get it. There are trees on their list of approved trees that are on the list of trees to be removed. What?

How can we find out what their plan is for Concord?

Anonymous March 23, 2014 at 8:02 PM

Looks like Concord is set for some 600 trees removed also and they are not happy about it. http://www.contracostatimes.com/barnidge/ci_25233781/barnidge-rev-up-chain-saws-pg-e-safety

Walnut Creek Resident March 23, 2014 at 8:15 PM

This is just plain old sad. Not good.

Mar March 23, 2014 at 8:36 PM

Save The Tree’s !

the Shi ite March 23, 2014 at 8:58 PM

Garbage. There’s more of a chance of your neighbor rupturing a gas line while digging a fence post than a tree root doing anything other than MOVING a plastic gas line.
Why all of a sudden is this an urgent issue?

schedule March 23, 2014 at 9:27 PM

PGE Claims that the reason they don’t reroute lines is because it requires engineering, studies, requires obtaining new easements, etc which could take years and would be paid by the ratepayers. If they are allowed to remove all the trees, etc it will be paid by the ‘stockholders.” So what do you think that means? Don’t presume that the gas lines were there first. Some of the neighborhoods and trees were there many years before gas lines were installed. Some trees that are one foot just inside the minimum distance from pipelines are slated for removal. We are talking about 65 foot trees that will be wiped out and change the whole neighborhood. PGE wants an all or nothing plan instead of a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. I get that some neighborhoods will need removals but I think in some they should require more proof (potholing, test excavations, etc) that the pipelines are in truly in trouble. I have heard in many cases there are no spaces for replacement trees only shrubs and it is not one for one replacement and it depends if cities replant the trees or PGE replants the trees (far fewer if this is the case) Speak your mind at city council meetings, PUC commission meetings and to PGE representatives. They are counting on cities not challenging their PUC claim.

Anonymous March 23, 2014 at 9:34 PM

Here is PGE’s site where you can enter your address and find out if there is a gas transmission line near you.

Anonymous March 23, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Read this article! “In some cases sheds, patios, etc. are in the way of maintenance and inspection…..” So not only trees, but they may go into a private residence and expect to have a patio or garden shed removed too, not just the tree? And in the case of commercial property, they expect the commercial property owner to do the removal and replacement, and I suppose foot the bill.

Georgette March 24, 2014 at 12:06 AM

In all the articles I have read on this matter there is no mention of the impact to wildlife. Primary cavity and secondary cavity nesters use trees for nesting sites February through August. First of all, their are laws that protect nesting birds. Secondly, if the trees must be destroyed then it should not be done during the nesting season. And when it is done careful examination of ach tree should be made to make sure their are no live nests in it. In my opinion, PGE should provide an environmental impact study and public meetings to educate themselves, get the public involved and realize that removing 1000 trees is like clear-cutting a forest. The impacts are far reaching.

Hate Oaks in Suburbs March 24, 2014 at 8:31 AM


I hate oaks in the suburbs. They’re dirty and dangerous.

Instead of cutting it down, water it to death.

When it dies, then you can have it cut down.

You tree huggers make me sick.

For the 700+ trees to be remove, plant 700 + trees elsewhere.

Maybe you idiots need an explosion like San Bruno…

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 March 24, 2014 at 8:33 AM

It is against the law to disturb an active bird nest according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It is illegal to remove or move active nests, even if they are in an inconvenient location and the babies create piles of poop underneath the nest (like Barn Swallows) Or even if they build an unsightly nest and drop pigeon and rat remains on the sidewalk in front of an upscale Fifth Avenue housing coop in NYC, ala the Pale Male Red-tailed Hawk.)

The Act can be read here: http://www.sialis.org/mbta.htm

March through September here in the Bay Area is active nesting season for the songbirds. It is against the law to disturb their nests. If one begins trimming, pruning, or clearing vegetation and discover an active nest, they must cease the work immediately. All native birds, their chicks, eggs and active nests are protected by a federal law called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as California State Codes 3503 and 3503.5. If you observe someone destroying or disturbing an active nest, report them immediately to California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (888) 334-2258 and United States Fish and Wildlife Services at (916) 414-6660. Be prepared to provide the exact location, as well as vehicle license plates and company name if applicable. If possible, take photos and collect evidence (dead or live chicks, broken eggs).

Anonymous March 24, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Grumpy #58, needs a cup of coffee. It’s not really about tree hugging as it is the aesthetics of our cities and residences. That and the lives of the tree dwellers, all the migratory birds that are actively nesting. The oxygen provided by all the trees. The ability of the tree to cleanse the air we breathe. Planting more trees far away from my home will not clean my air, or shade my home.

JLG March 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

@58 Oak Hater
The Oaks were here before the suburbs. If it such a problem move to the desert. So what is wrong with liking trees.

qwerty March 24, 2014 at 11:32 AM

It’s not just trees. Trees are the first step. Sheds, hot tubs, fence posts, paving…everything must be 5-feet away from the pipeline. This has nothing to do with the high pressure line scenario in San Bruno or with public safety. It has to do with the ease of inspection and access for repairs. Though I do not live in Walnut Creek I am glad they are fighting back on this invasion of property rights.

Some of the items that will not be allowed or may be required to be moved once their inspector breeches your private property boundary, per PG&E link below:
-Buildings or storage sheds
-Brick, concrete or block walls and fences
-Pools, hot tubs or wells
-Patios, decks or gazebos
-Sport Courts
-Other impermeable hard surfaces
-Storage of heavy equipment


Shelly March 24, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Wow. Unbelievable. Yes, good for Walnut Creek. I wish you all success. I’m sure Concord will just roll over.

Donna Summersault March 24, 2014 at 2:52 PM

PG&E are always out to do what is easiest and least expensive. This is why that pipeline exploded. Removing all those trees is a way for them to lessen their liability and then shift blame onto the city & property owners should something happen.

What is galling about this is that PG&E wants to remove trees without notice or approval. If their neanderthal workers decide your tree is in the way, chop chop chop. I don’t want some over paid Jnr High School grad with a union job deciding how my city should look.

Here’s the Walnut Creek petition to get PG&E to sit down and discuss the tree removal. http://tinyurl.com/pujqhzl

No matter what the outcome of this March 24, 2014 at 4:02 PM

concern may be, you can bet that we the rate payers will foot the bill.

Utilities need to owned by the people, not an out of state for profit entity. More for better control of our own environment than anything else.

So what is the plan for March 24, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Claycord? How many trees and streets will be ruined in our community? It’s the fault of poor planning and worse maintenance by PG&E and the solution is even worse.

Can’t say I care much for the management of that company.

Tom Williams March 30, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Leave the trees. Put the line inspectors on the ground. They will do a better job than can be done in a helicopter and leave the beautiful tree lined neighborhoods in tact

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