San Lorenzo Express News

Community Meeting Dec. 19 to Air Outrage over PGE Tree Cutting

DECEMBER 11, 2001

In the face of angry protests from San Lorenzo residents, PGE has agreed to stop pruning street trees until after a community meeting December 19. [Update: PGE subsequently agreed to not prune any trees in the village until after Jan. 14. In the meantime county officials are hoping to persuade PGE to change its pruning techniques.] Residents first voiced their anger over PGE's cutting of street trees at a meeting of the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association November 15.

At the November meeting a representative of PGE, Peter Beesley, defended the manner in which crews working for the utility have pruned trees. Electric utilities are required to have a program of pruning of trees whose branches might damage power lines. Beesley is the manager of PGE's Vegetation Management Program.

Residents are particularly upset over the deep "V" pruning, by which all the main branches in the middle of a tree are removed, so that only branches growing to the sides of the power lines are left. The result looks like the letter "V". The effect on the historic sycamore trees lining San Lorenzo Village streets, which are more than 50 years old, is jarring.

In light of the controversy, county supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker is sponsoring a public meeting to hear both sides and to attempt to resolve the dispute. The meeting will be Wednesday Dec. 19 at 7 - 9 p.m. at the San Lorenzo Community Hall (next to the fire house on Paseo Grande, before the I-880 overpass). Participating will be PGE's Beesley, the director of the county's Public Works Agency, and the county's arborist, Jim Browne.

Although PGE is required to develop a pruning program, it must receive a permit from the county before it can cut trees. The county also has a pilot street tree policy in effect.

Supervisor Lai-Bitker is considering a "heritage tree" ordinance that would give special protection to the old sycamores in San Lorenzo Village.