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Neighbors and SFPUC: Move oak tree?

 

Granny might have to move. Tree advocates and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) officials met Tuesday (May 24) to discuss how to save the 65-foot-tall heritage oak tree standing in the way of the Hetch Hetchy pipeline.

The centuries-old oak sits in the middle of a site at 827 15th Ave. in North Fair Oaks that's designated for a pipeline meant to carry water from the Hetch Hetchy as part of a $4.6 billion seismic improvement project.

Granny almost came down earlier this month on short notice. But after the neighborhood organized a protest, the SFPUC ensconced the tree within an "avoidance area" and directed its contractor, Mountain Cascade, to stop work within that boundary for now.

Mediated by a liaison from Supervisor Rose Jacobs-Gibson's staff, the May 24 meeting proceeded after a squabble over whether the press, which had been invited by the tree's advocates, would be allowed to attend what was ostensibly a public meeting.

SFPUC project manager Joseph Ortiz brought everyone up to date on what options have already been considered. The commission looked at ways to preserve Granny that even surprised the advocates, such as moving the tree 600 to 700 feet away from the pipe. That remains on the table, as does the option of tunneling under the tree, which would cost an estimated $430,000.

Contractors continue to explore how far the oak's root system extends and whether the roots are wrapping around the two water pipes already installed nearby, which affects the viabilty of either choice.

"It might not seem like it, but I've lost a lot of sleep over this tree," said Matt Horowitz, a project arborist. "It tears me up."

One option -- running the pipe above ground and over the tree roots -- won't work, according to Ortiz and Horowitz, because of weight. At 2,000 pounds per foot, the pipe would require a mammoth support structure and the combined weight would smash Granny's roots.

The neighbors expressed their understanding of how critical the pipeline project is, while remaining cautiously optimistic that both sides will figure out a solution.

"The tree is not going to stand in the way of water for citizens," Charles Berkstresser said. Granny sits at the edge of his backyard; if the tree gets moved, it might end up much closer to his house -- an option he said he could live with, provided there's enough room for both home and oak.

The SFPUC and neighbors will meet again in a couple weeks after the root investigation and cost evaluations are finished.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2011 at 10:37 am

> The commission looked at ways to preserve Granny that even
> surprised the advocates, such as moving the tree 600 to 700
> feet away from the pipe. That remains on the table, as does
> the option of tunneling under the tree, which would cost an
> estimated $430,000.

Are you ******* kidding me ... please tell me it ain't true!

Almost half a million dollars to tunnel under a single tree.
I love trees, but the current state of the state really says
clearly no one that, and in fact should have said clearly
no on even finding an estimate on that ... how much did
they spend on that?

Is there any estimate for how much it would cost to move
the tree. In the future are any lessons learned about looking
at the impact to trees and heritage sites for any projects like
this?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2011 at 10:45 am

"If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed".

Mindboggling.


Like this comment
Posted by Glenn C.
a resident of Stanford
on May 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I worry that moving an oak tree this old will result in significant stress for the tree, and eventual death for "Granny." I agree that what to do is a dilemma and I'm sure a lot of thought has gone into this problem. If the pipe can't be gently "elbowed" around the tree, the solution may be an unfortunate one. $400,000 + is truly a lot of money. We should ask some young people their opinion, sometimes really creative ideas come forward!


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

It's only a tree! Wipe away a tear, chop it down and plant a dozen replacements. If the next quake comes and that pipe is not finished, whistle for water.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

It’s an established fact that anything the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission does is “gold-plated”, outrageously and unnecessarily expensive, never done in the time frame promised, and all the work is really done by expensive outside consultants who just love feeding at the SFPUC trough that just keeps doling and dialing out the dollars. In this screwed up world we live in, a majestic tree of the type involved here is something worth saving. A best guess on a realistic cost on doing so would be about 10% of what SFPUC is floating out there. More inquiry, investigation and questions are definitely in order.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Hogwash, It is still only a tree. We hav e lots of trees. All things being the same I would try to preserve this tree, but it seems that every REASONABLE means was already considered and rejected.
As for the outside consultants, how many in-house aqueduct designers are on the SFPUD payroll?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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