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PG&E likely to file eminent domain against Palo Alto Unified for easement at Cubberley

Original post made on Dec 28, 2020

After stalled talks over the last several months, the Palo Alto school district is facing the likelihood of Pacific Gas & Electric filing an eminent domain action to acquire an easement for a gas pipeline at Cubberley Community Center.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 28, 2020, 4:40 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 28, 2020 at 10:26 pm

TimR is a registered user.

Oh no, not another lawsuit. But as we all learned with Foothills Park, lawsuits are too expensive to fight, so the city will just have to cave on this one, too. Right?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 28, 2020 at 10:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

How about the city negotiate for much lower rates from PG@E? $154,000 is chump change; they're missing at least one zero.

Posted by Julian Gómez
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2020 at 12:10 am

Julian Gómez is a registered user.

Why, after so many decades, does PG&E suddenly need to rip up Cubberly? Nothing really has changed in the area. Most likely they're looking for a spot that's easy to take from our weak-willed pushover city administration, as pointed out above.

Posted by
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2020 at 12:44 am is a registered user.

What is going to be interesting is how they explain their Public Use argument?

If they can't do that, then it makes it VERY hard to use emanant domain.

To me, if Palo Alto doesn't require a VERY high tax benefit for the continual use of it, they are in the position to reject and argue that PG&E cannot use it.

This is because it has to have a substantial fiscal benefit to the PUBLIC in order to qualify for E.D.

Just a thought.

Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2020 at 6:33 am

Disgusted is a registered user.

$154,000 for a half-acre in Palo Alto? That’s nuts in a million dollar an acre town. What happened to fair market value?

And why didn’t we know about this sooner?

Sure, gas line safety is good, but choosing a community services center/school/playing fields site for this? Really? Did PG&E shop around for the most inappropriate site in town short of a childcare center or a hospital?

Pretty disgusting.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 29, 2020 at 9:16 am

Brian is a registered user.

I'm always amazed by the people who supposedly read a story and then comment on it incorrectly. The first three comments all implied some ineptness by the CITY of Palo Alto. But the story (and PG&E's action) are all about the Palo Alto SCHOOL DISTRICT. It is quite clear, but the commenters either don't read carefully or intentionally misconstrue the story and attack the city administration.

Posted by JR McDugan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 29, 2020 at 10:03 am

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The school district should fight them tooth and nail. The city and school district gets zero benefit and zero service from PG&E and running a gas pipeline through what will probably soon be a high school again is a huge safety risk (just look at what PG&E did to San Bruno).

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 29, 2020 at 10:30 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The school district should refer this issue to PA Utilities and the City at large since it has no experience in such matters and/or handle it jointly, especially given PG&E's abysmal safety track record.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2020 at 10:45 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I don't get this. We are being told that all new houses need to be totally electrical - no gas. If gas is being eliminated in new housing than how come they are looking for a location for gas? There is such a disconnect in how utilities are being used in this county and state. The papers are telling us one thing and then another activity is in the planning stages. What does the city planning department think? They are suppose to be approving all new construction.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 29, 2020 at 1:09 pm

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One should do some research before shooting one's mouth off. Anyone can easily search on the web and find that PG&E already has two gas pipelines running along Middlefield Road in front of Cubberley:

Web Link

The city also has a webpage:

Web Link

As you can see, south Palo Alto is full of PG&E gas pipelines which are many decades old.

Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm

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[Post removed.]

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2020 at 3:37 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Yes - my home is partially heated by gas. But my home was built a long time ago. I thought they were transitioning to all electric. They are getting ready for new construction along San Antonio.

Posted by
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2020 at 4:07 pm is a registered user.

PG&E has a real problem starting.

Yes it looks like there is going to be a massive shift where heating and air conditioning will be electric.


They have miles of natural gas pipelines they have to manage still, and since the transition is occurring spot by spot, they are stuck with the responsibility to maintain a safe gas infrastructure that is systemically NOT being used anymore.

PG&E is going to be in even worse shape they were when they went bankrupt earlier. The reality is it is a ZOMBIE and we need to cut off its head and get it over with.

Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2020 at 7:06 pm

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To all those that want all electric homes. I hope you have been watching the PSA announcements from state warning people to conserve electricity between 4:00pm and 9:00pm every day. Expect rationing and rolling blackouts in the next 2 years.

While I and the others that have homes that still have natural gas will be able to take showers, cook dinner and other tasks when we come home from work. That and the electric generator lets me get through the day regardless of the grid power.


Posted by Julian Gómez
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Julian Gómez is a registered user.

@Brian - correct, I should have said the school district.

Same comment applies. PAUSD have also shown themselves to be a weak kneed pushover.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 30, 2020 at 1:25 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

How much of what goes on around here is driven by political activity vs common sense. During the political competition for PACC we had a whole group that was telling us to tear down R-1 homes and put in 4-plexes. The R-1 homes are older and use both gas and electricity. So what happens when the under-structure of the housing is ripped out and you overload a section of land with multiple hook-ups for gas, water, and electricity? Based on the type of discussions that went on in the debates most of the people are totally clueless on what goes on relative to utility services. That is a whole engineering function that most do not understand. So the question to PG&E is the why and wherefore of their action? They are anticipating a "need" or already recognize a "need' that is not advertised to the general public.

We need a lot more information here as to the number of households that are being serviced now and what they are projecting in the future.

Posted by
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 30, 2020 at 5:22 am is a registered user.

Resident 1,

Any new construction will include a permanent cap on the gas line if your in a city that banned gas heating systems.

But unfortunately the gas lines themselves may be stuck there to service homes not upgrades or replaced.

Maybe in about another 30-40 years the gas lines will be shut off for good.

Good, because they are a significant risk during earthquakes, look what happened in SF during Lorma Prieta.

The fact that our Electric generation and cabling is so out of date is a real problem. the Electric grid is a Critical Infrastructure Point that the Department of Homeland Security tried to secure and fortify, BUT PG&E lobbied against it.


Because PG&E didn't like the idea that modernizing it for about 10 years would have been paid from the Patriot Act, and they didn't want to have to explain it to the Public Utility Commission. In fact I worked at PG&E so I know about it. Given I am a recognized security expert, and participated in conferences at the RSA Conference regarding public utilities MULTIPLE years.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 30, 2020 at 10:14 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

PG&E was based in San Francisco - San Francisco County and has moved their offices to Oakland on Lake Merritt - Alameda County. Very large facility. And their employees get to purchase new digs in Oakland which is now in a spat of gentrification.

During the political period of debates did this topic come up? WE were voting on the school board as well as all state and federal offices. The topic of Cubberley was part of that debate. The housing vs school approach. Now we have this predicament which started in August of last year. WE are looking at it from the bottoms up but the problem is from the top down. Who in the county is involved in this action? It is not a city action - it is in part a county action.

And we have a "new" contributor" dispensing advice and direction who was an employee of PG&E? What a coincidence!

PG&E is one of the most poorly run companies in the state. Monumentally mismanaged. We need to know who in the county is part of this activity and who in this city is part of this activity. Cubbereley is part of a city and county resource and we need some big help here.

Posted by Michael
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2020 at 11:56 am

Michael is a registered user.

It's unclear by this article, but is PG&E wanting to put in an regulator station / inline-inspection entry yard? Learn from our lessons in Lafayette, CA: PG&E purchased a house for $1.5Million and bulldozed it. PG&E removed every tree on the lot, although they provided necessary screening for neighbors. One year later, PG&E has left the utility yard in a residential neighborhood with a chain-link fence around the perimeter, creating an eyesore for neighbors and reducing housing values. None of these plans were shared with the neighborhood association until after the home was purchased. The kicker: this site was unnecessary, because PG&E employees told me they could have simply done a hydrostatic pressure test, which only uses temporary equipment. Lessons for Palo Alto: see if hydrostatic testing would fulfill PG&E's testing needs. Ask PG&E to identify other locations along the pipeline. Get detailed plans on lights, noise, traffic interruption, wall designs, and need to bring in large vehicles. Surrounding neighbors should be adequately compensated for the damage to their property values.

Posted by Mr Justice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2020 at 1:18 pm

Mr Justice is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

This is just really not clear -- I think everyone involved needs to really nail down the need and what exactly is being asked here. PG&E is one of the most crooked organizations I've ever dealt with, to the extent that having a city utility was among my top 5 happy reasons for being in Palo Alto. I wouldn't take ANYTHING they say at face value, and I definitely would call their bluff if they're trying to bully the school district into something like this. (PAUSD can be tough as nails when it comes to bullying vulnerable kids with special needs and their families, especially if they don't like them personally, perhaps they can show some backbone to protect them.)

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 30, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Cubberley is a community center and an educational institution. It is a community resource. The city should get the county involved. Joe Simitian should help here. PAUSD should focus on putting plans in place to renovate the school. Inaction on PAUSD's part has possibly triggered this action due to their inaction. The county legal offices should be involved since the county has oversite of the educational institutions in the county.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 30, 2020 at 6:45 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Channel 7 - ABC News is running a series on PG&E and the PUC. Tonight focused on the electrical lines. Tomorrow is the final in the series starting at 6PM.

Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2020 at 10:04 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

I am going to make a guess here that PG&E needs to improve its infrastructure in order to service its customers.

Obviously, no property owner wants to have to sell/lease land for a project like this, but someone has to. Some property owner in the area, which one?

Perusing a map, I can understand why the Cubberley property might be a reasonable choice. What do you think?

No, I am not very happy with PG&E, but I am also not happy with our city-run utilities. I am also not very happy with the PAUSD and have 50 years and 4 kids of grievances with the PAUSD, which are neither relevant nor are important for this discussion.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 1, 2021 at 10:49 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Last night on ABC news they finalized a 4-part series on PG&E. It was not favorable. PAUSD and the City of Palo Alto are not up to dealing with these people. They do not function in a legal manner or play fair. Time to get the County legal department involved along with any County staff connected to the school systems. We need some heavy weights on this case.

Posted by GaryB
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2021 at 7:44 pm

GaryB is a registered user.

Many people do not seem to understand the Palo Alto does not use gas or any other service from PG&e, And yet extensive PG&e gas pipelines run under Palo Alto. Pipes are weird that way and that they have to get from point a to point b.

Similarly, many people do not use landlines, and yet the landlines continue to run over their property on telephone poles. Go figure.

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