PG&E plans to strip backyards
Causing heartbreak, PG&E to axe backyard trees on gas line easement
For several decades, Eileen and Beto Telleria's backyard has been a respite from their daily stresses, a Japanese garden with a heavy stone bench, a pool for their two ducks, and as its centerpiece, a majestic plum tree with a trunk shaped like a human torso. When PG&E told them the yard would have to be stripped and their trees removed because a major gas pipeline runs underneath, Eileen said it was so upsetting for her and her husband, a PG&E representative began crying as well
"For 50 years they let families plant things, build things and this is their little castle," Eileen said. "No one came by and said, 'You have to take that baby tree out.' No one did that. Their decision not to pay attention has caused a lot of pain."
PG&E officials have been going door to door on San Lucas Avenue, breaking the news to households that their backyard trees — some nearly 50 years old — have to be torn out. The roots may eventually damage the infamous gas line 132, the 67-year-old line which exploded in San Bruno. The Tellerias say only one of their neighbors knew the pipeline even existed under their properties.
And it's not just trees that have to be removed, but patios, sheds, and anything else that stands in the way of monitoring the line or digging it up on short notice. PG&E wants a clear view of the pipeline from the sky to allow gas leaks to be detected by what PG&E calls "aircraft equipped with advanced laser detection technology." The Telleria's imagine a boring yard of grass and shrubs on the easement, which they say covers most of their yard.
"Where I sleep is 60 inches from a gas main," said Beto Telleria. "I'm laughing but it isn't funny. If a weld can fail somewhere else, it can fail here."
The Tellerias and their neighbors want the gas line moved out to Middlefield Road as is now being done down the road at Crittenden Middle School where workers are rerouting onto Middlefield Road one of the two pipelines that run under the school's sports fields.
The gas can accumulate underneath cement patios "and cause another explosion," Beto Telleria recalls PG&E reps saying. Beto said, "Let's get it out of here so it doesn't have a chance to leak."
The Tellerias' neighbors were also upset, pointing to a huge palm tree, a large plum tree and a few other fruit trees they said would have to go, leaving their backyard without shade.
"We probably wouldn't have bought here if we had had known," said the neighbor, who wanted to remain unnamed. " We're trying to get the neighbors together and fight this."
The Tellerias also worry about a row of over a dozen large redwood trees in front of a nearby condo complex at the corner of Middlefield Road and Linda Vista Avenue. A sign marking the gas line's location at the corner clearly points it under the redwoods.
"It would be a shame if they had to take those trees out," said Linda Vista Avenue resident Judy Ann of the redwood trees, which she can see from her front door. Her backyard is also over the easement, but she said the only thing she'd lose is a cement slab in her sideyard used for RV parking.
The Telleria's suspect that several ginkgo trees the city planted at San Veron Park, directly behind their back fence, will also have to be removed.
Mayor Mike Kasperzak said he hadn't heard much about the problem, but said "I would be surprised if there is (anything the city can do) other than trying to get PG&E to more cooperatively work with these people. I feel for the property owners."
Public Works Director Mike Fuller said he was requesting more information from PG&E and was planning to meet with the Tellerias.
PG&E spokeswoman Monica Tell said the pipeline section section passed hydrostatic pressure testing in 2011.
"Currently, that pipeline is safe and in operation so it doesn't make sense to replace a pipe that is fully functioning and meets all our safety standards," Tell said. "Not only that, it's really expensive to relocate a pipeline."
Tell said PG&E has promised to try to provide shade over the pipeline in the backyards, but anything over the line would have to be temporary, such as an umbrella, she said.
"We are really working closely with our customers and trying to work with them on a case by case basis," Tell said. "We're also going to compensate them for any loss that might occur as a result."
Eilleen Telleria said PG&E has promised to somehow provide shade for her backyard but she doesn't know how they'll replace the habitat that birds now have in her and her neighbor's trees, including a large cedar she has. She pointed to a bird feeder, nearly empty, and said it was full just hours before.
"You can watch the birds flying from one tree to another -- like this little highway," she said. "It's the most amazing thing,"
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