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PG&E plans to strip backyards

Original post made on Aug 2, 2012

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 2, 2012, 10:12 AM

Comments (46)

Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:26 am

""We probably wouldn't have bought here if we had had known," said the neighbor, who wanted to remain unnamed."

Of course he wants to remain unnamed - because he never read the disclosures when he bought the house.

Posted by Albert
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

The next thing you know the city will come in and tell them they can't keep water fowl in their backyard... .

Posted by haoleboy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

..and you have seen their diclosures and know the information is there?!! Have some empathy Mr Knowitall!

Posted by Green Giant
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Really doesn't seem right, but if it puts everyone at risk by not being able to monitor the line, it would seem they have to do it.
I would hope that the compensation is generous to the folks affected and that creative solutions can be found for re-landscaping

Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm

It's long past time to apply the RICO laws to criminal organizations like PG&E and Goldman Sachs.

Posted by Gingko
a resident of Gemello
on Aug 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Isn't it Gingko instead of Ginko?

Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Steve,[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] . First, you don't know if the pipeline was even on the disclosures. And if it was, it likely did not say "and PG&E may at ant time have the right to remove all of the trees and structures in your back yard".

Posted by Get-It-Right
a resident of Rex Manor
on Aug 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Sorry Ron, but Steve is correct.

Its listed in your preliminary title report and it’s your duty as a home owner / property owner to read the title report and the disclosures before you close escrow. The law has not gone overwhelmingly in favor of the consumer on this, with every type of disclosure known to man now required to the point that people like Ron and Halo Boy no longer read their title report or disclosures, and then blame others for their own ignorance and lack of industriousness.

Another import fact is that they paid less than market for these homes because of the let's be adults and fair.

Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Get-it-Right: you are making a lot of assumptions for someone who calls themselves "get-it-right". "people like Ron and Halo Boy no longer read their title report or disclosures,". Funny since you don't know me at all. I am quite familiar with my disclosures, my family being in loan verification and all. I am very familiar with the old orchard irrigation system under my properly, and the easement along the creek that limits where I can build. That said, some of these properties were purchased a long time ago."with every type of disclosure known to man now required". The operative phrase there is "now required", but you don't know when they bought these if it was required then, or if even there if so. So my point is still valid, blaming the homeowner when you actually have no idea what is in the disclosures is basically being a jerk. If you KNOW it is there, and they ignored it, then you have a point. But you and I KNOW NOTHING about it, so why get all high and mighty and condemn them for it.

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I know one of the families involved in this horrendous situation. They have lived in their home for over 30 years and not once did PG&E stop by and tell them that they had to clear their yard of trees, etc. I have talked to them and watched the woman break down and cry over all of this. The way I look at it is why should a few families have to pay such a high price - basically not owning their own backyards - so that the rest of Mtn. View and all the Google and Microsoft employees can have gas? Where is the fairness and just the plain logic in that? I don't have to share my yard with anyone except for my family and friends. I would love for all of you to look at your backyards - your own personal oasis in a busy world. Now imagine it completely stripped of anything except for grass and "moveable" trees and shrubs, and you are not able to do anything that you may want to make it your own space. And all of this sacrifice is for the rest of the city and their gas needs. 15 families are taking this on? Seriously, how fair is that? Forget the cost PG&E - move the pipe to Middlefield. It's the only fair option. I just want to say that I am sorry that any of the families in this situation have to go through this. PG&E strikes again. Yea, the new CEO really wants to improve their image. Good start.

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Get-It-Right -

"Another import fact is that they paid less than market for these homes because of the let's be adults and fair."

Just a quick question -
Do you know what each and every one of these people paid for their homes? And were you up on the fair market value of these homes at the time they were purchased? Someone needs to get a hobby. And if this is your hobby, I feel very sorry for you. Since I am good friends with one of the families involved, I know what they paid, and guess what? It was fair market value. They paid what everyone else was paying for similar homes in similar neighborhoods. Please don't make statements that you cannot backup. You are making yourself look the fool.

Posted by GSarducci
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Where's the map, Voice? Help us see where this gas line goes. Please.

Posted by Kevin
a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

The map is here. This is the same line that goes to San Bruno. You cannot zoom all the way in, for national security reasons, but you can get pretty close.

Posted by feruzzi
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Our most important consideration are our neighbors. Between them and our trees, without hesitation our trees go. Please know these meetings were equally difficult for the PGE people. I am sure they left many, not all but many homes with a heavy heart. We all bought our homes at different times and payed market value, which depending on the year,was quite a fortune, worth every penny...because of the heart of this community. Each assumed PGE was doing due diligence with their easements.PGE being satisfied, as they watched families plant and create their small dreams. choosing, NOT to clear brush, roots, and surfaces to allow easy access for them. They made this decision through the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s,and 2000s. finally after 50 years they have come to collect.Please understand when this is all done there is still no easy access to this pipe.It now lies between a big fence and houses,and between community complex,a fence and houses.You see, a neighborhood grew here since last they checked.And, just so it is clear,There is NO money coming our way as neighbors,This easement belongs to them, they owe us nothing. In life heartbreak happens...this simply is heartbreak... all around.

Posted by Martin
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 3, 2012 at 11:42 am

Not that we care, but it's neither "ginko" nor "gingko", it's "ginkgo" :-)

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Really, Martin. Get a life. We're talking about something that is of extreme importance to some MV families, and you correct the spelling? Seriously?! You need a hobby. One of you was bad enough. Who cares? I guarantee you the people who are about to have their entire backyards stripped certainly don't.

Posted by NoNeckJoe
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm


Your anger is misdirected...which really makes you as bad as the people you are frustrated with. Martin was just responding to an earlier post where someone asked about he correct spelling....and even added "Not that we care" and the ":-)" NO IDEA why you chose to jump all over him.

Chill. Slow down. Read. Comprehend. Then react if you must.

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

NoNeckJoe -
I responded that way because it's a ridiculous comment. And I did refer to the other person as well. People seem to have a good time in the comment section of just about every article picking apart spelling errors. I'm sure that everyone else has perfect spelling. And saying that I am just as bad as the people that I'm frustrated with?! Are you kidding me? These fifteen families are watching 30-plus years of memories being stripped away from them. It is extremely frustrating to have people correct spelling errors. I am very close to one of the families affected and this is a huge deal to them! Imagine how they must feel when reading these posts hoping to find some kind of support and they read about spelling errors. I'm sorry if I offended anyone, but again I have to ask - seriously? And don't tell me to chill, please. I'd love to see how you'd be reacting if you were in this situation. Maybe you should "read, comprehend, then react". Put yourself in the shoes of these families. How would you be feeling? You know what they get to put in their yards? Grass, moss, and plants that won't grow over 18 inches tall. No sheds, no patios. Nothing except low grasses. I'm emotional because my friend is having a hard time. Maybe show some empathy. I am not like a huge corporation who is coming to our town and making 15 families pay dearly so that the gas can continue flowing to your home with your beautiful back yard. And saying I am is a ridiculous comment. So much for support. I'm done with this. Enjoy your backyard.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2012 at 6:22 am

I wonder how many others in other places will be told that their yards will have to be pulled out. On spelling, I use a smart phone hard to punch keys, also when you are upset, you are free to have spelling errors.

Posted by Marian
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 4, 2012 at 9:08 am

My question is why, over all of these years, PG&E did not notify these families that they owned a right-of-way through their properties. Homeowners would have had the opportunity to transition their landscaping over time so that trees and shrubs were not in the easement. Now these people will have decimated yards for years to come. PG & E, you owe these people landscaping at the very least - large boxed trees, mature shrubs and compensation too. This is a careless mistake on your part, to say the least. Shame on you!!!

Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

Just another example of our uncaring, unfeeling society.

I hope I spelled everything correctly, while our environment is being destroyed.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

PG&E does not own any of the right-of-way. Their pipes are in easements across private property.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

This is the same (San Bruno) line that is NOT being removed from under Crittenden School field. The MVWSD Board was informed of this situation in November (I attended the meeting) and until June they did not ask/plead/demand that both old lines be rerouted. This would not be allowed for new school property! The old (1944?) line is less than 100 ft from where the architect's drawings place a new locker room. (an example why I do not completely trust the choices of the District's architect)
S.N. is a candidate for MVWSD Board

Posted by feruzzi
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm

PG&E owning or not owning the easement is technical. They have total control over what will be done with that property, they have the only say. Line 109 is being replaced to Middlefield on Crittenden field. It is 8 years older then 132, the San Bruno pipeline that is damaged. Does this mean that the pipe will be replaced in 8 years? Is there a problem with 109? Different then 132? PG&E are trying to make corrections from their past, but it appears they are trying to do it by small steps. Sometimes it is better and wiser to truly start new knowing that from this point forward they will be responsive and diligent with the care of these pipes.

Posted by Callmeparanoidbut
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Im living a similar nightmare but quite scared to discuss in much detail in public. Really interesting stuff, though.

Aside this the 30 year old memories are memories literally attributed to the ginkgo tree, and I'll bet their lawyers know darned well how to spell it. The person commenting to get a hobby must be a PG&E employee. Call me paranoid, but, stranger things have happened.

Wait- is this the same forum the VP was posting pro-PG&E propaganda in and was caught? If not, well, I'll bet it is one more. Call me paranoid, but...

Why do homeowners get all the fun disclosures? Why not renters? Does my lower credit score and socio-economic status preclude me from the choice of whether or not to live 60 inches from a safety risk? Sure, I'm not investing in a thirty year mortgage. No, I'm investing in the landlords 10 year mortgage. I pay above market by far and would absofrickinlutely never have moved here had I known. Not a chance. Sure , I could move out easier than a homeowner could. Or could I? They can rent their homes overnight and get an apartment in my complex thinking they're out of the woods. Ha. If they only knew.

Posted by Easement
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2015 at 1:28 pm

PG&E has legally established the way they handle easements by 30 years of neglect. When the easement was granted, no one had any rules about keeping it visible from the air. This is a NEW desire on the part of PG&E not covered by the easement. If they need to make the land above WORTHLESS like this then they need to compensate the landowner for the loss of value to this land and the adjacent house. These neighbors need to take PG&E to court. It's not true that the easement gives PG&E the right to do things unrelated to operating the pipeline. If they ever need to dig it up, they have to pay to restore the land above.

If this is NOT true by some legal decision, then the land owners have a claim against the title insurance company involved in the sale of the property to them, because the title was not clean.

The easement doesn't cover any vegetation not located directly in the area of easement. To cover that, they would have needed a wider easement in the first place.

Posted by What?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2015 at 1:27 am

PG&E have the right (and obligation) to regularly inspect the pipeline. That is what the easement is for. Trees not only block their ability to inspect, but the roots can damage the pipeline and create a hazardous situation.

When I moved to Mountain View many years ago, I had an option to buy a home with a pipeline running through the back. It was cheaper than other houses. The fact that a utility company had that easement dissuaded me from purchasing the property. Yes, I actually READ the disclosures! I didn't want the hassle of inspections or reconstruction down the line. So, I paid more $$$ for a property without this utility easement.

When I hear the crybabies squealing over this, I want to hide my head in shame. Just because these babies failed to understand the implications of the easement, my rates should go up to pay for their ineptitude? Ridiculous!

Posted by Legalities
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2015 at 1:56 pm

The bottom line is that San Bruno hadn't happened and infrared imaging technologies hadn't been developed at the the time these easements were purchased by PG&E at the time the pipeline route was created. They didn't buy the easement with all the provisions they claim. At this point the cost of such an easement would be huge. It's probably cheaper for PG&E to relocate the pipeline than to deal with properly expanding the easement to what they now describe as being needed. But instead they are trying to bamboozle these landowners into giving up their property rights.

They need to get a lawyer. This is big bucks. The threats PG&E is making are causing decreased property value to the landowners. It's all because way back when PG&E didn't buy a wide enough easement to give them the control they now seek. Look at Hetch Hetchy pipelines. PG&E is now trying to enforce that wide of an easement on top of the narrow easement they do properly own. There is precedent for what COULD have been purchased way back when and PG&E did not purchase it. Stand firm property owners. This crap about tree roots winding in and damaging a gas pipeline is disgustingly false. The fact that PG&E talks about providing shade is proof they realize they don't own the rights they claim.

Posted by Common Sense
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Just because IR inspection technology didn't exist when the easements were written, doesn't mean those methods cannot be used. Even "way back then", the easement would certainly allow them to come onto the property with bulldozers and dig up the pipe for major maintenance or replacement. That would require destruction of trees and shrubs. The fact that this inspection methodology is less intrusive, much more effective and much cheaper than monthly on-site inspections with digging tools, doesn't make it "illegal".

PGE is playing nice right now since they don't want the crybabies to force their cities to punish the utility. Long term, it's a done deal. Nobody wants another neighborhood to blow up simply because some short-sighted people bought a house with a gas pipeline under it!

Posted by PG&E
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2015 at 1:09 pm

The fact that PG&E has an obligation to correct its past mistakes doesn't mean that it can trample on the property rights of the homeowners. They are clearly attempting to go far beyond the easement that they do own. If they need a bigger easement then they have to pay for it. Most likely these homes would not have been built along the easement so close if PG&E had purchased a properly specified easement in the first place. That's THEIR fault and not the fault of the homeowners.

The easement is specific and pertains to a particular part of the land in each year--and no other part of the yard. The homeowners have the right to use the land above the pipeline, and PG&E has at a minimum lapsed in their supervision of their own easement for so many years that the homeowners would have gained prescriptive rights to further control over this land atop the easement. It's PG&E that has a problem and I hope the homeowners hold PG&E accountable rather than to succumb to these scare tactics.

Posted by Responsiblity
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Of course the homeowner is allowed to use the land over the pipeline. As long as the doesn't interfere with the safety and operation of the pipeline. Blocking the ability to efficiently inspect it is interference.

The homeowner is responsible for keeping the easement clear to allow for safety inspections. Letting enormous trees grow over the pipeline is a failure of the homeowner, not the utility company. Ideally, the homeowner would be provided an opportunity to remove the encroaching and unsafe foliage before PG&E came in and did what needed to be done. Then, again ideally, they would charge the homeowner for that service.

Remember, the residents pay less than their non-pipeline neighbors for their property, so that needs to be balanced. You can't have your cake and eat it too! (As much as you might whine about it..)

Posted by ChurchSt
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2015 at 8:48 am

Every title report includes a plat, which also includes a mapping of any easement. You don't need to read the details of the title report to see that; it's right there on the map, plain as day.

The alternative to IR scanning would be that PG&E goes into every yard and digs down to the pipeline to do a visual inspection. Pick your poison.

Posted by Inspection
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm

There are devices which can travel through pipelines and inspect them internally--robotic tools. You can do above ground inspections with various types of detectors besides airborne ones. You don't need to strip the land of all vegetation to do these inspections--not need to remove a thing. Particularly harmless to traditional inspection methods are overhanging tree canopies. This is a move to limit what can be planted on the private land adjacent to the pipeline right of way and is not sanctioned by law. The rights of tree roots to permeate adjacent property is well established. The size of the easement should have been designed properly so that there is distance from the edge of the easement to the pipeline itself. Obviously it was not. PG&E is trying to expand their easement by stealing property rights from the adjacent land..... just so they can do CHEAPER inspections, and not the only option.

Posted by Inspections Lacking
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Ah, now we see what's going on. Web Link PG&E was deficient in inspections between 2004 and 2012. Now they are trying to back fill and make a case that the foliage in these poor people's yards prevents them from doing inspections. What a crock! How did they inspect that pipeline from 1960 until 2000? I would really like to know that.

Posted by Selfishness
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm

So, let me understand this..

1. Homeowners pay significantly less for their property due to the pipeline running through it.

2. Homeowners allow trees to grow over and near the pipeline so that inspections are impossible or very costly to do.

3. Homeowners allow trees to grow over and near the pipeline so that the roots endanger the pipeline and therefore the neighborhood.

4. PG&E does the responsible thing and ensure the safety of the pipeline and insist the homeowners stop encroaching on the easement.

5. Homeowners who have been enjoying the discounted property without any responsibilities are now crying like babies.

Gotta love California!

Posted by Selfishness
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:01 pm

These homeowners got no such discount on their properties. The pipeline impacts property values just as much of homes that do not have it running through their yards but are located nearby. In fact, this pipeline runs right through the playing field at Crittenden Middle School. PG&E should relocate this pipeline, as they should have bought a more restrictive easement originally, which would have prevented all these dangerous uses atop the pipeline. But they didn't. The party which got a discount was PG&E!

Posted by Refund
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

If the homeowners don't like living with a pipeline easement attached to their title, then PG&E should buy them out of their property at 1960's prices. That's only fair.

What the greedy homeowners are glossing over is that the cost of concessions given by PG&E would be passed on to the rest of us who were not stupid enough to live with a pipeline.

Posted by Redundant
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2015 at 1:14 pm

If PG&E doesn't like the homeowners insistence that they be treated as they have been for the past 55 years, then PG&E should ask to be paid back the fee they paid for the easement back then. Then they can relocate the pipeline.

Posted by Redumbdant
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I've been speeding through my neighborhood for years and only now are the cops pulling people over. I guess I could fight the ticket based on their prior lack of enforcement?

Sorry, but PG&E customers don't owe these homeowners anything. My rates have been higher to pay for the easement. Its time to collect what we are owed.

Posted by Laws
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Civil law is different from criminal law. This is what is known as a prescriptive easement. Web Link If there ever was a right by PG&E to act so callously in commandeering the property rights of the landowners, it has been lost by non enforcement. I doubt that there ever was such a right. PG&E is trying to rewrite history and claim the easement they have takes into account changes in technology that they now wish to apply....

Posted by Neglect
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2015 at 1:34 pm

This situation invites examination of all of PG&E's practices. The PUC has been found lax in supervising PG&E's inspection practices. But what's the extent of PG&E's own failure? How many situations like this exist? PG&E is implying that they have been unable to inspect, or have not tried to inspect, this section of pipeline in decades. What does that mean for pipeline safety? Is this a unique situation or is there vegetation overgrowing the pipelines up and down the state? What's the real story? Can they in fact do inspections despite the vegetation or not?

Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2015 at 2:05 pm

What is clear is that these homeowners were not aware of these special restrictions about their back yards. It's not that they willfully violated them. Furthermore, many were long time owners. Regardless of when the property was purchased, this is a material reduction of the property value. Their title insurance companies are on the hook for any undisclosed restrictions. The whole thing is something PG&E would like to hide, so the more publicity the better.

Posted by Travesty
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Someone ought to call Erin Brockovitch

Posted by Erin Brockovitch would say
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2015 at 11:05 pm

From the link provided by one of the greedy homeowners:

"What is a prescriptive easement?

Think of prescriptive easements as the acquisition of an easement by adverse possession or squatters rights. "

So, the very link provided states categorically that a prescriptive easement is by adverse possession or squatters rights!

This is just simply untrue. The utility company purchased pipeline easements decades ago. Not rented. Not borrowed. Purchased! They have the right to inspect and protect the pipeline.

Adverse possession would be if PGE came on to someone's land and buried a pipeline without permission, but also without objection for some number of years. That is not what happened here. It's in writing. It's a signed, sealed and executed agreement.

Case closed.

Posted by Ignorance
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2015 at 11:13 pm

The armchair lawyer who wants our rates to go up to pay for the greedy homeownes with pipeline easement is completely ignorant of real estate law.

If the buyer did not read and understand the disclosure about the pipeline easement, then that is their own fault. They could have consulted an attorney before agreeing to spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home.

I guess people who buy homes on gas pipelines are more focused on the discounted price they are receiving. The last thing they want to do is give back a couple hundered of the discount to pay for a legal consult. That's what you get for being cheap!

Real estate transactions are all about what is in writing. What the buyer "understands" is irrelevant.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Blossom Valley

on Jun 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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