Almanac

News - May 25, 2011

SFPUC stops work around heritage oak

• Granny safe until June 6.

by Sandy Brundage

A meeting with San Mateo County left the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) reviewing options for sparing a 65-foot-tall heritage oak tree known as "Granny."

The centuries-old tree sits in the middle of a site in North Fair Oaks designated for a planned water pipeline meant to carry water from the Hetch Hetchy, part of a $4.6 billion seismic improvement project.

For now, the agency has ensconced the tree within an "avoidance area" at 827 15th Ave., and directed its contractor, Mountain Cascade, to stop work within that boundary.

Ed Harrington, SFPUC general manager, told the county in a letter on May 18 that he personally promised the zone around the tree would, in fact, be avoided until June 6 at the earliest. That gives the agency enough time to review the arborist report and evaluate the cost of alternatives to removing the tree, he said.

SFPUC spokeswoman Maureen Barry described the meeting with the county as "very cordial." At issue was whether the agency would be subject to the county's heritage tree ordinance. The SFPUC is claiming immunity as a public agency.

The neighbors agreed to meet with agency representatives, but still want at least two weeks' notice before the tree is brought down, according to Mary Ann Mullen, who organized the campaign to save Granny.

They continue to pursue a temporary restraining order, Ms. Mullen said.

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