PG&E destroys 20 palm trees at The Graduate
December 18, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
After a large eucalyptus tree crashed into a power line, PG&E destroyed 20 older palms trees located at The Graduate Restaurant and Nightclub in San Luis Obispo, even though the removal appears to violate city and state laws.
During last week’s storm, a large eucalyptus tree toppled during the storm, taking with it a palm tree that tore down power lines and impacted service. PG&E crews then went to the location and their arborist determined 20 palm trees needed to be destroyed because the palms “presented future potential hazards,” PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said.
Crews cut the tops off 20 healthy palm trees leaving just the trunks. Removing the top of a palm kills the tree.
PG&E crews then left the tops of the trees and debris scattered on the ground.
More than 35 years ago, Bill Everett built The Graduate Restaurant and Nightclub and planted the palms.
“I watered them and took care of them for 35 years,” Everett said his voice cracking. “We could have trimmed the palms, if they had asked I would have trimmed them immediately, but they cut the tops off. They just killed the trees.”
According to PG&E’s website, when a palm tree is located within 10 feet of a power line, the electric company gives the tree owner two options, either let them cut the top off the tree or let them cut the tree down to the ground.
However, Everett said PG&E did not attempt to contact him about the trees.
PG&E Spokesperson Blair Jones said PG&E received signed permission from Everett’s representative to remove trees directly next to the power lines. When asked for a copy of the permission and the name of Everett’s representative, Blair emailed that PG&E would not disclose the name or provide CalCoastNews with a copy of the permission form.
Everett has not been able to determine the identity of his alleged representative.
Nevertheless, while California Public Resources Code Section 4293 permits power companies to clear vegetation from between 4 to 10 feet of a power line depending on the voltage, at The Graduate some of the palms PG&E destroyed were planted 25 feet from the closest power line.
“The trees are directly next to the power lines,” Blair said in an email response to questions about the 10 foot California code requirement.
In addition, San Luis Obispo’s Tree Ordinance requires PG&E to contact a city arborist before removing trees. According to San Luis Obispo Ordinance 1544, if a tree creates an “imminent hazard to life or property,” it can be removed without a permit, but a city arborist must approve the removal.
City Arborist Ron Combs is looking into the removal of trees without contacting the city which Combs said could result in fines to PG&E.
“It is a slippery slope,” Combs said. “Millions of trees could be potential hazards.”