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Centuries-Old Menlo Park Oak Tree Gets 2nd Chance

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The oak tree nicknamed 'Granny' that residents of the North Fair Oaks area of unincorporated Menlo Park are trying to save. (Mary Ann Mullen)

The oak tree nicknamed ‘Granny’ that residents of the North Fair Oaks area of unincorporated Menlo Park are trying to save. (Mary Ann Mullen)

MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plans to take another look at how to build around a 300-year-old oak tree that stands in the way of a new water pipeline that will supply millions of households on the Peninsula.

Ed Harrington, general manager of the SFPUC, said Wednesday he would personally evaluate whether the 64-foot tall tree needs to be removed to accommodate seismic work on the Hetch Hetchy water system.

Harrington also apologized for waiting until the close of business on Friday to notify residents in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood about the utility’s plans to remove the tree.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Mary Ann Mullen launched an all-out effort among neighbors over the weekend to save the tree now affectionately known as ‘Granny,’ located on the 800 block of Fifteenth Ave. in unincorporated Menlo Park.

“This neighborhood is called North Fair Oaks and this oak was one of the original ancient forest oaks. It has value. It should have value to all of us,” she said.

The tree sits on a narrow SFPUC easement surrounded by private property.where the utility hopes to replace two aging pipes with one larger, stronger pipeline.

The SFPUC originally decided against building the reinforced pipeline under the tree after an environmental review determined that construction would probably damage its roots.

The utility also nixed an option to install the pipeline above ground because of security concerns.

After a meeting with residents arranged by an attorney for San Mateo County, Harrington said the utility would reexamine both options.

San Mateo County’s Heritage Tree Ordinance adopted in 1977 recognizes specific species and sizes of county’s trees as an “invaluable asset” and establishes guidelines for removing them.

The SFPUC maintains that that the Heritage Tree Ordinance does not apply because of “intergovernmental immunity,” which prevents one governmental agency from restricting the activities of another.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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