SDG&E, Association find middle ground on tree issue

RANCHO SANTA FE — After two meetings, it appears that SDG&E and the Association have come to an understanding about how the cutting of trees away from power lines should be conducted.
“The good news is that I think they are listening now,” Association Manager Peter Smith said at the May 6 meeting. “They know we are serious now.”
The Association took SDG&E to task at its March 18 meeting, because it felt the power company was being too heavy-handed in the yearly tree-trimming that keeps trees out of power lines. They also believed that many of the trees that were cut down completely were destroyed unnecessarily. Also in question was the policy of the power company leaving the wood from the fallen trees behind on the homeowner’s property, forcing the homeowner to deal with it.
Smith, reporting the progress from the second meeting, said the power company has re-evaluated which trees need to be removed and a good percentage will not be destroyed. And from now on, the wood will be removed from private property after a tree is cut down.
There have been complaints to the Association about the attitude of the utility company whose workers are aggressive and rude.
Director Tom Lang read a letter some of the homeowners have received from SDG&E. One paragraph threatens that if the homeowner will not allow the workers on their property, they will call in the police to force their hand.
Board President Bill Beckman said he believes that because of that attitude, it is difficult for a single homeowner to resist the pressure of SDG&E, so the Association has retained the services of a separate arborist who will be available to explain options to homeowners who have questions about the action of the power company.
Smith said the Association will also produce a brochure for the homeowner.
“It will tell them what they can do and what they can’t do,” Smith said.
Beckman said that a representative from the Association will be meeting regularly with the power company.
“We will be vigilant and stay on top of this,” he said.
At the March 18 meeting, Beckman said that SDG&E has been particularly aggressive against the eucalyptus, the signature tree of the community. He said he
believes the reason for the aggressive approach is because SDG&E’s power lines were blamed for the massive 2007 Witch Creek Fire and they don’t want to be liable for damages in the future.
At the time, Michael Daleo of SDG&E defended their tree cutting, saying the decisions on which trees to remove is not “arbitrary or capricious,” and that every tree is considered on a case-by-case basis.
He said the process includes pre-inspections and reports by arborists and foresters and that the company maintains a database that tracks the condition of approximately 400,000 trees within its service territory throughout San Diego County.
He said if his company knowingly walked by a tree in question and it fell, causing a disaster, SDG&E would be responsible.

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