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Granny Tree Friends Face Ultimatum

The Utilities Commission is working on an agreement with residents to make way for a billion-dollar water system upgrade.

Utility officials have issued an ultimatum to residents of North Fair Oaks who are from being cut down to make way for a billion-dollar water system upgrade in San Mateo County.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington said in a letter to residents near 14th and 18th avenues that negotiations to preserve the valley oak have reached an impasse, and that installation of a new water supply pipeline through the area needs to move forward.

The oak tree, which neighbors nicknamed "Granny" and arborists agree is at least 250 years old, stands in the path of a $4.6 billion project to upgrade the Hetch Hetchy water delivery system so that more than a million Bay Area residents will have a safe water supply in the event of a major earthquake.

The SFPUC has said they will preserve the tree by spending additional public money to install the pipeline in a tunnel beneath the tree's roots only if the neighbors agree to allow public access to the site and assume maintenance and liability costs.

"If we do not receive a formal written proposal from you by the close of business on Tuesday, September 6, we will formally notice and prepare to remove the tree," Harrington said in his letter.

"Although we regret having to take this step, it is a necessary one to avoid further cost impacts," he said.

The SFPUC has been in discussions with neighborhood residents since May.

Neighborhood spokeswoman Mary Ann Mullen said today that residents are preparing a proposal that will meet the utilities commission's requirements, and that she believes the tree will be preserved.

"We expect this proposal to be accepted by the SFPUC," Mullen said. "I'm confident we can come to an agreement."

--Bay City News

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