Upgrade to Hetch Hetchy system saves North Fair Oaks tree 

click to enlarge Tree saved: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will tunnel underneath a 150-year-old oak tree to preserve it during the Hetch Hetchy water system upgrade. (Examiner file photo) - TREE SAVED: THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION WILL TUNNEL UNDERNEATH A 150-YEAR-OLD OAK TREE TO PRESERVE IT DURING THE HETCH HETCHY WATER SYSTEM UPGRADE. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Tree saved: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will tunnel underneath a 150-year-old oak tree to preserve it during the Hetch Hetchy water system upgrade. (Examiner file photo)
  • Tree saved: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will tunnel underneath a 150-year-old oak tree to preserve it during the Hetch Hetchy water system upgrade. (Examiner file photo)

It appears there is a “Granny” clause at work in North Fair Oaks.

An old oak tree in unincorporated San Mateo County is in the path of a $4.6 billion water system upgrade, but it will be preserved thanks to an agreement between neighbors, the county and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The tree, which North Fair Oaks neighbors nicknamed Granny and is estimated to be at least 150 years old, stands in the path of a project to upgrade the Hetch Hetchy water delivery system so that more than 2 million Bay Area residents will have a safe water supply in the event of a major earthquake.

Negotiations to preserve the valley oak reached an impasse in August, but this week it was announced that public money will be spent to tunnel beneath the tree’s roots to allow the construction of the new water supply pipeline to move forward.

“We believe that the preservation of this oak tree fits into the county’s future proposed use of the space,” SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington said in a statement.

The agreement calls for the possible future creation of a public park.

“This solution represents a win for everyone involved,” Harrington said.

The SFPUC had been in discussions with neighborhood residents since May, but it was only in the past few weeks that the county presented a draft environmental review of the public park proposal.

“San Mateo County is always identifying creative opportunities that expand our public open spaces,” Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson said.

Ron Van Theil, a neighborhood representative, said that residents were satisfied by the solution. Tunnel work will commence this fall after crews complete boring under U.S. Highway 101 as part of the seismic improvement project.

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