Tree-cutting plan an 'unlawful taking'

PG&E's plan to clear-cut more than 2000 healthy canopy trees in backyards and along public streets in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Concord (Lafayette faces the same issue) without permit or review -- because they don't need no stinking permits -- is more than a quality-of-life issue: it amounts to an unlawful taking of valuable assets from homeowners, businesses, and civic governments.

Real estate sites claim that a mature canopy tree adds $5,000 to $10,000 to the value of a home. Shoppers linger on the shady downtown streets on summer evenings, staying longer and spending more. Drivers on our broad boulevards hug the shade below median trees for a brief respite from the glare while paused at long traffic lights. Tall trees soften stark architecture, attract visitors, and provide essential shade in a climate that is brutally hot and dry for over half the year.

Some streets will be denuded of trees along their entire length.

A recent study demonstrated the ability to accurately estimate incomes by looking at neighborhoods from above using Google Earth. Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton: one solid green leafy canopy. Less affluent neighborhoods to the east: unrelieved swaths of asphalt and concrete. Which are we to be?

Mature canopy trees take decades, even centuries, to regrow. But these stately valley oaks and liquidambars will not be replaced. PG&E will allow only low scrub and ground cover in their place. We will resemble Phoenix, Ariz.

PG&E admits that these 735 perfectly healthy trees pose no threat; they simply don't want them in the way when they inspect pipes. Safety, or convenience?

PG&E's reluctant agreement to hold off until they have met with civic leaders is no reprieve. They will simply restate their claim that a PUC mandate allows them to do whatever they want on anyone's property. And then they will fire up the chain saws -- during prime nesting season.

In my experience PG&E never met a tree they didn't dislike. And now they are proposing a Final Solution.

Rosalie Howarth

Walnut Creek

'Racism, pure and simple'

So-called "Affirmative Action," in all its immoral guises, is racism, pure and simple.

It matters not who are considered the "winners" and the "losers." Affirmative Action appeals to the collectivist and non-achiever, demanding rewards for DNA, not merit.

Mike Levine

Moraga