Pathetic Gasbags and Extispicy (PG&E)

The other night I’d just exited the shower when the door bell rang. Holy Cow, thought I.  Who rings my bell after Happy Hour? Someone who obviously doesn’t know me.

I grabbed my bathrobe and headed towards the front door, my imagination conjecturing both the good and the bad, although it was probably just some young kid selling magazine subscriptions. Another $15 bucks down the drain for a year’s supply of Popular Mechanic. Instead a bearded man of around seventy stood on my doorstep holding a four foot roll of paper. When he caught me looking out the window he waved the roll at me.

“I’m your neighbor,” he yelled. “The one you called.” 

thI should have told him to come back over at a reasonable hour but foolishly I opened the door. I blame the booze. Did I mention that this is a guy we met briefly a dozen years ago when he was chasing feral cats into our yard?  Since then, he hasn’t said a word to us.

Skipping the pleasantries, he got right to business.

“Two policemen came to my door and told me to be a nice guy and take down the tree.”

IMG_2011He was referring to a 100 foot pine tree hanging over our house showering needles and cones on our car, the roof and the driveway. Entangled in the tree are power lines that feed our neighbors down the hill. The tree, however, isn’t on our property. It’s on property belonging to the man waving a roll of paper at me as I stood naked under my bathrobe dripping water all over the floor.

Now this pine tree is clearly visible from his house. In fact it’s visible from the main road, so visible that we keep getting visits from tree service companies. 


I need Erin Brockovich, folks.

So I googled the property owner. Holy Cow, it turns out we’re living next door to a man who’s been accused many times by the cities of Berkeley and Oakland of being a slum lord.  I left a message on his phone asking him to call us about the tree but I have to tell you, I didn’t expect much.

Then I called our power company (PG&E) thinking they might want to do something. Boy, was I a dope.

After getting the run-around with a customer service rep, I demanded to speak with a supervisor. Here’s how it went.

Me, after explaining the situation: “If the tree goes down it may land on our garage bringing with it live electrical wires.”

PG&E: “Doesn’t matter. The tree is on your neighbor’s property and we can’t do anything unless he calls us.”

Me: “You don’t understand. It’s highly unlikely the guy next door will do anything.  His swimming pool looks like a cesspool.”

PG&E: “Well then, wait for the tree to come down and let your insurance company deal with the mess.”

Me: “What if we’re in the garage?”

PG&E: (pause) “Make sure you keep good records.” 

I guess we should look on the bright side. If we die, our heirs can sue.  

Those of you who are old-timers to the Twissel blog know I’ve already fought my share of battles with soulless bureaucracies like the IRS and the State Tax Board but neither of them told me to keep good records in case their inaction caused my death. 

Thinking our mayor might want to know that PG&E is advising home owners in her town to let the trees and power lines fall down and then have their insurance companies clean up the mess, I sent her an email. She didn’t reply but apparently she did get the message.  

And how about that four foot roll of paper the neighbor’d waved in my face?  It was a property map supposedly proving the tree is on easement and therefore not his responsibility. I think we’re screwed.  What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Pathetic Gasbags and Extispicy (PG&E)

  1. Here’s what I think, Jan: this is a hilarious story. You should be a writer. Oh yeah, you are. In that case, I think you should wear a hard hat at all times. 😉

  2. OH NO, I say you’re screwed, by the way. I’m sorry, but I am in a similar position as the house next to us is abandoned and has been since we moved here. Very frustrating. So do you not have a survey of your property? I’m not sure what the laws are there, but I think I’d be inquiring about legalities.

    1. Sorry to hear. The tree isn’t on our property so we don’t have a survey. At this point I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face to everyone except the newspapers but I guess that’s the next route.

  3. There aren’t many times when the press is useful but this might be one esp if the owner is a total arse of a landlord too. Call the Chronicle or whoever and if it’s a slow day they may stir up some dust. Does it overhang your property? In the UK is a tree overhangs you can cut off the overhang and, oops, the rest comes down. Ditto I’d say if you are under threat, you take appropriate action to make yourselves safe, However you end up paying and getting the money back is unlikely.

    1. No tree service will touch that tree until the power lines are shut off and the power company won’t do it unless the landowner gives them permission. Good idea to go to the newspapers. I think I’ll give that a try next. Thanks!

  4. When a large branch of our neighbor’s tree fell and crushed our fence, the insurance companies when into “he said, she said” mode. Policy language, deductibles, property lines, acts of God, law suits, etc, etc. Meanwhile, the dog had free access to a much bigger yard. I cut the tree limb off, a foot into my neighbor’s yard. I repaired the fence. I cut up the piece that crushed our fence and split it for firewood.

  5. Holy PowerLines Jan, this is bad. These Catch-22 situations drive me insane. I agree with the others … maybe enlisting help from the media can make a difference.
    It seems to me that even IF an easement exists, the property is still required to keep it safe.

  6. Funny, Twiz. But sorta reminds me of that thing the cops tell U if someone is coming through your window & you shoot them. “Better drag him all the way in if you don’t want to get charged.” Too bad they don’t have similar contraints on their own shooting habits.

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