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Bakersfield’s Historic ‘Cross of Palms” Trees on Chopping Block. PG&E Wields the Ax.



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It was the 1940s, the end of World War II when U.S. Navy pilot Jim Gardiner came home to the fertile San Joaquin Valley and began to carve a working farm out of sagebrush and virgin land northwest of Bakersfield.

At the gateway to the property stood more than 250 palm trees planted in double rows in the shape of a cross. The trees, now known as the Cross of Palms, have been there, it is believed, since the 1880s.

“They are majestic, but PG&E is killing them one by one,” said Jim Gardiner’s son, Keith Gardiner. In the past six months, 13 trees on the property have been cut down, confirmed Katie Allen, a PG&E spokeswoman.

Stephen Montgomery, vice chair of the city of Bakersfield’s Historic Preservation Commission, said the stand of palms deserves protection for its historic value.

A state official says the trees are on the California Register of Historic Places “and is considered a historic property for purposes of review under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

PG&E asserted that “no discretionary governmental permitting was required for this work and therefore CEQA would not apply.”

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