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By Miriam Raftery

March 27, 2023 (Potrero) – A 300-year-old old oak tree toppled onto the porch of the former Potrero Café, next door to the historic Potrero Store, which was built in 1883 and first operated by Joseph and Damond Thing. The store remains open.

“The restaurant’s been closed for six years,” Michael Streenan, owner of the property, told East County Magazine. The tree damaged two exterior porches and an asphalt parking lot, but fortunately the buildings on the property are intact, he said.

“No one was injured when the tree fell. “Nobody even heard it come down. We just came out and saw it,” says Ryan Streenan, Michael’s son.  Neither of the Streenans knows how old the café building is, though Ryan said it may have been a house for former owners of the store.

The most likely cause of the massive tree’s collapse is the recent heavy rainfalls that have left the ground saturated.  “I guarantee you we’ve had 10 inches here,” says Jan Hedlun, a member of the Potrero community planning group. “I’ve been stranded three times on my own driveway because the water’s been 15 inches deep.  I had one oak tree branch break and fall; another tree had a branch come down.”

The Streenan family owns both the 1.25 acre commercial lot where the store and former café are located, as well as a 14-acre adjacent residential property.  “When we get so much water, the land’s saturated,” Michael Streenan says.  “We have a big problem on the hill,” he said, adding that rainfall runoff has been diverted down the hill after “SDG&# ut new poles in and directed water the wrong way…so we have river along a wall. I had to redirect it; we’ve got water everywhere, and we’re going to have to block the back of the store.”

The property is insured and Streenan is awaiting a visit from his insurance agent later today.  But insurance cost is another stress. His fire insurer, Nationwide, cancelled his policy due to perceived high fire danger, even though his property is located directly across the street from the town’s Cal Fire station.  “We used to pay $3,500 a year,” he said. Then he priced out the state’s California Fair Plan, the last resort insurer for people whose policies were cancelled, but they wanted $16,000 a year for fire insurance alone, Streenan says. Ultimately, his mortgage company helped in get full coverage through a Georgia insurer at $10,000 a year – nearly triple the former rate.

Streenan also said he plans to reach out to SDG&E regarding the water issues that he believes are related to the utility’s newly installed power poles.

Hedlun, who posted photos of the toppled tree on social media and advised others not to park under a large tree after a heavy rain.

“That tree was gorgeous,” she told ECM.  “It’s been there forever and a day. To see it topple over is sad.”




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