More trees on the chopping block

Newport Beach city officials are asking the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission to OK a proposal to remove another 18 eucalyptus trees near one that fell and killed a motorist in September.

Since that accident, the city has assessed the risk posed by about 350 blue gum eucalyptus trees around town, and has already chopped down about 140 of them.

The commission is set to vote Tuesday on removing 18 trees along the 2200 block of Holiday Road, between Irvine and Tustin avenues.

Three other areas have been identified as high risk based on their density and proximity to pedestrians, homes and motorists.

Already, city contractors have removed about 100 trees from Irvine Avenue, where Haeyoon Miller was killed, and about 40 from Fourth Avenue in Corona del Mar. The other area is along the bike/pedestrian path in Castaways Park, but officials have not announced the results of an arborist analysis there.

Contractor arborist R. Dan Jensen & Associates of Huntington Beach has been analyzing the trees. Among the factors considered are each tree's age, foliage density, vigor and defects such as how much they lean, according to a memo by Newport Municipal Operations Director Mark Harmon.

Each tree receives a rating between zero and 12 points. Trees in the 11 to 12 range should be removed immediately, the report says. Those in the 8 to 10 range should be removed as soon as possible, and trees with a 6 or 7 rating should be "monitored very closely."

Of the 18 trees on that block of Holiday Road, 14 were considered high risk, and four were deemed a moderate risk.

City staff members recommended removing all 18 because they were planted closely together and their roots are likely interrelated. Cutting one down could compromise the others, the memo said. This planting method is called "windrow," according to the memo, because they were designed to block wind.

If the commission approves the request, the city would begin cutting down the trees right away.

Newport will pay for the removal and replanting of other trees and will fix any damaged irrigation. It will also plant grass or sod where ground is dug up, but the memo says the city would not replace gardens or other "custom infrastructure" such as fences, brick walls or fountains.

Dennis Holland, who lives on that block of Holiday Road, believes the trees are fine and that the city is being overly cautious. Holland has a long-standing dispute with city officials over a boat he is restoring in his yard.

"[The trees] are solid," Holland said, "but I think that they're just doing it to cover themselves."

Twitter: @mreicher

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