Commission saves 18 trees from chopping block

In a move to preserve some of the city's many eucalyptus, the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission voted this week against felling 18 trees along Holiday Road.

The 4-3 vote Tuesday blocked a city arborist's recommendation to remove the trees, which he deemed dangerous.

About 140 other eucalyptus trees have been cut down using emergency declarations. The normal tree-removal process requires a commission vote, but officials instituted the emergency response after a blue gum eucalyptus fell and killed a motorist Sept. 15 on 17th Street and Irvine Avenue.

"Trees have fallen before [Sept. 15], and we didn't cut them all down," said Commissioner Roy Englebrecht, who acknowledged safety concerns but voted against their removal. "The only option that was presented to us was, 'We'll take five hours to cut a tree down that took 50 years to build.' "

Of the 18 blue gums on the 2200 block of Holiday Road, 14 were considered high risk, and four were deemed a moderate risk.

Contract arborist R. Dan Jensen & Associates of Huntington Beach analyzed various factors, including the trees' age, foliage density, vigor and defects, such as how much they lean, according to a report prepared by the Municipal Operations Department.

Commissioners asked if it was possible to analyze the root structure with X-ray scans, and about options to support or trim the trees, Englebrecht said.

Residents who live nearby, like David Hayes, spoke at the meeting and said the city was rushing to judgment.

The trees will remain in place unless a City Council member or City Manager Dave Kiff appeal the commission's decision, in which case the council would vote on their removal.

One other area of the city has been identified as a potentially risky spot because of its eucalyptus trees: along the bike/pedestrian path in Castaways Park. Officials have not yet announced the results of an arborist analysis there.

Twitter: @mreicher

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