Replacement foliage, trees to be chosen

A replacement for the Irvine Avenue eucalyptus trees will likely be chosen Wednesday night at a joint meeting between the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa parks commissions.

City arborists and landscape architects recommend a mix of date palms, African tulip trees, grasses, aloes and shrubs, according to a report prepared for the meeting.

The street's median was denuded in September, when city officials removed about 100 blue gum eucalyptus trees after one fell on a driver, killing her.

Some were higher than 60 feet and more than 80 years old, making a distinctive feature for that part of Newport-Mesa. Officials, challenged to find a replacement with such presence, say they support the recommendations.

"It's going to give us tons of color and variety," said Ernesto Munoz, Costa Mesa interim public services director. "Hopefully, we'll end up with that character we had on Irvine."

A report prepared for the meeting says the plants were chosen for their "heartiness, color and ease of maintenance." The landscaping would also be drought tolerant, and would require less water than the eucalyptus, gazania and juniper plants that filled the stretch between Westcliff and Dover drives, it says.

Newport Beach city officials hired landscape architect firm TCLA Inc. of Irvine to help develop the plans.

The recommended date palms would be spaced 50 feet apart, Munoz said, with the African tulip trees interspersed. City staff members chose the best performing species recently planted in the Superior Avenue median, on Westcliff Drive, and on East Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.

While the trees will not be as large as their predecessors, they will "over the years … be a significant aesthetic statement for the median," according to Newport Beach spokeswoman Tara Finnigan.

"You're not going to end up with a bunch of sticks out there," Munoz said of Irvine Avenue.

While the median straddles the border of Newport and Costa Mesa, Newport Beach is responsible for the irrigation and maintenance of the landscaping. Costa Mesa reimburses Newport half of the cost.

The joint parks commission meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Costa Mesa City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

Twitter: @mreicher

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