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‘Heartbreaking decision’ to remove 100 trees after woman crushed

September 22, 2011 | 11:30 am

Trees removed in Costa Mesa
Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff said it was a "heartbreaking decision" to remove about 100 decades-old eucalyptus trees after a freak accident last week in which a tree toppled, crushing to death a woman stopped in her car at a traffic light.

Four arborists determined that the "hedgerow" of trees along an Irvine Avenue median near 17th Street in Costa Mesa could have been compromised, Kiff said, and that the city should act before another tree fell. The canopy and roots support each other and losing even one could jeopardize the others. "It's like a fence that's all linked together," he said.

Contractors Wednesday began removing the trees and the smell of eucalyptus oil hung in the air as men thrust chain saws through flaky layers of bark. A makeshift memorial for the driver, 29-year-old Haeyoon Miller of Tustin, was moved from the median to the lawn of a nearby restaurant.

Jack Skinner, 80, a prominent local environmental activist, said the towering trees have outlived their time.

"One would call me a tree-hugger," he said, "but health would prevail in this particular case."

Some residents complained that the city reacted too hastily.

"For them to just decide we're taking them out without a public forum is disgusting," said Newport Heights resident William Velmer, 57.

City officials said they would reach out to neighbors and business owners to determine a suitable species to replace the trees.


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-- Mike Reicher

Photo: A worker uses a chain saw to remove old eucalyptus trees along Irvine Avenue in Costa Mesa. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times