Despite a staff report that cited 18 blue gum eucalyptus trees as being risky to public safety, the Newport Beach Park, Beaches and Recreation Commission has decided against chopping them down.
The trees, located in the 2200 block of Holiday Road, were thoroughly discussed at the commission's meeting Tuesday night. Mark Harmon, the city's director of municipal operations, presented a staff report to the commission that detailed the findings of an inspection conducted on the trees.
"There is a high potential for failure of those trees and the arborists' recommend removing them immediately," Harmon told the commission.
Last month, two city arborists and contract arborist R. Dan Jensen & Associates evaluated each tree's characteristics (size, age and history), health (foliage density, vigor and woundwood development), site conditions (landscape type, irrigation and obstruction), potential targets (use under tree and occupancy) and defects.
According to the staff report, 14 of the trees on Holiday Road were classified as being a high risk to the community, while four others were classified as posing a moderate risk. A handful of residents of Holiday Road spoke at the meeting and expressed their opinions about the trees to the commission.
"I've lived under these trees for 50 years and I've never been concerned about them," resident David Hayes said.
City staff recommended yanking all 18, noting they were planted close together and removing one could affect the health and root structure of surrounding trees.
The chopping binge in Newport Beach began after the death of in September. She was killed when a eucalyptus fell onto her car as she drove along a Costa Mesa street. The city quickly removed more than 100 eucalyptus trees from the Irvine Avenue median between Westcliff/17th Street and Dover Drive. Since then, arborists inspected another 250 trees citywide. Last month in Corona del Mar, along Fourth Avenue.
"We need to remove these trees that were planted when this place was a farm," Commissioner Tom Anderson said. "If one of them falls on my kid or your kid, or my house or your house or car, what would the mood be in this room?"
In the end the commission voted against chopping the eucalyptuses down. Commissioner Chair Philip Lugar and Commissioners Kathy Hamilton and Anderson were in support of the staff's recommendation, but Commissioners Ron Cole, Roy Englebrecht, Marie Marston and Jack Tingley voted against the removal.
"The commission could always address the issue of the trees on Holiday Road at a future meeting," Harmon said. "They did not indicate one way or the other whether they will want this issue brought back at a future time."