In the wake of the death of a motorist who was crushed by a falling tree last week, the city has removed all 104 eucalyptus trees along Irvine Avenue as a safety precaution.
Irvine Avenue was closed to traffic between Westcliff and Dover on Wednesday as the trees were taken down. The city’s tree maintenance contractor, West Coast Arborists, completed the removal project in one day and traffic returned to normal on Irvine Avenue by Wednesday evening.
City Manager Dave Kiff said at a news conference on Tuesday evening that four different arborists who studied the trees along Irvine Avenue came to the same conclusion: that given the age of the trees, how closely they are planted to each other and the fact that one has already fallen, there is reason enough to remove them.
In their opinion, Kiff said, if the integrity of one tree is compromised, all of them could potentially be unstable. It is still unknown why exactly the tree fell, he added.
“We asked the team of arborists to first focus their attention on the remaining trees. That has been the priority for the past four days,” Kiff explained in a written statement the city released on Tuesday. “The arborists called for the removal of the trees. They suggest that the eucalyptus ‘hedgerow’ that was initially planted many years ago could have been affected as individual trees aged, were removed or fell.”
The city arborist, along with an independent arborist and one from West Coast Arborists, examined all 104 trees along Irvine Avenue after a 50-foot, 10-ton eucalyptus tree fell and killed a woman in her car on Thursday at the Irvine Avenue and Westcliff Drive intersection.
Haeyoon Miller, 29, of Tustin died at the scene from blunt force trauma, according to the Orange County coroner.
Crews will also be inspecting the other 328 Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees in Newport Beach, city spokesperson Tara Finnigan said last week.
“While we in the community have great affection for these significant trees, we believe that the most prudent decision is to remove them all,” Kiff wrote in the statement. “We will look forward to working with the community on a new street tree alternative for Irvine Avenue.”
New trees will be planted, Kiff said Tuesday, but the city will consult with Costa Mesa and ask for input from the community before making any decisions.
“Safety is paramount,” he said.
Read about Haeyoon Miller here.
Read the Indy’s earlier story about the accident here.