By Sara Hall and Amy Senk | NB Indy and Corona del Mar Today
More trees are scheduled for removal soon at various locations throughout Newport Beach, including 54 blue gum eucalyptus trees and one Hong Kong orchid.
The city has been removing more trees since Haeyoon Miller was crushed by a blue gum eucalyptus at Irvine Avenue and Westcliff Drive in September 2011. The city and West Coast Arborists have since been sued for negligence by Miller’s parents.
The removal of the 54 eucalyptus trees from groves bike trail is scheduled to begin March 4.
The Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission approved the removal of the blue gums, categorized as special landmark trees in the G-1 section of city council policy, during the commission’s Dec. 4 meeting.
The city’s parks and trees superintendent Dan Sereno and urban forester John Conway determined that 54 trees, out of the total 104 growing there, were “potential liabilities and possible tree failures,” according to the staff report.
City Manager Dave Kiff approved the removal report on Nov. 20.
Replacement for those trees, which won’t be on a one-for-one basis, is estimated to be completed by the end of the upcoming summer, Mark Harmon, general services director for the city, said during the meeting.
Harmon said that he has received supportive comments from the community.
But not all residents feel that way. Resident and city watchdog Jim Mosher wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission objecting to the removal of the trees on groves bike trail.
“At least in my opinion, the proposed removal, and vaguely planned replacement, of numerous tall trees – which are potential habitat for raptors, song-birds, mammals and insects – on bluffs overlooking wetlands raises substantial Coastal Act issues with regard to both visual and biological resources,” Mosher wrote.
Mosher claims that the city is removing the trees without applying for a Coastal Development Permit.
“As a result, neither the visual and biological impacts of this removal of major vegetation, nor the materials with which it is proposed to be replaced, have been properly reviewed for compliance with the Coastal Act,” Mosher wrote in his letter.
A city representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Another tree scheduled for the chopping block is the Hong Kong orchid tree from in front of the Port Theater.
The original plans to relocate the tree to an empty tree well down the street were abandoned because the tree may not have survived the move, city officials have confirmed recently.
“The tree was not a good transplant candidate,” said Tara Finnigan, a city spokeswoman, in an email. “It was small and spindly.”
In October, a theater representative asked the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District board if the tree could be moved because it blocked the theater’s marquee.
Some members of the board expressed concern that if they allowed this tree to be moved, other businesses would want to remove trees that blocked their signs. In the end, they agreed that the orchid tree could be replanted elsewhere and a mature King Palm, with a trunk that rose above the marquee, could be planted in front of the theater, which the PBR approved. The theater agreed to pay for the costs –$4,978 plus $78, according to a city report.
But instead of the tree being relocated, crews chopped it, leaving a stump in the tree well and some B.I.D. members wondering at their January meeting what had happened.
The orchid tree had apparently been over-pruned by city crews and theater workers, Finnigan said. City experts thought that if the tree was moved, it had a 50-50 chance of dying, while a new tree would have a 90 percent survival rate.
Information about when a new tree might be planted by the Port Theater was not available, Finnigan said. A Port Theater representative did not reply to an email seeking more information.