The City of Newport Beach has been dealing with the issue of potentially dangerous trees since the death of Haeyooon Miller on Irvine Avenue last September. Miller was killed when a large blue gum eucalyptus tree fell and crushed her car.
In the unfolding controversy about what the city knew and did about the trees prior to and since the Miller incident, City Manager Dave Kiff as been at the center of the story from day one.
Now, in an ironic twist, Kiff, who lives in Newport Beach just off Irvine Avenue on 23rd Street, has had the problem and issue of potential dangers of Newport Beach’s trees literally come to his doorstep.
Kiff lives in a home that has a row of the large trees directly in front, along 23rd Street. And several are being recommended for removal, as part of the arborist review of the city’s eucalyptus trees following Miller’s death.
When asked, shortly after Miller’s death, about the trees in front of his house, one of which has a pronounced lean over the street, Kiff responeded in an email that they had not yet been inspected.
“Our initial priority trees are between Upper Castaways and Dover Shores,” Kiff wrote.
He also rejected any suggestion that trees in front of his house might be given any special consideration: “I do not want to have those trees inspected before others in the community. That’s not ethical.”
When asked about the potential danger of the leaning tree, Kiff told the Independent that “trees can lean and still be safe.”
Kiff also said that the eucalyptus trees in front of his house give it a rustic feel that he likes, and “I love those trees and they’re a big part of the reason I bought that house.”
In a message posted this week on the city’s website, Kiff said that eight of the 14 trees lining his and a neighbor’s properties have been recommended for removal, but he is distancing himself from the decision process “out of respect for the process and for my neighborhood.”
The trees have not been designated “special” under a city ordinance governing tree removals, so the decision on their fate will not go to the Parks, Beach and Recreation Commission, as some others have.
Kiff said he has delegated the final decision on the 23rd Street tress to the assistant city manager, in consultation with the city’s municipal operations director.
“I will support whatever decision they arrive at,” Kiff wrote.