In fact, the issue is a particularly passionate one for Newport Beach.
"This is a war on trees," one resident told City Council members at a
study session Tuesday.
City General Services Director Dave Niederhaus has offered a
three-pronged approach to stopping ficus damage: replace some, increase
trimming frequency for others and prune the roots of the rest.
"I want to see what we can do to preserve these trees," said
Councilwoman Norma Glover, noting that replacing the mature trees amounts
to an aesthetic assault on some neighborhoods.
It's an issue that could divide the council and the residents because,
beautiful as they are, the ficus' wrath is costly. They cause $50,000 to
$100,000 a year in damage to city property. Add that to the $285,534.38
paid to property owners in damage claims from 1998 to 2001, and it
amounts to trouble.
Niederhaus said about two-thirds of the city's ficus trees should be
replaced. This is in part because cost-cutting in the last 10 years has
meant reduced tree-trimming. Many trees, as a result, grew practically
unchecked, tearing apart infrastructure as their roots searched for
"It never should have been allowed to get this bad," Councilman John
The study session Tuesday was just the beginning of what promises to
be a contentious issue as the council considers what to do about the
problem. The issue will next appear on a future City Council agenda. At
that time, city officials will start the controversial process of making
tough choices about this growing problem.