He remembers driving by rows of eucalyptus trees protecting bean fields from coastal breezes.
That was in the 1930s, when Costa Mesa was still rural enough to be called Goat Hill and Jack Skinner was a just a boy. Today, Skinner, 80, a prominent local environmental activist, says the towering trees have long outlived their use.
"One would call me a tree-hugger," he said, "but health would prevail in this particular case."
City contractors were removing about 100 eucalyptus trees Wednesday in reaction to the fatal accident last week that killed a motorist. The decades-old tree that fell from an Irvine Avenue median near 17th Street in Costa Mesa probably compromised others in its row, arborists said. City officials moved swiftly and sawed trunks and limbs before many had a chance to react.
"It's a heartbreaking decision," said Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, whose city is under contract with Costa Mesa to care for the trees on their shared borders.