The Tustin resident was stopped at a red light near Irvine Avenue and 17th Street on Sept. 15, 2011, when a 50- to 70-foot eucalyptus fell from the median and crushed the roof of her Hyundai. Miller died at the scene.
Shortly after the tree fell, the city removed 100 eucalyptuses from the area. Reviews of the trees' history led independent experts to believe that they may have been unstable. Eucalyptuses in other parts of the city were also removed.
Miller's parents later sued the cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, along with tree maintenance contractor West Coast Arborists. The suit claims that the trees, which were on the edge of Costa Mesa city limits but were maintained by Newport, were poorly maintained and leaned dangerously toward traffic.
A hearing in that suit is scheduled for Oct. 31, according to the Orange County Superior Court website.
Finnigan said the decision to replace the eucalyptuses on the 2,600-foot stretch of Irvine Avenue with African tulip and date palm trees was made with the help of a community outreach process that garnered input from neighboring residents.
"First of all, you want to see which trees we could plant on the median, then [residents discussed] aesthetics," she said. "They thought these trees were good for that median and good for that area."
A staff report from a December 2011 joint meeting of the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach parks and recreation commissions cited African tulips and date palms as attractive landscaping options that are drought tolerant and easily maintained.
"The proposed project will provide a colorful, hearty landscape that is appropriate for the local climate and will require less irrigation than the current plant material," the report said.
Both African tulips and date palms can grow to about 75 feet tall and have previously been planted in other areas of town, including on Superior Avenue, Westcliff Drive, East Coast Highway and Avocado Avenue.