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Orange County

Balboa Trees Win Reprieve--a Shade Too Late


Activists won a court order Wednesday halting Newport Beach's plans to cut down 25 mature ficus trees along the Balboa Peninsula's historic Main Street--but only in time to save two of the trees.

The Balboa Arborist Society, which has been battling the city over the trees, won an injunction from the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana about 11 a.m.

By that time, however, workers--who had begun at 7 a.m.--had cut down 23 of the trees. And one of the remaining two had been shorn of all its leaves.

Stephen Miles, a lawyer for the arborist society, said Newport Beach officials were hurrying to get the work done.

"If they were given another 15 to 20 minutes they would've ripped out all the trees. It was that close. It was a countdown, and I was getting a play-by-play as I filed the court papers."

The race began two days earlier, when an Orange County judge removed a temporary injunction that had blocked the city from cutting down the trees. City officials say the 40-year-old trees stand in the way of a $2.8-million improvement project.

Ficus tree roots buckle the sidewalks and create hazards, they say.

Preservationists, however, have argued that the trees are historically important and attractive. The city plans to replace the ficus with young coral gum trees.

Under the new order, the city is prohibited from doing anything to the remaining two ficus trees and the stumps of the 23 felled trees until the appellate court completes its review, Miles said.

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