Nob Hill Pipeline Improvements Project EIR

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1 Section 3.1 Aesthetics This section addresses the visual aspects that may affect the views experienced by the public, including the potential to impact the existing character of each area that comprises the project, and changes in lighting and glare Regulatory Framework There are several state and local regulations related to the protection of visual resources. For example, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) maintains a State Scenic Highway Program to protect and enhance California's natural beauty and to protect the social and economic values provided by the State's scenic resources (Streets and Highway Code Section 260). I-15, which is located to the west of the project area, is not a designated state scenic highway within the project area. This portion of I-15 is also not eligible for listing as a state scenic highway. Locally, the Scripps Miramar Ranch Community Plan (adopted 1978) states that development should aim to protect environmental resources that are typically associated with hillsides, preserve significant public views of and from hillsides, and maintain a clear sense of natural hillside topography throughout the development of Scripps Miramar Ranch. The construction of water transmission and storage facilities overseen by the Water Authority is exempt from local land use plans and ordinances per California Government Code Section 53091(d) Environmental Setting The visual quality of an area is generally defined by its physical characteristics, including landforms, vegetation, and water features. In addition, the perceived visual quality of the region is influenced by other factors including harmony, adjacent scenery, cultural modifications, and scarcity. The project area is the Second San Diego Aqueduct ROW, which traverses the Scripps Ranch community. After crossing I-15, the Second Aqueduct travels through a residential area, crosses Scripps Ranch Boulevard, and ascends Nob Hill. The Second Aqueduct ROW separates the Miro/Ravel and Scripps Nob Hill communities along the hill. The project is generally bounded by the Scripps Nob Hill Condominiums, a self-storage facility, and business park development to the west; Scripps Ranch Boulevard to the north; Miro Circle and Miramar Reservoir to the east; and Scripps Lake Drive to the south. The proposed staging area is outside the Water Authority ROW and located on a Page 3.1-1

2 parcel on the south side of Scripps Lake Drive. The surrounding area is almost entirely urbanized, with residential uses and light industrial uses near Scripps Lake Drive. This area has fairly significant changes in topography, with views extending westward over Mira Mesa (Figure 3.1-1). Another component of the visual quality of an area is the existing lighting. There is no lighting associated with the existing Water Authority facilities in the project area. The pipeline improvements area and access road area currently do not have any developed, aboveground uses; thus, the only existing nighttime lighting is spilled over from adjacent uses, such as the backyards or porches of bordering residences and commercial buildings Views within the project area have been identified as key vantage points (KVPs) to define the existing visual quality. KVPs are typically public viewing areas and can include road viewsheds, public viewpoints, and other key views. Six KVPs were selected for this analysis to provide a more detailed description of the existing visual setting for analysis of potential impacts associated with construction, as well as any effects that the permanent access road may have on public viewsheds. Figure shows the location of the six KVPs. Due to the immediate adjacency to residential development to the project construction area, KVPs were identified to represent the public viewpoints of residents within Scripps Nob Hill and Miro/Ravel communities. Each KVP is discussed below with a narrative description of the view. Key Vantage Point 1 is shown on Figure This KVP looks across Scripps Ranch Boulevard, south toward Nob Hill, and is located just outside of the northern portion of the project area. The elevation rises from 654 feet AMSL at the roadway, to 765 feet AMSL in the pipeline improvements area. This KVP shows a portion of the exposed Santiago Peaks Volcanic formation, mostly undisturbed vegetation, and the residential developments that border the ROW. The pipeline improvements would not be visible from this KVP; however, some of the construction equipment may be visible over the ridgeline. Key Vantage Point 2 is shown on Figure This KVP looks west and is located near the Miro Circle residences east of the ROW. The pipeline improvements area is on the side of Nob Hill, as the elevation to the east extends up to 830 feet AMSL at the Miro Circle residences. This KVP shows the existing access road, Diegan coastal sage scrub vegetation, Scripps Nob Hill Condominiums downhill, and also captures a portion of expansive views westward from the peak of Nob Hill. Key Vantage Point 3 is shown on Figure This KVP looks north and is located at the southern portion of the pipeline improvements area. The elevation declines moving south along the ROW, and is 697 feet AMSL here. This KVP clearly shows the decline in elevation from east to west, ornamental landscaping/erosion control BMPs in the foreground, and the Diegan coastal sage scrub vegetation in the background. Page 3.1-2

3 Key Vantage Point 4 is shown on Figure This KVP looks west and is located at the face of Miramar Reservoir dam. This represents a view that many recreational users of the trail around the perimeter of the reservoir would have of the access road area. This KVP clearly shows the expansive views westward and the urbanized nature of the area. Within the foreground, the eucalyptus trees are within the low point of the access road area (560 feet AMSL), where most of the drainage collects, and small ground cover is present on the face of the dam. Key Vantage Point 5 is shown on Figure This KVP looks north from Scripps Lake Drive towards the southerly portion of the access road area. A City of San Diego pump station is currently under construction in the far left portion of this photo (construction commenced August 2013). The elevation at Scripps Lake Drive is 605 feet AMSL and increases to 650 feet AMSL at the top of the hill in the photo. This KVP also shows an existing graded access road and coastal sage scrub that is both disturbed and undisturbed. Key Vantage Point 6 is shown on Figure This KVP looks west from the parking lot of the Scripps Ranch Library at the construction staging area, just south of Scripps Lake Drive. This provides an overview of the site, but views to the staging area are slightly more obscured from Scripps Lake Drive due to the prevalence of eucalyptus trees. However, this view shows a graded area that has been used for staging in the past. Page 3.1-3

4 Image Source: Google Earth, 2014 Miramar Reservoir Scripps Ranch Blvd. Scripps Lake Dr. Not to Scale M:\JOBS4\6830\env\graphics\fig3.1-1.ai 02/06/13 Pipeline Improvement Area Access Road Area Construction Staging Area FIGURE Oblique View of Project Area

5 Map Source: San Diego Water Authority, 2013 Key Vantage Point #1 Pipeline Improvements Area Key Vantage Point #2 Key Vantage Point #3 Miramar Reservoir Key Vantage Point #4 Access Road Area Key Vantage Point #6 Key Vantage Point #5 Staging Area 0 Feet 260 FIGURE Overview of Key Vantage Points M:\JOBS4\6830\env\graphics\fig3.1-2.ai 01/05/14

6 Photo By: San Diego County Water Authority Key Vantage Point 1 Photo By: RECON Key Vantage Point 2 FIGURE M:\JOBS4\6830\env\graphics\fi gs indd 02/06/14

7 Photo By: RECON Key Vantage Point 3 Photo By: RECON Key Vantage Point 4 FIGURE M:\JOBS4\6830\env\graphics\fi gs indd 02/06/14

8 Photo By: RECON Key Vantage Point 5 Photo By: RECON Key Vantage Point 6 FIGURE M:\JOBS4\6830\env\graphics\fi gs indd 02/06/14

9 3.1.3 Thresholds for Determining Significance Thresholds used to evaluate potential aesthetics impacts are based on applicable criteria in the state CEQA Guidelines (CCR ), Appendix G. A significant impact to aesthetics would occur if the project would: 1) Have a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista; 2) Substantially damage scenic resources, including, but not limited to, mature trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings within a state scenic highway; 3) Substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the project site and its surroundings; or 4) Create a new source of substantial light or glare that would adversely affect day or nighttime views in the area Impact Analysis Analysis of Project Effects Threshold 1: Scenic Vista Would the project have a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista? PIPELINE IMPROVEMENTS (BOTH ALTERNATIVES) Scenic vistas are typically natural landforms that provide unique views, such as the peak of a mountain or cliff ridges near the Pacific Ocean, and may be specifically designated by the local land use jurisdiction or by the state. There are no designated scenic vistas within the pipeline improvements area. As shown in KVPs 2 and 3 on Figure 3.1-4, the pipeline improvements area would be visible from residences on either side of the ROW. However, as stated above under the description for KVP 1, the pipeline construction area would not be visible from Scripps Ranch Boulevard to the north (see KVP 1, Figure 3.1-3), or from other public viewing areas such as the Miramar Reservoir. Construction activity within the pipeline improvements area does have the potential to temporarily obstruct views to the northwest from private residences adjacent to this area due to construction equipment, workers, etc. However, this would be a temporary impact, and would be less than significant. Operational impacts under either alternative would be less than significant, as no permanent obstruction to public viewpoints would occur as a result of either alternative. After construction, the pipeline improvements area would be restored to its preexisting condition. Page

10 ACCESS ROAD Similar to the pipeline improvements area, there would be visual impacts due to the presence of construction equipment and workers during construction of the access road. However, these impacts would be temporary and less than significant. While no designated scenic vistas are present within the access road area, there are scenic views from public areas adjacent to the access road area. The paved trails around the perimeter of the Miramar Reservoir are used for recreational purposes. The scenic views associated with the Miramar Reservoir to the west, over Mira Mesa and southwest toward Miramar, and on toward downtown San Diego are visible from KVP 4, as shown on Figure This would be considered the dominant visual experience from KVP 4. Within the foreground is the reservoir dam and beyond that, where vegetation is denser, is the Water Authority ROW. The access road would be located within this vegetated area, and would be constructed at the same grade as the existing landform beneath the vegetation. The access road would not be a prominent feature in this area, as it would be located within the western perimeter near the industrial uses (self-storage facility and business park). The access road would also be mostly shielded from public views due to the intervening topography and dense vegetation. The access road would not represent the introduction of a dominant visual feature into this viewshed, and thus would not substantially affect views from the Miramar Reservoir. Impacts would be less than significant. The access road spur to the southeast would be partially visible from KVP 5 along Scripps Lake Drive. However, as shown on Figure 3.1-5, there are previously graded access paths within this area, and similar to the main access road, the new spur will be constructed at the same grade as the existing landform. Thus, the access road would not represent a significant change in the visual character of this area. Impacts would be less than significant. STAGING AREA There are no designated scenic vistas known to be present within the construction staging area. KVP 6, as shown on Figure 3.1-6, shows the construction staging area that would be used. The staging area is mostly shielded from public views by eucalyptus trees that surround the parcel. No substantial alteration of this parcel would be necessary for the construction staging on-site. In addition, the construction staging would be temporary, and thus would not introduce a permanent change in the visual character within this area. Impacts would be less than significant. Page

11 Threshold 2: State Scenic Highway Would the project substantially damage scenic resources, including, but not limited to, mature trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings within a state scenic highway? ALL PROJECT COMPONENTS I-15, which is located to the west of the project area, is not a state scenic highway within the project area. Therefore, the construction of the proposed project would not impact any scenic resources within a state scenic highway. No impact would occur. Threshold 3: Visual Character Would the project substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the project site and its surroundings? PIPELINE IMPROVEMENTS (BOTH ALTERNATIVES) Construction activities in the pipeline improvements area would temporarily affect the existing visual character. The project would not substantially degrade the project area and its surroundings in the long term, due to the limited area of disturbance compared to the surrounding area, the placement of project facilities belowground, and restoration of the site topography and vegetation. Impacts would be less than significant. ACCESS ROAD Construction activities in the access road area would temporarily affect the existing visual character of the area and its surroundings. As previously discussed under Threshold 1, the existence and use of the access road would not substantially degrade the project area and its surroundings, as it would be located within the western perimeter of the area, towards the self-storage facility, business park and planned pump station. The access road would be constructed at the same grade as the existing landform beneath the vegetation, and would be mostly shielded from public views due to the intervening topography and dense vegetation. Impacts would be less than significant. STAGING AREA Construction staging would not substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the area or its surroundings, as the staging area has been previously disturbed, and would be mostly shielded from public views by the eucalyptus trees that surround the parcel. Impacts would be less than significant. Page

12 Threshold 4: Light and Glare Would the project create a new source of substantial light or glare that would adversely affect day or nighttime views in the area? PIPELINE IMPROVEMENTS (BOTH ALTERNATIVES) As previously detailed, the nighttime lighting that currently exists is limited to spillover from the adjacent commercial and residential development near the project area. The project would not introduce any new permanent sources of lighting, and would not involve the construction of new structures that would result in glare affecting daytime views within the area. Nighttime lighting would be required during the 10-day shutdown period under either alternative. As described in Chapter 2, work during this period would occur during this limited time for 24 hours a day. The Water Authority s contractor would be required to manage spillover lighting to adjacent residences to the greatest extent feasible; however, the contractor also has to provide lighting that allows workers and inspectors to safely conduct all operations. Standard nighttime construction practices require a 10 foot-candle limit for work areas. Foot-candles are a measurement of illumination, or light intensity. For reference, vehicle headlights on a low beam setting provide approximately 2 to 4 foot-candles of illumination. As a project design feature, the contractor would be required to submit a work area lighting plan to the Water Authority for review and approval prior to the start of construction. This plan would include the proposed lighting locations for construction equipment, vehicle and pedestrian paths, and measures that would be taken to ensure compliance with the plan. This plan would also provide requirements to aim the required lighting downward at the work area, minimizing spillover to adjoining residences. Thus, a temporary impact would occur due to this nighttime construction period. However, because this impact would be temporary in nature and would not create a new source of light that would affect nighttime views, impacts would be less than significant. ACCESS ROAD Construction activities in the access road area would only occur during daytime hours. No lighting would be required and no impact would occur. STAGING AREA The construction staging area may be utilized during the 10-day, 24-hour nighttime work period planned for the pipeline construction. As detailed above, as a design feature of the project, the contractor would be required to submit a work area lighting plan that would require Water Authority approval prior to construction. However, it should be Page

13 noted that no residential development is located adjacent to the staging area. Impacts would be less than significant Analysis of Cumulative Effects The geographic scope of the cumulative impact analysis for aesthetics includes the area within which the viewer is most likely to observe both the project and surrounding land uses. This area is generally the same as the cumulative project vicinity, identified in Chapter 2 (see Figure 2-13). This also includes the view corridors, viewsheds, or other scenic resources in this vicinity. Threshold 1: Scenic Vista As previously detailed, there is no designated scenic vista within the project area. The cumulative project vicinity is located within an almost entirely urbanized and inland portion of the City of San Diego and near Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar. A cumulative impact to scenic vistas would occur if the project, in combination with the cumulative projects, would result in a substantial effect on a scenic vista. Construction of new residential and commercial development is occurring beyond the I-15, north of Mira Mesa Boulevard. This development, while resulting in new structures of greater height in this area, is approximately 0.5 mile from the project site and at a lower elevation. Due to the location of the cumulative project vicinity in a primarily urbanized area, and this project having a limited permanent effect on the visual environment, a less than significant contribution to a cumulatively considerable impact would occur. Threshold 2: State Scenic Highway The project area is not within a state scenic highway. The cumulative projects are located within the vicinity of the I-15; however, this portion of the I-15 is neither designated nor eligible for listing as a state scenic highway. Thus, this project, in combination with other cumulative projects, would not result in a contribution to a cumulatively considerable impact. Threshold 3: Visual Character The access road and associated drainage improvements are the permanent, aboveground features of the project. These features would not substantially degrade the visual character of the site as they would primarily be shielded from public views by existing topography and vegetation. As previously discussed for Threshold 1, the cumulative project vicinity is almost entirely urbanized. Due to the location of the cumulative project vicinity in a primarily urbanized area, and this project having a limited effect on the visual character during construction, a less than significant contribution to a cumulatively considerable impact would occur. Page

14 Threshold 4: Light and Glare This project would only require temporary lighting due to nighttime construction during a 10-day period planned for shutdown. No other construction projects within the immediate vicinity of this area are anticipated to require nighttime construction that would create a substantial new source of light. Thus, this project would not result in a contribution to a cumulatively considerable impact Mitigation Measures Impacts to aesthetics would be less than significant. Therefore, no mitigation measures are required Significance after Mitigation Impacts would remain less than significant. Page

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