1. Introduction and Summary
The proposed Noyo River Bridge fails to meet the basic requirement of the California Coastal Act for the protection of visual resources:
30251. The scenic and visual qualities of coastal areas shall be considered and protected as a resource of public importance. Permitted development shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas to minimize alteration of natural land forms, to visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas, and, where feasible, to restore and enhance visual quality in visually degraded areas…
Failure to protect views to and along the ocean
Section 2 of my testimony documents the degradation of coastal views that be caused by the proposed bridge. The existing bridge affords drivers and passengers striking views of the entrance and the inside of Noyo Harbor. These harbor views are a unique resource of the north coast. The proposed bridge would obliterate these views.
“See-through” railing no solution
At a September 16 meeting held by Caltrans in Fort Bragg, over 50 people objected in writing to the degradation in views that would be caused by the proposed bridge. In response to these objections, Caltrans proposed changing the railing design to one that it terms a “see-through” railing. Caltrans is strongly implying that their “see‑through” railing is the answer to the complaints about view degradation. For instance, in a letter to me, Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin stated:
It appears that … the overwhelming concern at that time [the public meeting] was that the view from the bridge was being inhibited or blocked. It is my understanding [emphasis added] the plans have been changed to accommodate an open rail design, provided the open rail meets necessary structural requirements.
Assemblymember Strom-Martin has been badly misled by someone. The supposed “see-through” railing is more properly termed a “see-nothing” railing. Section 2 presents simulated views through the proposed “see-through” railing toward Noyo Harbor. The harbor itself is invisible. Only a narrow slit of unidentifiable buildings can be seen.
Section 2B shows a picture and a schematic of the proposed “see-through” railing. The lack of visibility provided by the proposed railing is not surprising when one looks at its design. It is more suited to stopping tanks than to providing an aesthetic complement to a scenic bridge.
Alternative design could provide safety and scenic views
Caltrans has consistently stated that their design is the best that can be done, given the safety and other constraints under which they must operate. Section 2 shows the simulated view from an alternative new design that maintains the present view from Noyo Bridge. The alternative design places a safety barrier between the outside traffic lane and an 8’ pedestrian/bicycle lane, allowing the current railing design to be used without impairing safety. Verticals could be added to the current railing design to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety without impairing views from moving cars (which would not see the verticals).
Further degrades an already visually impaired area
The Coastal Act would like to see development, where feasible, “to restore and enhance visual quality in visually degraded areas.” The existing motel and restaurant construction surrounding the Noyo Bridge has greatly degraded the scenic views from Noyo Bridge. Rather than restoring and enhancing the degraded visual quality, the proposed Bridge will almost collide with these structures, greatly exaggerating their negative impact on the visual experience of crossing the Noyo Bridge.
The existing bridge is 34’ wide. The proposed bridge is 88’ wide, taking up 27’ more of space on each side. The edge of the proposed bridge will be within 12’ of the Cliff House and about 7’ of the North Cliff Hotel, and appears to go over a part of the Harbor Lite Lodge.
Out of scale with Highway 1
The Caltrans design is that it is way out of scale with all other bridges on Highway 1. Allowing one such bridge to be built on Highway 1 sets a dangerous precedent for future. Highway 1 is special because it is small and built to the specifications of an earlier era of road building. Every upgrading of the Highway degrades its scenic quality.
Highway 1 will need to be upgraded over time to meet growing traffic, but the design goal for upgrades should be to meet traffic needs with the minimum possible changes in the character and scale of the road. The proposed Noyo Harbor Bridge appears to aim for the maximum possible change in character and scale, given the size of the right of way.
Caltrans should be denied permission to build the proposed Noyo Harbor Bridge. Caltrans should be encouraged to redesign the bridge to reduce its size, lessen its impact on the surrounding area, and enhance the views from it.
2. Visibility From New Noyo Bridge
2A. Simulated Views
Simulated views by the driver of a car looking toward Noyo Harbor are presented for the following cases:
· Case 1: Proposed Bridge, small sedan. Driver 21' from edge of bridge; eyes 26" above bottom of railing opening, which is 16" above roadway.
· Case 1C: Alternative Bridge Design, small sedan. Eliminate emergency lane, place safety barrier between traffic lanes and 8' bicycle/pedestrian lane at road level. Current steel railing design; first horizontal rail 11"above lane level. Driver 17' from edge of bridge; eyes 42" above bottom of railing opening.
Case 1 shows that the proposed design will essentially eliminate the view of the harbor. Case 1C shows an alternative design that would provide greater safety to pedestrians and bicycles, while maintaining safety for vehicles, could provide views comparable to those from the existing bridge.
These simulations are based on numerous measurements and estimations. They are accurate to the best of my ability, but they are not based on actual survey data and thus are only approximations. I hope that Caltrans will create simulations based on more extensive measurements than I was able to make.
The details underlying the simulated views are presented in Appendices 1 and 2, at the end of the testimony.
2B. Proposed see-through railing
The following pages present pictures and a schematic of Caltrans proposed “see-through” railing
Front view of Concrete See-Through Railing with Sidewalk
Back view of Type 80SW Railing
Photos: Caltrans, taken 9/98
1. A Matter of Scale
The following pages present material related to the scale of the proposed Noyo Bridge and its relation to surrounding structures.
The first plan view shows the relation of the proposed bridge to the Cliff House Restaurant. In her accompanying memo, page 3-3, Karen states that the Cliff house is 4.55’ from the bridge right of way, but note that the awning over the entrance (and presumably the sidewalk) extend almost to the right of way.
Note that in her memo, Karen Tatman states that, “Our surveys do not include the new North Cliff Motel, so I cannot provide specific dimensions there.” However, a plan view included in the Caltrans Environmental Impact Statement for the project (and published on the Noyo Bridge website), reproduced on page 3-4, clearly shows the North Coast Hotel intruding into the right of way. After the Hotel was built, the roof at that corner was cut back, presumably to take it out of the Caltrans right of way. The same view shows the proposed bridge going over a part of the Harbor Lite Lodge.