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The Webfooted Astronomer - November 1999


Act Now to Prevent Space Needle's Sky Beam

As part of the Space Needles' $20 million renovation project, a giant beam of light will blast from the top of the needle. The sky beam would shoot up over 600 feet into the sky. It would have a working candlepower of approximately 85 million at spot. By comparison, bright gas station lighting isn't usually more than 15 or 18 foot candles.

This light is not regulated by either Seattle City Code or the Federal Aviation Administration. However, because the Space Needle was designated as an official Seattle landmark last April, any proposed alterations are reviewed by the City's Landmarks P reservation Board. This process represents the last opportunity for public input on this proposal. The Space Needle has not yet formally presented its outdoor lighting design to the Landmarks Preservation Board. Melba Caliano, who chairs the board, says i t welcomes and tries to be responsive to citizen comments.

Mayor Paul Schell has stated that the Space Needle intends to have the beam shine on special occasions only (New Year's Eve, 4th of July, when the Mariners go to the playoffs). International Dark Sky Association member Brenda Fritsvold hopes that this vague promise is rendered concrete by the Landmarks Preservation Board.

Brenda is drafting a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Board for its consideration . All of its decisions are based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, which state in part that "The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved ... alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided." And "(Any) new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features t o protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."

The time to act on this is now. SAS members can e-mail comments to Beth Chave, Coordinator of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, at Or send letters to Melba Caliano, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Board, c/o Department of Neighborhoods, 400 Arctic Building, 701 Third Ave., Seattle, 98104. 206-684-0380. For more information, contact IDA member Brenda Fritsvold, 206-721-3948, or e-mail at

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