Space Needle takes to airwaves in efforts to protect your view of it

SEATTLE -- Some consider it the Emerald City's Eiffel Tower and want to make sure you won't have to say adieu to the view of it.

The push to protect views of Seattle's Space Needle hit radio space this week, as the privately-owned landmark works to save public vistas of the icon. The concern is over proposed changes to zoning regulations in South Lake Union, and how taller buildings might block views of the Needle from the neighborhood and nearby.

"We've just celebrated our 50th year; I'd like to think that some of these views are here in 50 years," said Ron Sevart, president and CEO of the Space Needle. "The jobs created, the economic development, the affordable housing - those things are wonderful as part of (these changes). We just want to find the right balance."

The city of Seattle has been working on development changes in South Lake Union which could include some buildings as tall as 400 feet - or about 40 stories - said Marshall Foster, city planning director with the Department of Planning and Development. The changes are part of the city's push to bring as many as 22,000 new jobs to the area in the future, and the office and housing space that would come with it.

"It's going to be a change, there's no question," Foster said. "For Seattle this is really a decision about: do we plan for that change and do it in certain areas that make sense?"

"Absolutely views are going to change," he added. "It's really a balancing act. It's - how does Seattle (handle) the economic development opportunity for the new jobs, for the new housing, and also balance it with the quality that we love?"

The city council is slated to take up the issue at a 2:30 pm meeting next Monday, and then with a final vote expected in early April. In the meantime, the Needle has made a big push online - with a Facebook page and on the radio as well - asking residents to email and call city councilmembers to voice their opinions.

Walking through South Lake Union park Wednesday, Magnolia resident John Gosink said he'd be in favor of development in the area, as long as it is smart development.

"I'd say (the Needle is) pretty iconic for Seattle, but as developments goes that'll change, I suspect," Gosink said. "I'm strongly in favor of planned urban development. I think it's important that somebody thinks about how traffic will flow, how people will walk, how the views are going to look, what the environmental impact will be."

"I think there should be a balance," said Justin Hague, who works nearby. "We do need the jobs but we also need the tourism with the Space Needle."