Romantics, stargazers make case for adding yellow lights

Arizona Daily Sun

Friday October 23, 1987
reprinted by permission of the Arizona Daily Sun

Romantics, stargazers make case for adding yellow lights

By Steve Ryan, Sun Staff Reporter

Widespread concern for Lowell Observatory and a hint of romanticism is evident from a survey indicating that an “overwhelming” 80 percent of Flagstaff residents would support converting all streetlights in Flagstaff to the type which casts a yellow glow on Santa Fe Avenue and helps make stars appear brighter.

“You know, me and my old lady were trying to smooch up on the hill there, and the white lights are just too bright,” one supporter of the yellow-glowing low-pressure sodium lights told Arizona Public Service Co, pollsters according to a report released Thursday.

“There is a big white light that is like a spotlight next to my house and the yellow light is softer, more romantic. I don’t know how you want to say it,” another Flagstaff resident reportedly told pollsters.

A few residents were not turned on by the yellow glow.

“It’s got a weird color – it’s an eerie feeling, spooky and yucky.” said one survey respondent.

“Overall, Flagstaff residents “approved of LPS (low-pressure sodium) lighting being installed citywide 9 to 1 over those that disapprove.” states the report.

About 9 percent of the 400 residents randomly surveyed in September would disapprove of the switch to amber lighting and about 11 percent have no preference, according to the report.

Converting to low-pressure sodium streetlights was favored by 66 percent of the owners of 50 businesses fronting portions of Santa Fe which have been lit with low-pressure sodium lighting for the past 18 months as part of an experimental program, according to the report. Another 26 percent of those business owners have no preference and 8 percent would disapprove of converting all streetlights in Flagstaff to low-pressure sodium.

The experimental program is designed to determine the feasibility of replacing standard high-pressure bulbs, which cast a light perceived as white by many people, with their low-pressure amber counterparts.

Flagstaff is among three sites in the state where the low-pressure sodium lights are being tested, largely in response to concerns registered by astronomers, according to Jim Valenzuela, customer service supervisor for the Flagstaff office of APS.

Low-pressure lighting is more acceptable to astronomers because it is considered ideal for reducing night-time glare which washes out visibility of stars.

Of persons who approve of low-pressure sodium streetlights, “the main reason given was `to help astronomers see better,'” according to the report.

“The observatory is part of what made this town,” stated one respondent in the poll.

“It is beneficial to the city – because we have the best astronomers in the world,” another resident told pollsters.

“The observatory is a pillar of the community and it’s important to us,” another resident was reported as saying.

Of residents who disapprove of switching to low-pressure sodium lighting, the main reason given was “unsafe for driving; can’t see well,” according to the report.

“They don’t seem as bright as the white lights and you can’t see anything even if you stand under the light – it is just a dull yellow,” another resident told pollsters.

The poll showed that the yellow lighting makes different impressions on different people.

“Having the city full of yellow lights, it causes shadows and gives the city an older look,” according to one resident.

However, another resident said that the yellow lights are “more attractive, more modern-looking”

One resident said that the yellow lights “breed crime”; another resident said that they seem to “help reduce the crime.”

“The yellow lights bother me to death – I can’t see as well or be able to distinguish things with those lights,” said one resident.

“I work snow removal and the white lights really put off a glare – it’s a lot easier to see objects, like a manhole cover with the yellow lights,” another resident told pollsters.

Results of the poll will be evaluated by Flagstaff city officials, who now are analyzing the feasibility of using low-pressure sodium fixtures when installing new streetlights, according to John Roberts, city administrative assistant.

Cost of such a policy is being projected by APS and results should be available for review by city officials within “the next couple of weeks,” Roberts said Thursday.

To celebrate, promote, and protect the glorious dark skies of Flagstaff and northern Arizona.