City may sue Navy over H1

The Mountain View City Council unanimously decided Tuesday night that the city should pursue a range of serious actions to save the iconic Hangar One at Moffett Field, even if it means a lawsuit against the Navy.

"I think we're at a very critical stage right now," said city manager Kevin Duggan. "The Navy is now moving expeditiously within the next few weeks to have the siding removed," he said, referring to Navy efforts to award a contract to tear down the hangar's toxic siding, despite there being no plans to replace it. "They will take a stronger and stronger position that they have no choice but to proceed."

"There are very few iconic structures in Silicon Valley," Duggan continued. "This clearly is a unique example of the history in the area being reflected in a structure. Once the siding is removed, there could be long-term harm."

Talks have reached a stalemate between the Navy and the hangar's current owner, NASA Ames, to find funds to re-skin the hangar, estimated to require between $15 and $40 million. The Navy says any delay in removing the Hangar's toxic siding could cost millions more in funds allocated to the project. Meanwhile, years of effort by every elected official in the area, including Rep. Anna Eshoo, have failed to put a better plan in place than leaving the hangar as a bare skeletal frame.

Local preservationists have called for a Hangar One summit between elected officials, NASA and the Navy to solve the problem, but the Navy hasn't responded to that request, which was made at the June 11 Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board meeting.

"It seems like we've been trying the diplomatic approach" for a long time, said council member Laura Macias. "This is tomorrow. I don't think we have time for the convening of important people."

The council agreed to have Duggan, city attorney Michael Martello and Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga look at all options, including "advertising that our very capable city attorney is looking at a government lawsuit," said council member Mike Kasperzak. Council members also wanted the city to work with Eshoo in contacting President Barack Obama's new Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.

"The city attorney should contact the Palo Alto and Sunnyvale city attorneys for help in stopping this," added council member Jac Siegel. They should "look immediately at getting an injunction."

Lenny Siegel, a local expert on Superfund site cleanups around the country and at Moffett Field, said on Wednesday that a lawsuit was feasible. The Superfund law that governs the cleanup of the hangar allows lawsuits against the federal government to stop or delay such projects, Siegel said. And a legal argument could be made that the Navy has not fulfilled requirements for historic preservation.

"It only takes one city" to put forth "the lawyer who can make the precise legal arguments to prevail," he said.


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Posted by karen McAdams
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I for one would like to see it gone.

Military icons are not what I like to see commemorated excepting the loss of lives exacted through military actions.

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Posted by Navy Brat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I'd rather see the money go toward balancing the Federal budget. Let private funds restore the hangar if we need iconic structures in Silicon Valley.

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Posted by jd
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Another california effort pursuing non-beneficial expenditure of government the local governments not see what has happened at the state level? Just so you can stare at a useless building? Our economy is in the toilet. We need GDP producing efforts to maintain our already rich lifestyles, not meaningless icons. Take a picture of it to preserve that.

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Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm

There are many issues here in addition to the preservation of a historic building. If the Navy proceeds with their plan, they will remove the contaminated siding of historic Hangar One and do NO restoration.

This is a very dangerous precedent. Up until now, when the Navy has removed contamination, they also have done restoration i.e. if there is contaminated soil in a wetlands, the Navy doesn't just remove the soil and leave a big mess, but they do restoration as well. If the Navy follows this current plan, they will remove the contaminated siding and walk away. And the precedent? All over the country, whether private or government, this will be used as a model to remove but not restore. The other precedent has to do with historic preservation and if the government has a responsibility to only tear down a historic building -- and then to run away.

If the government pollutes my land, I don't want the precedent set that all they have to do is dig a big hole and remove the toxics and walk away. If they do it just one time, the thousands of other sites across the country which are contaminated will use this as an example of an acceptable process. And in Mountain View we have the MEW Superfund site and other sites that are under remediation for contamination; believe me, the polluters are watching this case very closely.

Private industry has been forced, when under pressure, to clean up their messes. Don't allow the Navy to remove the siding, leave a skeleton of a hanger which will slowly degrade, and walk away. Because who do you think will pay eventually to clean up the mess as the skeleton becomes a bird roost and rusts and falls apart over time? The Navy needs to remove and restore, not just remove contamination.

Hangar One has an incredible local history as far as aviation and airships. It housed airships almost as big as the hangar and is a part of local and national aviation history. Once restored, there are many groups who are showing interest in the hangar, and there is great potential for our community to benefit from having the hangar restored and in use.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:09 am

I really wish people who think there is no historic value would at least visit the Moffett Museum and educate themselves. I am glad that the City of Mtn View is stepping up and taking action on this.

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Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

I am very happy that the City of Mountain View is taking a stand for preservation of this historic structure. A small amount of US stimulus money will save it for coming generations to enjoy. Perhaps we could ask the governments of some of our WWII allies such as China to help with funding if we are so poor as a nation that we can't fund it ourselves.

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Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

I am all for preserving Military history, but do we need a 300,000sf relic to reach this goal? What the Navy should really offer is to build a nice new museum to showcase all that happened at Moffett Field over the years and just demolish the Hangar and get rid of the hazardous materials. If the Navy restores it, it's obvious that the facility has no purpose or use to the federal government. So why should we ask the government to pay for something they don't need? Do we really wonder why this country is in so much debt? If the citizens are so stuck on the idea of saving it, pass a tax to pay for the upkeep.
Also, if the Navy restores Hangar One, I'd be wary of NASA trying to capitalize and generate money by launching a harebrained scheme to house site seeing tour aircraft or another multi-engine aircraft mission.

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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2009 at 9:40 am

Hanger One may have some historical value. But not really much, as it is a mostly empty shell. Hanger One is nothing like the USS Hornet, which has so much stuff inside to tell so many stories of the past. But even the USS Hornet, with a lot of support fro veteran volunteers, is not in good shape right now, because there is only limited interest from the communities. Hanger One, if so-called preserved, would fare much worse. Few people, except those handful enthusiasts, will come around and do the concrete volunteer work necessary to support it. Those who speak so loudly for Hanger One preservation must ask themselves: how many of you are willing to put how much time and money to do the grunt work? And for how long?

And Hanger One is a giant eyesore. There is nothing aesthetic about it. If preserved, it will rob a vast piece land the potential of future economic development, especially residential development.

Or maybe this is exactly the hidden reason behind those who want it to be preserved: they are anti-development. They don't want any more people living or working in this area. They want this area just for themselves. They want to keep their house values high. etc, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2009 at 9:33 am

In response to Dan -
The cost to demolish the hanger and get rid of the toxic materials is prohibitive! Way more than the current proposal to remove and reskin.

In response to James - If you think that housing would go where the hangar currently sits, you have not investigated or thought that one out.
Anti-development? The hanger has generated global interest, including the possiblility of a Smithsonian West or a global tech center, air rescue - there are many "interested" parties who can only be interested at this point because the future of the hangar is uncertain. All these possibilities involve development of some sort - leaving a skeleton does not.

The public meetings generated interest from people all over the country, as well as local residents, far different from the handful that you suggest.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - to you it is an eyesore and has no aesthetic appeal; that is your opinion.
I do not understand how knocking down hangar one or leaving a skeleton "Keeps this area to myself" or "Improves my land value."

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