There may be hope for Hangar One after all, city officials say, after Congresswoman Anna Eshoo negotiated with the Navy to delay plans to strip the structure for 30 days.
The Navy, NASA Ames and the city of Mountain View have been debating the future of Hangar One for years. But discussions were at a relative standstill over the past several weeks after Navy officials announced they had resolved once and for all to strip the historic structure's toxic siding away and leave a bare skeleton behind -- an option preservationists said would spell the end for the hangar. Before its discussions with Eshoo, the Navy reportedly was trying to enter into a contract by the end of the month to remove the siding.
Earlier this week, Eshoo sent out a press release saying that after meeting with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, he had agreed to "delay any action for 30 days to determine a mutually acceptable solution for both NASA Ames and the city of Mountain View."
"Both the Secretary and the Undersecretary understand the history and significance of Hangar One and are willing to examine new avenues to facilitate its restoration and reuse," Eshoo said in the press release. "I am eager to move forward with NASA and the Navy so that together, we will find the right solution."
On Wednesday, city manager Kevin Duggan applauded the development, though he remained cautiously optimistic.
"We view the delay as good. But it is not a solution. What is critical now is that a solution needs to be reached," he said. "The patient is very much at risk."
Duggan, who calls the hangar an "iconic structure," said the city plans to join in the discussion and "will get more involved if a contact comes up."
The more delay the better, he added, because once arrangements are made for re-covering the hangar -- arrangements which have been elusive so far -- the whole process will be easier and less expensive if it's done right after the Navy removes the toxic siding.
Last month, Mountain View City Council members sent a letter to the Navy saying that "the skin should not be removed until a plan was in place to replace it," Duggan said.
"We were concerned," he said, that "when the Navy made a contract, we would be at a point of no return."
Navy and NASA Ames representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Others who have closely watched the debate over the hangar's fate also said they were happy with the Navy's decision to hold off for 30 days.
"It certainly looks encouraging," said Bob Moss, co-chair of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board.
NASA inherited Moffett Field from the Navy in 1993, but environmental cleanup of the site, including the hangar, is still the Navy's responsibility. The Navy put a protective coating on the hangar's outer panels after dangerous PCBs and other chemicals were found to be leaching from the siding. Although the coating has worked as a stopgap measure, experts say the hangar will eventually start releasing toxins once more.