News

Stripped Hangar One "a failure in government"

Moffett restoration board sends letter to federal officials over funding

The Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board members signed a letter in support of NASA's $32.8 million request to re-skin Moffett Field's historic Hangar One -- a response to news that the NASA Inspector General is questioning the merit of that request.

The board, which represents environmental regulators, historians, community members and officials from Mountain View and Sunnyvale, signed the letter Thursday evening, May 12.

RAB Co-chair Bill Berry said it should be clear to federal officials that leaving Hangar One a bare skeleton "is going to be emblematic of a failure in government. I can't think of a better point to make in Washington."

U.S. Navy contractor Amec Environmental has begun removing the siding, which contains layers of toxic PCB's, lead and asbestos. The project has required 225 semi-truck loads of scaffolding to be installed inside Hangar One, with some coming from as far away as Florida, said Navy official Bryce Bartelma.

The RAB's letter was sent to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, California congress members and NASA's Inspector General's office, which is conducting an audit on NASA's 2012 funding request for new Hangar One siding.

Amec and Navy officials say Hangar One's frame will be coated with paint that has a 12-year warranty and may last 30 years, but many are still very concerned about corrosion and public opinion turning against an eyesore. And bird nesting in the frame may cause "bird air strike hazards" (the Navy's use of the acronym "BASH" drew chuckles) for the adjacent runway.

An 'eyesore'

"Unless Hangar One is recovered it's not going to be good for any reuse purpose or mission," the letter says. Hangar One "will be there as an emblematic eyesore reminder of a failed preservation effort." Recovering the hangar is "the logical next step" and would allow it to continue to be "a Bay Area icon."

Addressing the Inspector General's reported concerns that NASA doesn't have a mission for Hangar One to justify the restoration expense, the letter points out that NASA's unique responsibility in restoring the hangar is the result of an agreement with the Navy, which left Moffett in 1994.

"NASA's support for recovering Hangar One is consistent with its obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Office of Management and Budget's decision to share the cleanup and re-covering of costs for Hangar One between the Navy and NASA," the letter reads.

Surprising discovery

The first panels removed on the southern roof of the hangar have exposed a layer of redwood that preservationists say they were unaware of. The wood is laid underneath the black upper portion of the hangar. The tongue and groove sections create a herringbone pattern, Bartelma said.

Board members were surprised to learn that the wood is set to be removed and sold.

"I'm very uncomfortable that a piece of the hangar that is historic is now going to be sold off," said Steve Williams, RAB member and Save Hangar One Committee member. There needs to be a discussion about "whether we're going to use historic parts of the hangar to restore the hangar or are we going to sell them off?"

NASA Ames official Ann Clarke added that NASA Ames' facilities engineering department "has their eye on that wood."

Damaged windows

Deb Feng, NASA Ames deputy director, explained that NASA has decided not to save hundreds of unique corrugated and wire-reinforced upper windows because "there aren't many that aren't damaged."

Preservationists appeared to accept that assessment after seeing images of numerous cracked and shattered windows projected on a large screen. Some suggested that the surviving windows be sold as souvenirs, much like portions of cable from the Golden Gate Bridge have been sold and turned into a source of funds.

"I think these could be sold and the money could go into the re-siding of the hangar," was a comment from one observer.

Smithsonian center

Hangar One discussions ended with a presentation on efforts to partner with the Smithsonian Museum to re-use Hangar One as an earth, air and space center. Larry Ellis, CEO of the Air and Space West Education Foundation, (ASWEF) said officials in Washington D.C. like the idea of using the hangar as a distribution center for Smithsonian exhibits which rarely come to West Coast museums. The idea of using Hangar One as a museum itself has yet to gain traction.

ASWEF, the board of which includes Save Hangar One Committee leaders, has also reframed its pitch with a new focus on using Hangar One as an education center focused on earth, air and space sciences, helping to fulfill NASA's requirement to provide public education in science, technology, engineering and math. They also say it could also be a part of the planned university campus at the adjacent NASA Research Park, which has been put on hold because of uncertainties about World Expo 2020 coming to Moffett Field.

At the meeting, Feng continued to express NASA Ames' interest in using at least part of Hangar One to house modern airships.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nitpicker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Larry Ellis, CEO of the Air and Space West Education Foundation, (ASWEF) said... -> Larry Ellis, CEO of the Air and Space West Education Foundation (ASWEF), said...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frankie Div
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm

If it is torn down completely then it won't be an eyesore. There are so many better things to spend tens of millions of dollars on than restoring this hanger, and I'm sure most people would agree. Why not put an initiative on the local ballots, to add fifty bucks to all car licenses registered in the Bay Area to save this? We'll see how far that goes. And in any case, NASA's money is still your money, because it's taxpayer money. And if Mountain View residents don't want to pony up the money themselves, making people in other states pay for it via their federal wages, makes even less sense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

If it stays stripped,how about putting up a BIG sign that says:

HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT VIEWS THE TAXPAYER

THE BROKEN PROMISE

I warned people about DELAY IS THE DEADLIEST FORM OF DENIAL

Remember the " Freeway that goes nowhere " in San Jose....maybe we can keep the HUMILIATING pressure on the Feds...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

A sustainable society, both ecologically and financially recognizes that re-reoofing 8.5 acre building for $32.8 million (or $14 million) is far less expensive to both our environment, our pocketbook, and social memory than slashing and burning an iconic National Historic Site, like the Huns would have done. Let's grow up as a society and recognize the fiscal benefit and sensibility of appropriate reuse, acting like responsible tax payers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

AC is a registered user.

I'm sorry Frankie Div, but I would much rather "waste" money on preserving our history and heritage than a whole lot of the other things our government wastes money on. Both our local and federal government, mind you.

And I have no personal connection to the hangar at all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

It shows a total lack of grown-up perspective to think that the government's priority in a time of recession and widespread unemployment, three foreign wars, etc. should be preserving a hangar because it's really big and old.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John doe
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2011 at 11:57 pm

How many NON-white people actually support this? NONE.... Why? There are more important things in life......Poverty, education, homelessness.... spending 32 Mil of TAXPAYERS money on Hanger reskin will not help any of these..... MY POINT is: If you want it then pay for it yourself and not ask others or Gov money (my money too)... It is a nalstagic cause at best...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rational
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 21, 2011 at 5:47 am

More people means more buildings, the population centers aren't shrinking in this country. If it's less expensive to re-roof a building than rebuild anew, isn't that the sensible choice?

The challenge to NASA is to find the right tenant. If It takes NASA time, is it responsible tax dollars to spend millions of additional dollars and tear down the entire building?

What's truly fiscally responsible?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another view
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Spending any money on the hanger is a diversion of funds that the Defense department could put to better use elsewhere. Tear it down and let's focus on more important issues.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

USA is a registered user.

Not spending taxpayer money = "a failure in government"

OK, got it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by VSA
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

The defense department could instead spend the $30M to pay for 99.1 minutes of the war in Afghanistan. Or 25 cruise missiles for Libya.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2011 at 10:38 pm

USA is a registered user.

Good point, VSA. $30 million to play Whack-A-Mole in Libya and take down Gaddafi would be well spent.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Catherine
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

NASA should send the soon to be retired space shuttles to be put on display here.


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