Report: city should consider ownership of Hangar One

Inspector General recommends that NASA give up Hangar One or scrap it

Demolish it or give it to some other government agency, that's the conclusion of a new report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General on historic Hangar One at Moffett Field. While drawing the displeasure of historic preservationists, the conclusion has boosted the idea that maybe the city of Mountain View should take control of the southwestern corner of Moffett Field where Hangar One is located.

The report, released Wednesday, concludes that NASA Ames Research Center cannot afford the $32.8 million to replace the toxic laminate siding on Hangar One that will be removed this year. The report recommends NASA examine the possibility of demolishing Hangar One or unload it on another government agency, such as a city or state government. In a letter released Wednesday, NASA associate administrator Woodrow Whitlow said NASA will examine exactly those options, along with restoration.

Just after the report was released, California Sen. Barbara Boxer's office called Mayor Jac Siegel Wednesday to ask if the city was still interested in saving Hangar One.

"I said absolutely we are," Siegel said of the brief conversation. Boxer's representative "said she's willing to go to bat for the hangar."

Siegel told the Voice that if it the city was asked to step up to the plate, "we certainly would entertain" the investigation of "city ownership of Hangar One, "no question about it. We would immediately convene a task force and try to figure it out."

Preservationists say the Navy should have stepped up.

"It's hard to criticize the OIG's conclusions," said Save Hangar One Committee member Steve Williams in a blog post. "With the U.S. economy in the dumper and political support for federal spending non-existent, I'm sure it's hard for NASA to justify spending money on a building that will never fly to Mars."

Williams blames the Navy for pushing the cost of restoring Hangar One onto NASA, which now owns the building. Even though that dispute was resolved by the Office of Management and Budget, "The Navy should be ashamed for abandoning Hangar One to the elements and victimizing NASA in this way," Williams writes. "The Navy has the money to re-skin Hangar One. The Navy knows that Hangar One is an icon of military history. Our community supported the Navy for all the decades Moffett Field served our national security. And yet the Navy is walking away and leaving Hangar One in jeopardy."

Taken "out of hide"

The OIG report said critical NASA Ames infrastructure projects would be delayed because of the $32.8 million Hangar One request, including $6 million to upgrade the center's failing 1940s electrical power station and $11 million to fix leaky roofs on Ames buildings that house millions of dollars worth of electronic equipment. The delays "could result in unsafe working conditions, higher annual maintenance costs, and damage to Agency equipment," the report states.

"We question whether expending more than $32 million to re-side a hangar that has no prospects for re-use for the foreseeable future and would require substantial additional investment to make it habitable is the best use of NASA's limited construction resources," the report states.

NASA may actually have the money, but NASA administrators who budget the Hangar One request "took it out of hide," which to say that headquarters wanted to make it painful for NASA Ames to continue fighting for Hangar One by delaying other critical projects, said Mountain View's Lenny Siegel, director the center for public environmental oversight and Save Hangar One member, referring to a conversation with a NASA official.

The benefits of city ownership

With wide support in the community for saving Hangar One, having local control of the landmark through city government has its appeal. The 211-foot-tall building, with a footprint equal to 10 football fields, could bring thousands of visitors to the city and bring new revenue to the city's waning budget. It could be used as a convention hall, as it has in the past, or a major air and space museum, as preservationists have advocated. Even an amusement park could easily fit inside.

The city does not immediately have $32 million dollars to save Hangar One, but raising the funds may be possible. Potential sources include the extension of the Shoreline tax district to include the south western corner of Moffett, said Lenny Siegel. That would allow access to Google's lucrative property tax revenue and the possibility of borrowing against those property taxes to fund the project. And if Moffett Field becomes the site of the 2020 World Expo, funding Hangar One's restoration would certainly be easier to justify.

The city would also have an easier time leasing Hangar One, and unlike NASA, may be allowed to make a profit from it, said Lenny Siegel. Part of the case made in the OIG report is that federal laws make it difficult for NASA to lease Hangar One to recoup expenses. NASA must charge a market rate for the space and NASA cannot credit the expense of tenant improvements to future lease payments, improvements which are expected to cost many millions. The $32 million to re-side the hangar only makes the building water-tight and does not include such items as fire sprinklers, lighting and utilities, the OIG report says.

But it wouldn't be a slam dunk for the city to acquire Hangar One. Other agencies legally have first dibs. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has suggested that Hangar One could make a good warehouse for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The University of California could also take on Hangar One for educational purposes as it builds a large campus slated next door. The Santa Clara County Airports Department, if it is ever asked to run the Moffett airfield, is another possible Hangar One owner.

But it is not uncommon for cities to successfully lobby for control of closed military bases. The City Council has discussed it in the past.

"It can be done and it has been done elsewhere with base closures," Lenny Siegel said. The problem is that "I don't know how Mountain View would handle a construction program of this magnitude. But Mountain View is in better shape than a lot of communities both in terms of resources and competency. If you are New York City and you have $32 million in construction costs, that's not a big deal. In Mountain View, it's major."

In the end, NASA may keep Hangar One, especially as NASA Ames continues to express interest in using it to house an airship development program, possibly for the department of defense or a private company.

Even if NASA doesn't use it, "I think it would pretty difficult for NASA to demolish it after the Navy spends all this money stripping it carefully and painting it," Lenny Siegel said. "But stranger things have been done."

See also: Dibs on Moffett


Posted by jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm

This is so encouraging to feel hope once again that this amazing and iconic building could continue to inspire the community and be here for the visitors to our town.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

re: "The Navy has the money to re-skin Hangar One. The Navy knows that Hangar One is an icon of military history."

The Navy is part of the Federal government. The Federal government is $14 trillion dollars in debt. So, does the Navy really have the money to re-skin Hangar One?

Hangar One is a cool, local landmark, but does it really rate as an "icon of military history"?

If the city could take over this land, it could be rezoned and used for a corporate headquarters, housing, etc. but that doesn't sound like what anyone is considering. I think Hangar One is neat, too, but sometimes you have to let the past go. We can't preserve everything.

Posted by Dennis, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hanger One is an icon of area and military history and anyone who dosen't think so is an idiot who is ignorant of local history. It should be saved at all costs in as complete condition as possible. Entering the hanger is like walking into another world of a bygone era!

Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

As always, it's a matter of cost vs benefit. If the city can take it over without impacting taxes or school funding, the champagne is on me. If not, removing the hangar will be like putting your old and sick dog down. Painful and heartbreaking, but better for everyone in the end.

Posted by Paul, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I agree with Dennis that the hangar must be saved at all costs (Well, other than a cost to me of course). Let's auction off Dennis' house, car and all of his personal belongings as a start on the cost of preserving the hangar. He can live at the hangar, making sure that no one spirits it away in the middle of the night, until the rest of the funds are raised.

Posted by Roxie, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 27, 2011 at 7:04 pm

One can't but wonder if this wasn't the NASA Ames / Navy plan all along. What I really don't understand is how we can justify, or wave away as inconsequential, the fact that our government continues to spend 10 BILLION (10,000 MILLION per Month or 120,000 MILLION per Year) dollars EVERY MONTH in the Middle East but they can't spare 32 million to restore a registered naval historic monument. Our tax dollars at work - what a joke.

Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 27, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Roxie, I hear you. But, to use an analogy, just because my wife blew $10,000 on jewelry doesn't mean that it's wise for me to splurge $100 on a silk tie. In fact, one might argue the opposite.
(Not that my wife has ever spent that kind of money on jewelry... that I know of :-)

Posted by Doug Pearson, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Like Dennis, I think Hanger One should be preserved. But, Dennis, such unnecessarily rude language is not called for.

As long as the Republican mantra, cut taxes, holds sway governments at all levels will not have the money for their work, including maintenance, which, in the final analysis, is what preserving Hanger One amounts to.

Unless some wealthy benefactors get together and pay for preserving Hanger One, I don't think it will happen.

Posted by Jim Van Pernis, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Perhaps NASA could transfer the Hangar 1 structure and the land below it back to DOD ownership, once it been fully de-sided in CY-2012, for its eventual reuse as a West Coast base for one or more of the large DOD airships currently under development and/or for housing the LTA craft the DOD already has in the Afghan and Iraq war that will eventually need to be brought back to the US and housed somewhere, until needed for support to the US war fighters elsewhere in the world. Re-siding of the Hangar doesn't have to occur in CY-2012. It will not immediately structurally collapse. The DOD's re-siding expense could be deferred until a re-sided Hangar is actually needed.

Posted by Mr. Big, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:01 am

Save the damn thing!

How do you pay for it??? Slap Google or Apple or Intel on the side of it in massive letters, it's the biggest billboard in the history.

Get I. M. Pei & Partners, Paul Andreu or hell even Apple (they know how to make large curved glass structures due to their retail store designs and the new world headquarters building that won't have a single straight piece of glass) to wrap it in glass, solar or LCD panels.

Then you put it to use the 2020 World Expo, followed by the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum West and use by NASA/UC.

Posted by Mr. Big, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:06 am

Look up: Chinese National Grand Theater for how it could look.

Posted by T , a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

Put solar panels on it: community effort coordinated by soloar deveoper. Individuals can purchase one or more panels for their personal energy needs. Who says your solar supply needs to be right on the roof of your house or apartment.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:20 am

If someone offers to sell you something that will require a toxic cleanup 3x your annual budget, the appropriate reaction is to run away as fast as you can.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Lots of uses for Hangar One just have to find the right one.

Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I don't believe there is any wide-spread support to save Hanger One using tax payers' money or not. It is a piece of relic, and an ugly one. It had served its purpose long, long time ago.

This land belongs to all of the constituents, not just a few history buffs and military aficionados. Let's free the land to build something more productive and more beautiful.

Posted by Dee, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm

James Hoosac,

Have you ever had the opportunity to go inside Hanger One,or stand next to it, or have you only viewed it from 101? Do you know the history of
Hanger One?

Web Link

Posted by tommygee54, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Use it as a hotel for the homeless.

Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm

To Dee: I have stood next to it a couple of times, and peeked inside. It's enormous when seeing it close. I saw quite a lot of pictures of it too. The history is well documented online and in some museums I went. The building had a purpose, and served that purpose well.

But it was not designed to last, or to look good aesthetically. It is giant polluted shell. It is expensive to maintain. It occupies an enormous piece of land that can be very productive for the local economy.

We can have a world wide architecture contest to design a modern building as voluminous as Hanger One, and build it at exactly the same location. It will be iconic, and last for generations. I'm sure a lot of developers would be interested in building it too.

Posted by Jim VanPernis, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Hangar1 could not be built today, as I understand it, because it would violate FAA regulations concerning height limits of new buildings near runways.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hangar 1 is not like "Field of Dreams" where if you build it (or save it) they will come. The cost to save this historic structure, and maintain it, is prohibitive and uneconomical. The Federal government wants to walk away from Hangar 1 because they can't afford it, and they can print money. If there are some deep-pocket private benefactors who want to preserve it and do something with it, have at it, but keep your hands out of my taxpayer pockets.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

The council should purchase the hangar with BMR funds and allow any homeless or low income person live there. If this is not enough money, council should require all of the people who belong to affordable housing groups, that have never spent a dime of their own money helping others, to sell their homes, donate the money to help pay for the hangar, and then live in it.

Posted by -A, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2011 at 1:30 am

This is not something we, Mountain View residents, should be taking on. The old base is a mess and needs to be cleaned up by the Navy, if that means taking down Hanger One so be it. I would like to see the great dirigibles flying through the bay area once again, but that will never happen, everything has its time. Lets free up the the view of the bay and concentrate on more productive things such as restoring the wetlands.

Posted by aFewCorrections, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 2, 2011 at 12:10 am

The Navy IS paying for the cleanup as we speak... when the BRAC commission shut down Moffett Field NAS, it was renamed Moffett Federal Air Field, and NASA took ownership. But, the cleanup responsibilities have remained with the Navy. The Navy wanted to demolish it, but NASA and Hangar One proponents lobbied for the Navy restore it. The Navy agreed to just remove all the toxic stuff and let NASA or private sources pay for the restoration part of the bill, rather than demolish it. Soooooo... NASA Ames wants to save it, and local representatives pushed for funding within the NASA budget, but the NASA Inspector General thinks otherwise (especially given the current climate in D.C.). Bottom line is if Congress earmarked it, it would get done, but no one is willing to stick their neck out for this... just not important enough on a national scale with an election upcoming. I'm a huge fan of saving it, but do not think that should come from public coffers (federal, state or local), but rather from private sources. The idea of a Smithsonian West has been raised a number of times, so I'm sure the Hiller Aviation Museum has been approached... problem is $15M-ish is not a trivial amount just to get it weatherproof (re-skin it), let alone prepare it for new tenants. I'll shed a tear, but suspect I'll watch the Hangar be demolished in the coming years :(

Posted by Seer Clearly, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 4, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Enough already with the hangar! It's always the same group of a fewnostalgia-obsessed old-timers who can't seem to bring themselves into the present that want to preserve it. Let's face it, nothing lasts forever, especially us! Not one use has been proposed for the hanger that would even pay the interest on a $32M loan to fix it up, yet the land under it is valuable as a corporate center, new neighborhood, or park - something that would benefit everyone or at least a large group of people, not just a few clingers-to-a-bygone-era. So what if it represents history. That's what history books and museums are for. Clean it up, raze it, and let's move on to making the future what we want it to be, not clinging desperately to the past.

Posted by ME, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 6, 2011 at 1:00 am

Google is silent - let's listen to them and scrap the eyesore!

Posted by Michael, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2011 at 8:59 am

Replace the shell with translucent fabric and turn it into the new San Francisco 49ers stadium complete with corporate luxury boxes, etc!

Posted by PH, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

I've had my say before and I bet many have read my opinion. So this time I simply say it is the right thing to save Hanger 1 and once it is gone we can't go back and change our minds.

Posted by Dee, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm


I'm curious what age group in your mind is "old-timers"?

My guess it is not people in their 20's or 30's. I know several people in this age group who see the value in preserving Hanger 1.

Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

The recent turn in events does bring new possibilities for Hangar 1. IMO, any sustainable future for the hangar will be one that incorporates private funds for non-governmental uses. That said, there's a lot of potential in the land and structure that the Navy will leave behind once cleanup is done.

I'd like to hear more ideas. Some of the ones posed in this thread are really creative and intriguing. With the potential of the an upcoming World's fair or even the Olympics being hosted in the Bay Area, there might be opportunities that need only the right individuals with funding to realize something truly iconic.

Posted by aFewCorrections, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Maybe a mega-sized planet granite? I remember watching a disaster response team demonstration in there years ago... picture sheer walls and cables crossing the thing. An adventure wonderland if not for liability.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Lot of silly comments above from people who fortunately have no money to purchase the Hangar. This structure would need a tremendous amount of money to make it usable for anything other than a large sculpture.

Posted by Otto Maddox, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Sorry folks, the party is over. Time to let that big eye sore go.

The money to "restore" it is a waste.

Then if you do restore is, there's going to be upkeep. Who will pay for that?

You'd had YEARS to find private donors to take this on. Too late.

Posted by Viv, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 22, 2011 at 4:03 am

A zipline company should open up in there! Imagine a huge ropes course network that could be used for corporate team building exercises!

Posted by Mustafa Deniz Yıldırım, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi, i think turning this building to a factory 2 [from 24 hour party people movie] to use like an electronic music cathedral. Imagine a space age electronic music stage moving through the air on thousands of people. :D Looks nice i guess.

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