Last week, the Navy released a report offering to do half the preservation job, stripping off the poisonous siding and leaving a bare skeleton for someone else to re-skin. The long-awaited report is being viewed as a partial victory by Hangar One supporters, who are nevertheless upset over what amounts to half a loaf.
On the one hand, the offer does possibly save the hangar from total demolition. On the other hand, the Navy, at least in this offer, is refusing to follow through on saving it.
After peeling off the current siding and cleaning the underlying iron structure of PCBs, then spraying it with a preservative coating, the Navy proposes to walk away. To cover the resulting gigantic eyesore would take another $15 million, the Navy says, and that would constitute "reuse," which is "the responsibility of federal property owner [currently NASA], which is a separate federal action from the Navy's environmental restoration efforts."
That "reuse" label does not sit well with local activist Lenny Siegel, who believes re-covering the hangar is more akin to "restoration" — putting it back in the Navy's court. Siegel, co-chair of the Save Hangar One Committee, believes this head-bumping over semantics is the Navy's way of attempting to shirk its responsibility for removing the toxic siding on Hangar One and replacing it with a new skin.
The Navy should not be able to play fast and loose with this landmark structure, which has towered over Moffett Field and the Bayshore Freeway for nearly 80 years. The Navy has a huge conflict of interest in this decision, since it must pay for whatever action it decides to take on the hangar. Instead, the decision should be made by California's Congressional delegation, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Rep. Anna Eshoo.
It is time for the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale to work on forming a broadly based committee that could evaluate options — and perhaps even lobby for federal help — to complete restoration of the hangar. Certainly there is precedent for the federal government to appropriate funds to restore such a historic landmark. In fact, the NASA Research Park idea was created in this way.
Given the solid backing Hangar One has in both communities, we urge the cities to register their support with their representatives in Washington. We hope the outcome will either lead to a direct appropriation or push the Navy to do the job right. If the California delegation stays focused and makes its views known, a complete Hangar One project can be underway in a few years.