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Siegel calls for hangar committee

 

Council member Jac Siegel wants the city to take a role in the reuse of historic Hangar One, and on Tuesday the City Council briefly discussed forming of an official committee to facilitate the process.

"I think it's clearly something Mountain View should take leadership on," Siegel said in a phone interview.

Council members did not express opposition to the idea when Siegel brought it up Tuesday.

"I'm very interested in forming a group with NASA and Sunnyvale if we're expecting regional, federal or state bodies to work with us," said council member Ronit Bryant. "This is our backyard."

The Navy's recent announcement -- that it will remove the Hangar's toxic siding but not pay the additional $15 million needed to re-skin it -- opens up an opportunity for the city, Siegel says.

The council member, who once worked in Hangar One equipping planes for GTE, envisions it being used as a convention center, as it was during air shows and other events during the 1980s and 1990s. There is definitely space for numerous different uses: Built in 1932 to house the USS Macon airship, the hangar is 200 feet tall and covers an area the size of 10 football fields.

Mountain View should begin the process, Siegel said, by forming a committee on reuse of the structure. A binding decision will not be made until the issue is put on a future council agenda.

The Save Hangar One Committee (SHOC), a group of local preservationists, has called for an official committee similar to one organized in the 1990s after the Navy left the base to NASA. That committee -- composed of nine members from Sunnyvale, nine from Mountain View and one at-large member -- decided on a research park for Moffett.

But Siegel, who hopes to be on any future reuse committee, says this case is different, since the Hangar is within Mountain View's sphere of influence at Moffett, while Sunnyvale's sphere of influence is mostly on the eastern side of the airfield. "But if we wind up getting Sunnyvale involved," that's fine, he said.

Though funding seems to be elusive, there has been no shortage of ideas for the building: an air and space museum, a FEMA emergency stockpile location, a base for nonprofit humanitarian relief operations, a research and development center for alternative energy.

"All of these ideas seem to be plausible and potentially viable uses," wrote Save Hangar One Committee member Lenny Siegel (no relation) in a press release. "But until they are vetted in a public forum with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, much will remain unknown about the pros and cons of these reuse concepts. In the absence of the type of public process we propose, we believe that reuse planning might be mired in controversy, undermining efforts to restore the hangar."

SHOC is continuing to push the Navy to fulfill its alleged legal obligations to restore the hangar, with many members saying that leaving the bare skeleton standing could lead to serious corrosion.

A public meeting on the Navy's recent Environmental Evaluation and Cost Analysis will be held Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Santa Clara, 2120 Walsh Ave. More information is available at www.nuqu.org or www.savehangarone.org.

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