Council joins call for Hangar 'summit'

Preservationists want top federal officials to work out a deal to save historic structure

Frustration with the Navy's plan to leave Moffett Field's iconic Hangar One as a bare skeletal frame appears to have reached a boiling point, if a recent meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board is any indication.

The June 11 meeting brought about 100 hangar supporters to the conference room of NASA Building 943, where Navy representatives made it clear that the fate of Hangar One hangs in the balance. The Navy said a contractor would be hired by the end of July to carry out its plan to remove the hangar's toxic siding over a 30-month period -- with no plan to re-skin it.

Opposition to the Navy's plan is unanimous among local community leaders and elected officials. Last Tuesday, the Mountain View City Council joined the RAB in asking the Navy for a Hangar One "summit" or "all hands meeting" between top Navy officials, NASA and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.

"Senior Navy leadership is being informed of the request," said John Hill, Navy base closure manager for Moffett Field, in an e-mail Tuesday. "Navy responses to Representative Eshoo and NASA are forthcoming; therefore meeting attendees and a meeting schedule have not been established at this time."

Preservationists say the clock is ticking for Hangar One once a contractor is hired by the Navy. They say removing the hangar's toxic galbestos siding with no plan to re-cover the frame will lead to corrosion of the well-preserved skeletal structure and possibly turn it into a huge bird's nest -- a safety hazard for aircraft taking off and landing there.

Lew Braxton, NASA Ames deputy director, said it would be "unwise" to move forward without a plan to re-skin the hangar, which NASA plans to re-use.

"I'm afraid you are going down a road" on which "there is no going back," added Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight to the Navy.

The Navy was apologetic about its plan, which is opposed by every elected official in the area, including Congresswoman Eshoo and the Mountain View and Sunnyvale city councils.

"The Navy is not enthusiastic about moving forward without support from the community at all levels," Hill said. But he added that "any additional delay could cost the Navy millions of dollars."

The frustrations of many were summed up by one RAB meeting attendee, who said he was baffled that the hangar is in jeopardy even though it's registered with the federal government as a historic building.

"Why do we even bother to register our historic places at all?" he asked.

The Navy and NASA continued to blame each other for not coming to an agreement on how to pay for re-skinning the hangar. In March, it appeared that the two sides had nearly reached an agreement: The Navy would put a new skin on, and in return NASA Ames would take on some additional responsibility for cleaning up the toxic substances left around Moffett Field by the Navy, freeing the Navy of obligations that could extend for decades. Cash-strapped NASA said it would rather pay the incremental costs of environmental cleanup than the high up-front cost of restoring the hangar.

But those talks have since broken down. The Navy blames NASA for not having a plan for the hangar, while NASA says the Navy wants to saddle it with excessive costs and liabilities.

The Navy says re-skinning will only cost $15 million, but according to several speakers last week, the Navy itself apparently believes it could cost more than twice that. Braxton said NASA also is concerned about whether the re-skinned hangar would be "watertight."

It was noted at the meeting that the hangar's 6,000 windows will probably be destroyed in the process of removing the skin. So will the many of hangar's historic interior structures.

"There isn't anything left to save 10 to 15 months into" the Navy's plan, said Carl Honaker, the last chief officer at Moffett Field before the Navy left in 1994.

Board co-chair Bob Moss continued to advocate unsuccessfully for the RAB to support leaving the hangar's siding intact and instead give it a $30 million coating to lock in hazardous chemicals. The Navy, and the RAB, rejected the idea, known as "Alternative Four," because it is considered to be a relatively temporary solution.

"I don't want to spend anybody's time beating a dead horse," said Peter Strauss, technical advisor at the Center for Public Environmental Oversight.


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Posted by bb
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I had to laugh.

We're willing to pay $15-30 million to keep a hangar?

I could see if it's been around for hundreds of years, but please, raze it and save our tax dollars...

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Posted by gc
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm

People who have never been inside Hanger 1 should not comment without knowing its past. Just as we save old houses and historical landmarks, Hanger 1 significant value and is a technological marvel. I first saw the hanger when they offered balloon rides inside. And you had your choice of three full sized balloons. The structure is truly unique and can be a good asset for the area. ie. Space camp, NASA displays

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Posted by Karen
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

Why doesn't Google just donate the money to reskin it and then slap a big Google logo on it. Visible to everyone landing at SFO!

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I think that the message we're getting from our economy is to learn to focus on what matters. For most people, that is the future, not the past. Yes, it's great to learn from the past, but we can do that with history books and museums. This may be history, but it is no more so for some than say, Foster's Freeze, which is mouldering on El Camino despite being the teen hangout of many residents. Ultimately, we all want a beautiful, safe, enjoyable, economically viable Mountain View. Does the hangar contribute to any of these needs? No, and in fact it detracts from them by diverting the community's energy and money from creating the future we want by spending it on making some people who cling to the past happy. If this was such a good idea, it would already have come to pass because the citizens of Mountain View would have made it a priority. Instead, our future is being held hostage by a tiny, vocal minority that doesn't have our best interests at heart.

As an example, would you rather have the Stevens Creek Trail be completed - a trail that thousands use and enjoy - or would you like to keep a landmark that most of us have never been in and never will?

It's time to make some choices since we clearly can't live the lives of spoiled children as we have in the past, having our cake and eating it too. Let's focus on what matters.

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Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 24, 2009 at 9:46 pm

- The Navy has spent a boatload (no pun intended) of money over the past few years dragging their feet on this project. This is the outcome they were planning for all along, hopefully they will not get away with it.

- Note to Seer who compares a run-down Fosters Freeze on El Camino to Hangar One, you need to visit the Moffett History Museum.

- Are the Google founders still using Moffett as their own private airfield? That privilege should be worth at least 15-20M.

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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Yes!!! Google is using Moffett Field as their own private airfield.

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Posted by Katherine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The hangar is a major landmark for us - like San Francisco's Golden Gate. Every time I fly home, it is great to see that welcoming sight. I'm very frustrated by the Navy - we keep trying to come up with solutions, none of them that they want to entertain...

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