No easy solutions for Hangar One

Demolition option could result in lawsuit by preservationists

NASA headquarters and House Republicans now appear to view the demolition of Hangar One as a real possibility, but it would "make a mockery" of federal historic preservation law and "ignores years of discussion by the local community and government agencies," preservationists say in a letter to be sent to Washington D.C.

Federal funding is the only practical way to re-skin historic Hangar One, preservationists say, and any plans by NASA to demolish it or transfer it to another agency could take many years, cause degradation of its exposed frame and lead to legal complications, including a potential lawsuit over demolition.

The Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board voted to send the letter, available in draft form Thursday, to the Office of the Inspector General.

The OIG, which reports to Congress, has recommended that Hangar One be demolished or transferred to another government agency because the $32.8 million project has no officially designated use and would mean major cuts to more critical NASA projects.

While preservationists say the OIG report ignored NASA's legal obligations to preserve the hangar under two statutes, NASA headquarters concurred with the OIG report, saying that demolition and transfer to another agency should be studied, options noted by the House Appropriations Committee after it decided to kill President Obama's request for $32.8 million for Hangar One in NASA's 2012 budget.That request was made after negotiations between the United States Navy, NASA and the White House put the responsibility on NASA, although some preservationists believe the Navy should have been held responsible.

"It's deeply disappointing to see the Republicans cut out the entire funding, but I will not give up fighting for the complete restoration of Hangar One," said Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in a statement. "It's a national treasure and when re-skinned, it will once again be an essential asset to Silicon Valley and our country."

"There have been many bumps in the road" for Hangar One, Eshoo said. "I consider this yet another bump."

Demolition of Hangar One would "turn much of the Navy's projected $26 million disassembly (siding removal) into financial waste," the letter from the RAB says. It adds that demolition would likely cost "upwards of $11 million" and would significantly reduce the value of the Moffett Field historic district.

On Thursday Moffett RAB member Steve Williams questioned a NASA Ames Research Center official on whether NASA wants the local community to continue fighting for its $32.8 million request.

"It isn't something Ames can do by itself," said Deb Feng, deputy director of NASA Ames. "I don't see the priority across the agency. We do have 10 centers. The $32 million is a tough pill to swallow. We don't have an identified, concrete use," for Hangar One.

"How hard does Ames want to go up the ladder at NASA and fight for the hangar?" Williams asked Feng, who said she couldn't answer.

"Those are decisions made way above my pay grade," Feng said. "They are now at the Congressional level."

NASA has until Nov. 30 to study alternatives for Hangar One and report back to Congress.

Former NASA administrator and RAB co-chair Bill Berry said NASA's proposed budget cuts were the worst he had seen. "NASA is more worried about the Hubble telescope replacement than Hangar One, I can assure you," he said, expressing doubt that NASA could fund Hangar One in 2012 or 2013.

If NASA were to consider demolition it would open the federal government up to a lawsuit under the National Historic Preservation Act and Superfund law, which the OIG report failed to mention, said Superfund expert Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in Mountain View.

The OIG "report ignored NASA's responsibility, before taking any management action to further erode the historic integrity of the Hangar, to engage in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office, ACHP, and the public under procedures set out in section 106 regulations," says the letter, co-authored by Siegel and Berry.

The Mountain View City Council in 2009 said it would support a city-sponsored lawsuit against the Navy for removing the siding of Hangar One without a plan for new siding. That suit never came to fruition, but there is likely to be even more of a desire by the council to take action against the entire removal of Hangar One. The council has not yet taken an official position, though.

There is also the possibility that the city could take ownership of Hangar One and the southwestern corner of Moffett Field, but Siegel is cautioning City Council members to consider that it could take at least five years to do that under the best circumstances, and probably even longer, considering how long it has taken other former military bases to transfer to neighboring cities, such as Hunter's Point in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Navy is set to remove the toxic siding from Hangar One by early 2012 and coat the frame with a coating guaranteed to last 11 years. Preservationists believe the frame will still degrade once exposed to the elements.

Siding removal update

After some delays caused by rain, last week siding removal exposed Hangar One's skeletal frame for the first time on the southern doors of the hangar. Blue sky can now been from inside the 211-foot-tall structure.

The Navy has removed the man-cranes that travel on tracks along the ceiling of the hangar and will preserve them. They will be cleaned and stored by NASA, along with 25 of the hangar's unique corrugated windows, a project for which the Navy recently awarded a contract. Hangar One's massive door mechanisms will be cleaned, painted and wrapped to protect them from the elements, said Navy project manager Bryce Bartelma.

But preservationists were highly disappointed to learn that the unique redwood sheathing under the roof of the hangar are up for sale by Navy contractor Amec Environmental. Feng said NASA has no money to purchase the tongue and groove panels that make herringbone pattern under the roof, which could otherwise be part of Hangar One's eventual restoration. She also said the panels could not be used under state fire codes, which architect Linda Ellis said was untrue as Hangar One is a historic building.

"It is simply not appropriate to defer costs by selling historic materials that could be re-used in the Hangar," RAB member Williams said.

Amec president Mike Shulz said that the redwood was simply referred to as sheathing for the roof as Amec made its contract with the Navy. Preservationists were unaware of the redwood until recently.

Bartelma said the Navy has finished construction of scaffolding in most of the hangar, which was a "massive, massive project" and "quite a sight to see." There have also been no accidents among workers over the last year, even as work occurs 200 feet above the ground.


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Posted by reader
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm

This whole thing is ridiculous! It's time to let go of the old hanger and to open up space for new land use. It's kind of like the stuff that piles up in our lives (our garage, attic, etc)... It's still good stuff that should have a good home, but you don't actually need it anymore. Awareness and celebration of history is honorable and important, but letting go of the past and related physical things can be liberating, and enable pathways to new fulfillment.

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Posted by LetMeGetThisStraight
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm

So... an Obama nominated, Democratic Congress-confirmed NASA IG concludes it should be demolished, the Obama-appointed NASA leadership agrees, and when Republicans that RAN on fiscal responsibility remove funding for it (while looking for ways to cut TRILLIONS), they are somehow misguided?! I'm sorry, I'd love to see the Hangar restored, but if this does not qualify as low hangin fruit in the budget battle, we are truly lost.

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Posted by ILuvHangerOne
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2011 at 1:22 am

By not restoring the old hanger, you are not honoring the history and culture of this great region. For over sixty years that hanger has been a guide for many an airplane pilot and is a symbol of the military’s long standing history in the Mountain View /Sunnyvale cities. Yes it is a lot of money, but just like a classic car, sometimes it is just worth it in the long run. There are so many things that could be done with a hanger of that size, the potential for revenue and use is endless. For example, with NASA ending the Shuttle program, it could be a hanger for new privatized aircraft that will enter space or an “airport for space travel”. It couldn’t be in a better place than so close to a NASA installation.

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Posted by HangarOneFan
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Somewhere on here, someone suggested making it the Smithsonian Museum West Coast for Aviation history. What a great idea! They could even fit a Space Shuttle in there and pay homage to that now defunct program.

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Posted by LetMeGetThisStraight
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Moffett Field FAF as a Spaceport?! the local communities complain about the few flights a day that operate today. There is a reason launch facilities are miles from any dense population. Even mothership launch requires some pretty nasty fuels for the spaceplane... do you think after restoring the wetlands from salt evaporators marsh they'd allow large quantities of rocket fuel on Moffett? I wish, but that is a pipe dream.

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Posted by JakiChan
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

If we're all for getting rid of all the cruft then hey, why not just get rid of Ames? They aren't doing anything important. We can turn it into more overpriced condos or something.

And meanwhile - can we nuke the Golden Gate Bridge? That think is WAY too inefficient. Let's put up something that can carry 4x the traffic.

History is for suckers, right?

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Posted by ILuvHangerOne
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm

HangerOne Fan is correct. A few months ago this paper wrote about the possibilities of Hanger One becoming part the Smithsonian. That was an awesome idea. There were also discussions somewhere about it possibly being a site for a World's Fair, another interesting idea.

As for my idea on a space Transportation airport, that was just an idea. It wasn't one to be judged with snarky remarks. It is part of the dialog. My main point is, there are many solutions to saving a historical landmark and we don't just have to say, 'hey it is old, let's just chuck it'. What would your grandparents or parents say if you said that to them?

We need to have respect for people, our history, and our region. HangerOne was home to a cutting edge aircraft balloon. We are in one of the most cutting edge places on earth. We need to use that creative strength and make some thing that is old and historic, new and innovative again.

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Posted by PH
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Why don't some of the people with money get together and help save the structure. It really doesn't take much from a few with the ability to get this done. There are many up sides to saving the hanger and once it is gone we will wish we had saved it. Everyone from the Navy to NASA and all the others who are involved with this project should get together with private funds and do something to make it happen. We save houses that have no where near the historical value and refuse to find a way to save something this incredible because no one wants to pay the bill.

It's too bad they didn't do the right thing and clean the mess up when the Navy left. If they had, it wouldn't be a problem now.

No matter who is responsible, someone needs to step up soon or we will lose a marvelous piece of history.

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Posted by LetMeGetThisStraight
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm

My comments were not meant to be snarky, just being realistic. The communities surrounding Moffett FAF are almost unanimously set against using the airfield for its original purpose (aircraft operations). I fully realize the historical significance of Hangar One, and think it should be restored. The Hangar was built to house the USS Macon... an airship. The Macon was one of the largest aircraft to ever exist at 784 ft (Hindenburg was 20ft longer, but did not carry 5 Sparrowhawk fighters on board)... a 747-400 is only 232 ft long. One of my favorite historical pictures of the area is of the Macon outside Hangar One, alongside a dirt or gravel road which was later to become the bayshore freeway... parked along the road were a handful of Model As and Model Ts (I think). Being inside Hangar One was dizzying... walking the catwalks even more so. Must have been a majestic site to have witnessed an airship nearly 800ft long descend through the clouds. One of my favorite stories from the Moffett museum was the original naming of NAS Sunnyvale... most of the land was Mountain View, but congress critters at the time were seen as unlikely to approve funding for an air station that airships would operate out of in a place with mountains nearby.

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Posted by joseph
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 17, 2011 at 8:30 am

Well, maybe there would be money in the state coffers for use on this project, among others, except the DEMOCRATS in office keep driving business out of the state. The latest job killing fiasco that is resulting in loss of revenue for the state is the DEMOCRATS ban on gold mining via suction dredging with-in the state's waterways. This eliminates vital tax revenue the state needs, puts people out of work, and drives yet another industry OUT of California into neighboring states, Oregon in particular. Way to go with more of your job killing, DEMOCRATS.

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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Well, actually, building condos (and other housing) there, would help reduce the cost of all those overpriced condos (and other housing).

Like this comment
Posted by Terminator
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2011 at 1:21 am

Nuke it. From orbit. It's the only way to be sure...

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Posted by Ivan Idea
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 10:10 am

Can the folks at the day worker's center submit a bid to clean it up?
A lower cost labor group might be able to do it more cheaply. The only caveat: Is legal status needed to clean a gov't facility? If so, don't ask them if they are legally here (wink wink).

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

There IS an "easy solution". Demolish it and use the land for something that benefits more than the tiny, vocal minority who cling to the past desperately rather than joyfully plunging into a better future.

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Posted by HangarOne Fan
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Hmm, if history is clinging to the past, then we might as well demolish the Acropolis, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China too. Some of us just want Mountain View to retain its history and individuality as an American city and not just another faceless, Walmart-ville, strip-malled, McDonalds-off-the-freeway truck stop town.

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Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

It amazes me how many people around here put no value on historical preservation. All they want to do is build more high tech campuses and high density housing. Maybe Paris should demolish the Eiffel Tower and build a high rise in its place, same for the Roman Forum, the Acroplis and the ancient monuments and Castles prevalent throughout Europe; just a bunch of deteriorating eyesores that serve no purpose...just like Hangar One.

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Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

The sad thing is that the foot dragging of the Navy has probably cost more in staff and consulting hours then if they just took care of it years ago. Our tax dollars at work.

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Posted by Croc Dundee
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Everyone is opposed to special interests, unless they have a special interest themselves. The feds can't afford it, the state can't afford it, the county can't afford it and the city can't afford it. There has been ample time for a group to get together and fund it with donations. The fact that such a group has not obtained funding tells us that there is not sufficient support for the idea. People were willing to pony up to save the USS Hornet in Alameda, but apparently people aren't willing to pony up for Hangar One. Put up or let it go.

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Posted by Old Guy at Cuesta Park
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Since we do not know the future of the hangar, why is the skin being removed?

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Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm

as mentioned the navy spent a FORTUNE in consulting fees and town meetings over the past years on this, with that said this would be a great opportunity for Google to step up since they have essentially taken over most of MV and Moffett Field, they should restore it, a drop in their very large bucket.

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Posted by Sabrina
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm

HangerOne Fan:

"Some of us just want Mountain View to retain its history and individuality as an American city and not just another faceless, Walmart-ville, strip-malled, McDonalds-off-the-freeway truck stop town."

Well put!! I support the preservation of Hanger One, it is an important reminder of Mountain View's military history. It is, indeed, a shame that we have now (historically) the highest number of poor people in America mixed with the highest number of the wealthy people, ever--and yet where has all the public money gone?

California has tremendous resources. It is tragic that we can't even get $32.8 million in funding together when, for example, $66 million has been invested by VCs on worthless startups like Meebo over the past five years (worthless, to me, because they aren't even creating technology of the breed that has make Silicon Valley great).

Half of that investment would create a historical facility that would remind our children, for generations, of what Mountain View once had. This is so absurd. I really hope Anna Eshoo is able to gain the funding necessary to preserve Hanger One.

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

If you think that Hangar One is the same as the Pyramids, the Great Wall, or even the Eiffel Tower, you've lost your perspective on history. Historic monuments commemorate events, periods, or transitions in history that affected large numbers of people, or have artistic/aesthetic value that outlasts the ages and contributes meaningfully to the future. Hangar One is a military creation that does not meet any of these criteria, it merely serves as a relic of an era that a tiny minority romanticizes. Of course, there are plenty of of constructions that have been declared monuments without meeting these criteria, but they often seem ridiculous in hindsight, especially considering that they are often less than 100 years old. I agree with the other poster: if it's that valuable, then let those who value it pay for its preservation. The rest of us tire of the energy that's wasted on preserving the past without that preservation contributing meaningfully to the future.

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Joseph: If you weren't complaining about the DEMOCRATS preventing suction gold mining, you'd be complaining about how the DEMOCRATS were so anti-sportsmen as to allow the state's entire fishing industry to die off because all the rivers became too cloudy and silted up with mining tailings to keep the the salmon alive.

The problem with irrational hate and stereotyping is that it's, well... irrational. You should take your head out of Fox's posterior orofice and try thinking about how you can contribute to real solutions to real problems rather than blaming the Faceless Other for them. The problem with blaming is that you get off scott-free without doing anything to solve the problem.

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Posted by mpumas
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:26 am

Seer, well said

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