USGS moving to new home at Moffett Field

Agency looks to settle at NASA Ames campus to avoid rent hikes at Menlo Park campus

Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey say they intend to shut down their West Coast science center in Menlo Park over the coming years and plan to relocate to the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

The first phase of the transition is expected to occur over the next year with about 175 employees -- approximately one-third of its Menlo Park staff -- moving to Mountain View.

The full transition is expected to take up to five years, and involves moving the office's full workforce to Mountain View, along with an array of complex scientific gear installed at the Menlo Park center.

The reason behind the move is primarily financial, said Colin Williams, a USGS science center director who is part of the transition team. The USGS campus off Middlefield Road is owned by the General Services Administration, the government agency that serves as a property manager for federal office buildings. The GSA is obligated under federal law to charge market-rate rent for its properties, even in pricey Bay Area locales where office space goes for a premium.

The USGS is currently paying about $7.5 million a year for its Menlo Park space. With a 10-year lease on the facility set to expire late next year, USGS officials expect to see a significant rent increase if they remain, Williams said.

"Like everyone else, we're dealing with the added costs for being in the Bay Area," he said. "We're hoping that relocating to the (NASA) campus will give us an opportunity to reduce those costs."

USGS officials say they've been discussing the move to Moffett Field with their counterparts at NASA over the last three years. No final lease agreement has been signed yet, but that should be finished in the next couple months, Williams said. He emphasized that NASA officials have been very supportive of the plans.

Williams couldn't specify what the USGS would be paying for its new space, but he said it should be "significantly cheaper" than the agency's current Menlo Park campus. He pointed out that relocating to the NASA campus would bring huge opportunities to strengthen scientific collaboration between the two federal research arms on projects such as studying Earth's gravity and atmosphere. Any money saved on rent will free up more funding for research, he said.

"I do want to emphasize we're not doing this solely for financial reasons; it's also for science," he said. "We need to strengthen our technology side and being near NASA will help that. We bring capabilities that complement theirs."

This is not the first time USGS has proposed moving out of Menlo Park, where it has been based since 1954. In late 1999, USGS administrators ordered the Menlo Park facility to close and relocate out of the Bay Area, but a groundswell of opposition from residents, led by Rep. Anna Eshoo, pressured the agency to scuttle those plans. Ironically, the talk of relocating from Menlo Park came just a few years after USGS had spent $42 million on its Middlefield Road building. In recent years, the USGS has downsized its presence at the Menlo Park campus, and a variety of other federal agencies have leased out space there.

Moving out of the Menlo Park facility will cause some disruptions for the agency, Williams conceded. Gear to monitor seismic activity will need to be reinstalled at Moffett Field without any lapse in measuring possible earthquake activity, he said.

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3 people like this
Posted by Sardine #102,645
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Great, another 175 people (including their family) will be commuting and/or moving to Mountain View. City council when will you put on the brakes? Sorry USGS employees.

27 people like this
Posted by DoctorData
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

DoctorData is a registered user.

Ames is RIGHT off of 101. There's a good chance that some of those 175 people are already commuting past MV anyway.

And - how do you know some of them don't live in MV already?

39 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2016 at 3:50 pm

From a commute perspective, NASA Ames is a location with better freeway access (US-101, SR-85 and SR-237) than the current USGS campus on Middlefield Road in Menlo Park.

NASA Ames also provides shuttle bus service from the Mountain View Transit Center (Caltrain depot and VTA Light Rail terminus), plus there is a VTA Light Rail station at Manila Drive. It is better served by mass transit.

Also, the current Menlo Park location also had to contend with extra automobile traffic at certain hours relating to Menlo-Atherton High School as well as the VA hospital campus on Willow Road.

10 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:31 pm


I don't believe Moffett Field is in Mountain View.

11 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Gemello
on Sep 19, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Bike Commuting to Moffet is easier than to Menlo Park. The Stevens Creek Trail, Bay Trail and Guadalupe River trail provide good access so the move may actually reduce car trips and increase bike trips.

3 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Sep 19, 2016 at 7:05 pm

the nasa/bayshore station is most likely still the least used one in the entire light rail system. If there's only 60 rides per day it appears to be not very convenient for potential users.

3 people like this
Posted by Me Cat
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2016 at 10:58 pm

I'm glad their rent will be cheaper, but anyone currently living in Mountain View is aware of the already horrible traffic pile ups, especially crossing over 101 to Google and the mobile home park. It's so bad they're proposing building a bus lane, although I'm not sure where that will go and how it will help. Maybe the Moffett Field site will be another 101 exit south?

16 people like this
Posted by Moffett Field
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2016 at 1:05 am

It's gotten so much quieter now that people forget. For many years, Moffett Field was an extremely busy military base alongside a busy NASA research location. Now NASA has cut the Ames budget considerably and the Naval Air Station has been decommissioned. But the infrastructure is still there, but just little used. The on base housing is idled due to TCE incursion in that particular area. Google has an agreement for a monster set of offices and permission to build apartments there. Even with that, the place will only be used at a fraction of what it once was.

Moffett Field has TWO freeway exits, Moffett Blvd and its South Gate/Ellis Street connection. Moffett Field has as much connectivity to roadways as does the entire North Bayshore area.

I sure hope Google is paying NASA market rates for the land lease where it will build
these new offices....

4 people like this
Posted by rainbow38
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 20, 2016 at 7:35 am

Moffett Field is in a separate postal zone inbetween Mountain View and Sunnyvale. The maps provided by the city of Mountain View still show it as a naval air station. Time to update the maps!

13 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2016 at 8:18 am

@Moffett Field (resident of another community) is correct.

Moffett Field was far more active in the Eighties and Nineties and is currently underutilized compared to that era. It is equipped to absorb the influx of USGS employees.

NASA has operated a shuttle bus from downtown Mountain View's Caltrain station since the Nineties, so there's no change there. VTA Light Rail is a new addition since that era as well as the Stevens Creek Trail.

SR-237 was upgraded to full freeway status in the mid-Nineties from the older Alviso-Milpitas Road, built to Interstate standards, so again, another improvement in terms of commuter access.

Those who have lived for some time in Mountain View will also remember more flight operations out of Moffett Field. Today, it is rather sporadic.

Good if you like peace and quiet, but one should remember that this was once a busy naval air station and the infrastructure was built to handle a much larger population at NASA Ames/Moffett Field.

3 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2016 at 3:39 pm

I'm somewhat surprised that the land at Moffett is suitable for the USGS. There are large air releases and arcjet rumblings for tests and I have no idea what the subsoil is like. It's a research base, where active science is pursued and I would think sensitive seismology equipment might have some interference. However, I have no clue what is was like in the other location. I'm very glad to have them nearby.
The old USGS was a beautiful campus. Hopefully, they are talking about areas of Moffett that are slated to come down so new buildings can be installed(and before the next big one hits!!)

10 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

A bit off topic, but Moffett Federal Airfield and NASA Ames Research Center are neither in Mountain View nor Sunnyvale. Moffett is a US Government reservation in unincorporated Santa Clara County. It has two zip codes, 94043 and 94035, which are shared with Mountain View and Sunnyvale respectively. ZIP codes are often, but not always exclusive to one city. Over the years, it has been referred to as being "In" Mountain View AND Sunnyvale, depending on the reference. Before it was "Moffett" it was "Sunnyvale NAS". The former Onizuka AFB was also previously called "Sunnyvale" AFB. That said, NASA Ames has generally always been referred to being in Mountain View. AFAIK, the housing that is still there is fully utilized. The TCE plume that has affected the North Whisman/Wagon Wheel neighborhood and Moffett Field has never stopped people from living there. To me it makes sense for the USGS to move to Moffett. The facility in Menlo Park seems to be underutilized and is worth a ton of money. Back in 2010, I attended some Census training there and it seemed like the place was a ghost town. It's nice to see the government consolidating operations to save money instead continuing to feed a hungry campus with our tax dollars.

5 people like this
Posted by TIRED and True
a resident of Gemello
on Sep 21, 2016 at 8:38 am

Is "TIRED and True" council candidate Abe*Koga still opposing any housing being added out toward this area of North Bayshore, North of 101? Her opinion on the direction of adding housing seemed to be rejected by who got elected to council in 2014. Has Abe*Koga changed her opinion on this, or is she still stuck in NO?

The proper balance of micro apartments (studios), small one and two bedroom apartments or owner condominiums could help us all out (affordability, traffic, work/life balance and other issues).

9 people like this
Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Sep 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Cfrink is a registered user.

Isn't anyone else miffed that the government has a rule that it must charge itself market rates on property that it owns? That seems to me to be kind of stupid if the idea is to keep costs down. Then it goes off and charges it's own departments ridiculous rent amounts....which we all agree is ridiculous. Makes no sense. If they want to rent the property to private renters, then the market rate makes sense. But charging that kind of money to it's own departments makes little sense to me.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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