Google pitches plan to restore Silicon Valley's iconic Hangar One | News | Mountain View Online |


Google pitches plan to restore Silicon Valley's iconic Hangar One

Blasting off toxic coating using copper slag expected to cost $157M

The iconic Hangar One at Moffett Field is slated to undergo a five-year restoration effort that would eventually rehabilitate the former airship depot for future use. Under a new set of plans publicized this week, Google's subsidiary Planetary Ventures is proposing an extensive, $157 million operation to purge a variety of toxic compounds and reskin the hangar's 200-foot-tall steel frame.

The announcement of a cleanup plan has been a long time coming. In 2015, Google signed a 60-year lease with NASA Ames to take over 1,000 acres at Moffett Field. As part of that deal, Google officials pledged to eventually restore the Hangar One by cleaning up its structure and reskinning it with new siding.

But ever since the lease was inked, Planetary Ventures officials have been sparse on details for how and when this cleanup would begin. The company issued occasional updates, mostly saying they were continuing to study the project and test out different cleanup methods.

The new 300-page technical report lays out in intricate detail how Planetary Ventures would undertake the complex task of removing lead, asbestos and other harmful chemicals from the massive hangar structure. About 15 years ago, environmental studies determined that these hazardous materials were embedded in Hangar One's paint and siding, and these toxins may have been flaking off and leaching into the nearby baylands.

At the time, a full rehabilitation of Hangar One was estimated to cost around $40 million. Based on that daunting price, U.S. Navy officials in 2011 decided to remove the thousands of panels of corrugated laminate siding covering the hangar, leaving it as a bare steel skeleton. In a controversial move, they also proposed tearing down the structure, describing it as the most sensible plan in light of the immense costs of a full cleanup.

When Google agreed to shoulder Hangar One's restoration as part of the lease, the move was celebrated as a huge victory for an impassioned cohort of historic preservationists who regarded it as an irreplaceable relic of Moffett Field's military days. Those advocates will likely be very happy to hear that the cleanup plans are finally moving forward, said Mountain View resident Greg Unangst, who chairs the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board.

"People will be amazed at the cost, but they'll be pleased to see that this is finally happening," he said. "Up to this point, a lot of people were getting frustrated over the apparent lack of action."

The new report, prepared by the Burlingame consulting firm EKI Environment & Water, examined three options for Hangar One. One option, to do nothing at all, was included only as a baseline for comparison. A second alternative called for recoating the entire structure in a new layer of protective paint that would prevent lead and other substances from chipping off. Going that route and later reskinning the hangar would cost a total of $115 million, but it wouldn't do much to reduce the toxic materials contained in the structure, according to the report.

The authors of the report threw their support behind a third option that would involve something akin to sand-blasting the structure to remove its toxic coating. Under this plan, teams of workers would blast the hangar's steel framework with a copper slag powder that was determined to be the most effective substance to use. To fully clean approximately 1.8 million square feet of surface area on the hangar, the consultant team estimates they will need about 5,000 tons of copper slag to do the job, and occasionally they may need workers to go at certain spots with chemical stripping solvents or hand tools.

The project also calls for a plastic covering to be wrapped around all the exterior of Hangar One and a rubber mat to be spread along the base to prevent hazardous wastes from drifting away. In total, the project expects to collect about 6,500 tons of hazardous waste that will be taken to an off-site disposal facility. This cleanup phase is expected to cost more than $85 million, not counting subsequent expenses for reskinning the structure.

Given Hangar One's massive size, the rehabilitation project would require a vast quantity of scaffolding to be built all around the interior and exterior, at an estimated cost of $54 million. In addition, seismic retrofits to the hangar are expected to run about $17 million.

While Google is showing its commitment to saving Hangar One, the company's longer-term intentions for the hangar remain a total mystery, Unangst said. Initially when the lease was signed, the company indicated it would use the site for research and development of robotics and aviation technology. A Google spokesperson said any future use would adhere to the historic status of the location.

While work on Hangar One has been in a holding pattern for years, Google has made some headway in rehabilitating the aging Hangars Two and Three. These twin 171-foot-high structures, both built in the 1940s, today have structural damage as well as toxic contamination in their foundation.

About two years ago, work crews began fixing the giant wooden doors on both sides of Hangar Two. Around the same time, news reports indicated that Hangar Two was being used as the staging grounds for Google co-founder Sergey Brin's side project to build a modern-day zeppelin. According to people involved in the project, the airship was intended to deliver aid cargo to remote locations as well as used for luxury travel.

The fate of Hangar Three is less certain. Structural engineers previously reported that the wooden framework was sagging in certain areas. From his talks with people working at the site, Unangst said he had been told that Hangar Three could be too dilapidated to save.

"There's a possibility that Hangar Three is not salvageable," he said. "From what I know, it's collapsing. It's a wooden structure that's starting to give way. When they fix one section, the next section fails."

A Google spokesman told the Voice that Planetary Ventures and NASA are still evaluating the structure of Hangar Three.

The new cleanup plans put together by Planetary Ventures are currently under a 30-day review period for feedback from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

If the plans proceed as scheduled, the cleanup effort would start next year with an expected completion date sometime in 2023. At that time, Planetary Ventures officials expect to begin "recladding" the hangar, covering the steel framing with new paneling.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo hailed the new plan to restore Hangar One as a crucial next step.

"The Hangar symbolizes the pride and potential of our local community," she said. "I'm so pleased my work along with my California Congressional colleagues, federal partners, advocacy groups, businesses, and historic preservation associations has secured a bright future for the landmark."

Editor's note: This story has been expanded since it was originally posted.

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2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

Trump's EPA will rubber-stamp anything these days. Local officials has better study the pollution impacts of this plan very carefully.

13 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2019 at 11:50 am

What a waste. It should have just been destroyed instead of keeping this horrible eyesore.

25 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2019 at 2:26 pm

"Up to this point, a lot of people were getting frustrated over the apparent lack of action."

Yeah, I was beginning to wonder. This is long overdue.

2 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 17, 2019 at 5:59 pm

Miss understood

Google pitches plan to restore Silicon Valley's iconic Hangar One
Could have meant Google tossed out any plans to restore.

just as it should have just been destroyed instead of keeping this horrible eyesore. For the Eiffel Tower, Palace of fine arts etc

8 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDiwn
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2019 at 6:35 pm

Really? You are comparing the toxic dump that is Hanger One to the Eiffel Tower?

What does this thing mean to you? Who visits it? Why do we care at all?

It was a vaguely interesting item... About 70 years ago. Now, it is barely a footnote, with no significance whatsoever except that people have lived with it around here for a while.

Let it go. Tear it down, make a new open space.

28 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 17, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Saving history! Some things cannot be just searched on the internet

Web Link

December 8, Hangar One is nominated as a US Navy Historic Site.
Jan 3, Hangar One is designated as a Naval Historical Monument by the Navy Chief of Naval Operations.
Hangar One is listed in the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory.
Patrol Squadron 31 Detachment Alfa begins using Hangar One.
October, Hangar One is designated as Historic American Engineering Record CA-335, State of California Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks by the San Francisco section, American Society of Civil Engineers.
Feb 24, The Shenandoah Plaza National Historic District, is accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.

29 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2019 at 8:10 pm

Hangar One is an iconic part of history and should be preserved. I remember the first time I drove on N. Whisman and was awed by the sight of the hangar dominating the horizon. It hasn't been the same since they took down the scaffolding. Kudos to everyone involved in saving this landmark. Hangar One will live again.

7 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Aside from being old, is there anything that it is important for remembering?

According to the registry, it's pretty much "important" because it was a base in WW2. That's it. No special missions launched from it. No special events happened there. Noone but the locals who lived near it will miss it.

Just let it go. You only want it around because it is old. It has no other importance.

8 people like this
Posted by Save your energy for when they want to brand it
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2019 at 7:15 am

Wait until Google puts out the plan to re-skin the with hanger, but not as original. It'll be with white skin and a giant "Google" logo across it.

6 people like this
Posted by Practical View
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Everything is a trade off. This looks like a terrible choice.

If a group of history buffs want to pay for the clean up, please do so. I'd rather see Google use the money in a way that benefits society more than generating tons of toxic waste to restore an old building that very few people care about. (I'd guess << 1% of the population).

This is the equivalent of requiring everyone to subsidize a new sports stadiums that only a few care about.

An example of the trade off:

Restoration of Hangar 1: 147M
Cost to provide soup kitchen meals to 170k people for a year: ~147M.

This is based on the NYC Average cost of $0.78 for a healthy soup kitchen meal. I could not find bay area numbers.

Like this comment
Posted by NotInTech
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 19, 2019 at 8:54 am

If Google waits a few more years, rising sea (bay) levels will prevent any changes to Hangar One, anyway. Maybe they can make it into an aquarium!

24 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2019 at 9:05 am

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

Here's my read on the new proposal:

Planetary Venture’s (PV’s) Draft Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) for the removal of contamination from Hangar One at Moffett Field proposes an approach that will be effective, permanent, and expensive. PV proposes to use media-blasting and chemical-stripping to remove toxic coatings containing lead and PCBs from the hangar’s skeleton. This will also remove the epoxy coating that the Navy used in an unsuccessful attempt to contain the contaminants in place. Media-blasting is the same as sand-blasting, except in this case PV will likely use copper slag instead of sand. The costs would be borne by PV, the Google subsidiary that is leasing a large share of Moffett Field, including Hangar One.

All of the removal activity will take place in temporary plastic “rooms,” attached to the frame, under negative air pressure to contain the debris for proper off-site disposal. The proposed removal action is expected to cost nearly $86 million, while the alternative, ongoing inspection and maintenance, would cost just under $42 million. Unlike the latter, the preferred alternative would be a permanent solution.

The cleanup price-tag does not include re-skinning the hangar, which PV plans to fund and carry out after the removal of contaminants.

The PV proposal is what the Navy should have done in the first place. I believe that our community should not only support the PV plan. I think we should thank PV for its commitment to restoring this huge, historic structure. I don’t believe this form of cleanup has ever been conducted on such a large scale.

Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:22 am

Recycling , if the majority of drop off closes then will they stop charging you extra for the items when you bye them ?
We really need to recycle so why not come up with some thing else BEFORE they close .

3 people like this
Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Aug 19, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Alex M is a registered user.

I always imagined that Hangar One, if restored, would make an awesome room for high-speed drone racing. Or championship paper airplane contests. Or those featherweight rubber-band powered airplane contests that use aircraft so light and delicate that they need indoor air to work. Example: Web Link

24 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 19, 2019 at 3:46 pm

psr is a registered user.

Your attitude is typical of the disposable society that has bred the problem you are complaining about. Even as a child, I knew it was stupid to use plastic grocery bags, but it was done anyway. How was it sold to the public? It will save trees from being cut down to make paper bags. You seem to have the same attitude about Hangar One. Since it isn't important to you personally, it should be demolished. The Taj Mahal isn't useful for anything either and there are many hungry people in Agra. Perhaps they should tear it down and build a soup kitchen.

As for the fact that it is only "important" {your quotes, not mine} because it was a base in WWII, I wonder why that isn't important enough to you for it to be preserved. My godfather flew out of Moffett to serve in Iceland in the Army during WWII. Two of his eight sisters worked in plants in the area, manufacturing supplies for those serving overseas. My dad did training there for the Civilian Alert Corps. Moffett played a part in the lives of many long-time residents here. I realize that doesn't matter to those who don't think history is important, but some of us do. For natives, Moffett is part of who we are. I know many feel a tug as they drive by and see the naked superstructure where a monument to the brave people who served there once stood.

It is important because the men and women who served there helped preserve the freedom of countless thousands, and that makes it important enough for me.

10 people like this
Posted by RRT/NPS
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:29 pm

RRT/NPS is a registered user.

Speaking as a Veteran having spent a large part of a naval career working in Hanger One, a certain amount of nostalgia attached to it's memory is understandable. However, there many others who have looked upon the Hanger as a blight on the landscape of the Santa Clara Valley as well as a white elephant whose usefulness has long ago expired. The structure was built to house rigid airships and its vastness was never fully utilized since. It is quite apparent that a decision in terms of aesthetics and cost effectiveness would be to simply demolish this eyesore and move on to the future.

25 people like this
Posted by how many of you have visited Moffett Field Museum?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Those who think this structure is an eyesore, very likely have never visted the Moffett Field Museum... What exactly do you think qualifies for historic preservation, or do you believe that NOTHING is sacred tear it all down and build more high rise luxury apartments and non-descript office towers. Google got a great deal, they can afford to do this, they committed to do it so glad they are FINALLY stepping up with a plan.

5 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2019 at 6:43 pm

There are certainly buildings that should be protected. Buildings that have extensive history, that have historic events associated with them. Buildings that represent the area that they are in.

So, for example, the various garages that started Silicon Valley start-ups. Or the Fairchild buildings. These would have reasons.

But, think about Hanger One for a moment.

First, it housed an airship for 2 years. Therefore, it actually indicates a huge failure of the federal government in terms of an amazingly expensive building made for a failed purpose. Now all the outer skin has been removed. And next all the girders will be repaired/fixed. What is actually historic about it at this point, other than the shape?

Some buildings should just be let go. Yes, it was big, but seriously, that's all that's interesting about it. It's not like we couldn't build it again if we needed the structure for anything. It would likely take less effort than is about to be expended.

How about we do a true Silicon Valley historical approach -- we get a full 3d scan of the building, and let anyone in the world visit it virtually? We could do the same to various buildings in Mountain View, and watch the world change over time as buildings come and go.

Instead, we have a collection of hoarders that want to throw away nothing.

2 people like this
Posted by Brenda
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 19, 2019 at 7:50 pm

Please tear it down. It’s an eyesore to this Mtn View homeowner.

1 person likes this
Posted by Casey
a resident of North Bayshore
on Aug 19, 2019 at 9:18 pm

I wonder how much it would cost to tear down and rebuild Hangar One?

25 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2019 at 7:24 am

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

I am surprised by the commenters who want to tear down Hangar One. When the Navy proposed to level it, there was a huge outcry. People mobilized to save Hangar One for multiple reasons:
1) It is our most visible landmark, easy to spot not only from the ground but from aircraft landing at regional airports.
2) Veterans see it as a symbol as their service to our country.
3) It is one of the largest free-standing buildings in the world.
4) It is a reminder of the Navy's lighter-than-air program. Its size reminds us how large the U.S.S. Macon dirigible was. But after the Macon crashed in the Pacific it was used to house blimps.
5) It is an engineering marvel, built without computers. It is so large that it had to be built in three sections, linked by bridge joints. Unfortunately, it was also one of the first buildings known to use PCBs.
6) This is my favorite: No one will ever build a structure like this again!
The history and structure of the hangar have been digitally recorded. See Web Link. But there is nothing like standing within the cavernous building and imagining a lighter-than-air aircraft carrier that nearly filled it wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

4 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

I would say a more distinguishing feature of our area is the salt mining operations that have carved out the Bay shore. These are from the 1850s. They are a historic reminder of the salt mining operation.

Should these also be kept?

10 people like this
Posted by MV Renter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 20, 2019 at 10:12 am


I think it appears quite simple.

I get the impression that you are primarily concerned with the practicalities of the present. Being realistic, as it were.

I get the impression that there are those who feel that preserving reminders of the past help to influence the future, if only because people will ask "what the heck is that thing". Somewhat romanticized, perhaps not entirely realistic, but preserving a mark that others had left.

For the record, I agree with them.

I don't think I would cut off grandma's hospice to pay for the kids' soccer camp.

Or perhaps more realistically, I don't think I'd sell of grandma's engagement ring that she got from her mother (who got it during World War I) to pay for the daughter's right to live in a nicer dorm with a meal plan during her college years (when the truth is she'll be going out to eat with her friends anyway) when instead I could be making sure that I could give it to her future true love to propose to her with.

Sometimes the past is more important than the present because it is the key to our future.

I don't need to look any further than the current social and political issues to see why that's true.

1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2019 at 11:47 am

Looks like Sergey, Larry & Sundar (aka 3 Stooges) now have a nice parking garage for their private jet planes and their annoying white, traffic-wedging Google buses.

12 people like this
Posted by JF
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 20, 2019 at 10:41 pm

The main purpose of the Hanger One is an iconic visual landmark for aircraft flying into the Bay Area. I believe that was one of the biggest reasons for keeping it. I am for keeping it. We are losing Valley heritage by the day. We have lost our orchards, heritage trees to construction, ease of getting around due to an influx of tech. Let Google do something good with their money and protect a visual landmark. My family has been in Mountain View for over 100 years and has seen huge change. Hanger One is a visual reminder of the heyday of our active military community in the Valley and it's place in Mountain View-Sunnyvale history.

15 people like this
Posted by Bill Hough
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2019 at 8:23 am

Lenny Siegel does a good job explaining why we need to save Hangar 1. I was one of the taxpayers who attended endless RAB meetings advocating that we keep it.

The heritage of this valley is demolished at an alarming rate. Hangar 1 is distinctive and should be preserved. A rich private company will pay for this. Sounds like a win-win to me.

And for all of you nay-sayers, spend an afternoon at the Moffett museum and you might learn something.

3 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 21, 2019 at 3:50 pm

I understand that I have lost this fight. The eyesore will stay.

The good news is that between seas rising and the people that worked on the base dying off, it will likely be demolished eventually.

Just like every other military base that closes.

2 people like this
Posted by long gone
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 4:35 pm

With all the human problems vexxing the area google throws a zillion dollars at an historical eyesore. Priorities???

2 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Ugly, tear down that iron monster those were the words after the tower was built and seen as an eye sore. But people persisted and ugly figure turned into a national treasure for France. Yes The Eiffel Tower to some was consider ugly and a waste.

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Not every old thing is worth keeping. It is big, and that's pretty much all that can be said about it.

Again, are you in favor of keeping the salt mining operation in the bay? The ones that cut up the entire marshlands and stink to high heaven? They are also old, and represent the area's history. However, they are currently being dismantles slowly.

But, they are much older -- from the 1850s. Should they be kept or not?

7 people like this
Posted by David B. Karpf, MD
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

Just Tear it Down (anonymous),
Toy, like many egocentric people, appear to speak for everyone, as if everyone shares your views. Try and entertain the notion that others may have views that different from yours. As a Mountain View resident, my wife and I have been awed by and quite like Hangar 1, and think it is worth saving, for all of the reasons enumerated by Lenny Siegel (one of the few posters on this topic who does not hide behind a anonymous monicker - just sayin").

When companies like Google "do the right thing", whether contributing to housing stock in Mountain View and San Jose or paying big bucks to save a historic structure such as Hangar 1, and complying with all EPA regulations in doing so, I think they should be applauded.

I, for one (or we, for two) will be very happy to be able to see a reskinned Hangar 1 in 5 years.

Like this comment
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2019 at 12:45 pm


I notice that you refused, much like everyone else, to answer one of my points. Do you favor keeping the salt mining operations of the bay? They are visible to airplanes, they are historic, and they are vast in scale. They likely represent the oldest structures in the Bay area.

Yet, we don't seem to want to save those. Why not?

I will propose the same reason that you don't care about the salt mining operations is the same reason I don't care about hanger one.

7 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

Agree completely with David Karpf. "JustTearItDown" has posted an incredible eight times in this thread (SO far) -- quarter of all comments, way more than anyone else. In the style of someone who thinks that endlessly repeating something making no sense to many people will somehow cause it to make more sense, or that they speak for anyone besides themselves, or that what's important is theirs to define. David Karp was right on target.


Like this comment
Posted by JustTearItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2019 at 1:44 pm

I'm only repeating myself because I'm interested in the fact that nobody has bothered to address my point: explain why the historic preservation society isn't fighting for the salt mining operations.

- Part of the area's history. Check.

- Visible from planes. Check.

- Old. Check.

- A huge construction and human endeavor. Check.

Basically, every single reason people have cited for Hanger One. Yet, one case we want it, the other we don't. Why would that be the case?

But, I understand. It's much easier to continue making ad hominem attacks instead of actually addressing substance.

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