News

Fate of Moffett's 1,000 acres may be sealed by next month

Four groups will present proposals to take over hangars, airfield

In what could have a huge impact on the region, several different groups are making moves in a bidding war for Moffett Field's runways and massive hangars.

Possible users include Google's executives, who want to park their planes in a restored Hangar One, and two groups hoping to spur private space industry at Moffett. And there's the Air and Space West Foundation, which wants to build a museum in Hangar One and whose director is also said to be interested in bringing private jets to Moffett Field.

Earlier this year, NASA put use of Hangar One and the operation of the expensive airfields up for bid with help from the General Services Administration.

The consequences of the bidding for Mountain View and the local region are huge, possibly bringing more air traffic to the skies, more jobs, a major museum or a new venue for public events, depending on who has the winning proposal.

There's a big obstacle to taking over the 1,000-acre airfield, three massive hangars and a golf course: money. Hangar One, which has been stripped of its siding, must be restored at a cost estimated to be well over $30 million. Then there's a $500,000 fee just to make a bid -- bids are due Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. A winner will be announced in December.

Google aside, "right now it's not clear who has the money to make a bid," said Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, who also sits on the boards of the Air and Space West Foundation and the Save Hangar One Committee.

"It's going to be very challenging to bring forward a viable business proposal," added Bill Berry, former NASA Ames deputy director.

Siegel says he may resign from the Air and Space West Foundation board if director Larry Ellis proposes to bring business jets to Moffett in order to make for a viable proposal. Siegel has long advocated for Moffett's runways to be torn up and redeveloped with "badly needed" transit-oriented housing.

"I personally would like to see it used as much as possible for public benefit," Berry said, saying that he would favor giving Moffett to the local community the way the Presidio was in San Francisco. "But that's not going to happen now."

"I know Lenny and I have differing opinions on this stuff," said Steve Williams, a pilot and blogger who has been involved in efforts to save Hangar One and build a museum inside. "I think we still need to look on community involvement in this whole process as a positive thing, even if different people in the community have different plans. Ultimately the responses to the RFP (request for proposals) are going to have to be based on the requirements of the RFP and really, there's no way around that."

Ellis, the director of Air and Space West Foundation, did not respond to requests for an interview.

While many have stressed the importance of public input in the process, Berry said there was little to do except "sit back and watch."

Private space center

"We believe the right use for the airfield is for space entrepreneurship," said Sean Casey, co-founder of a group that wants to take over the 1,000 acres at Moffett to build the Silicon Valley Space Center's "Innovative Design Environment for Air and Space" or IDEAS. Led by seasoned NASA players, his group has been organizing conferences and working with businesses in the private space industry since 2011.

"Silicon Valley is not about museums, Silicon Valley is about building companies," Casey said, taking a dig at the Air and Space West Foundation. He also blasted proposals to have the World Expo at Moffett Field. "The reason people come to Silicon Valley is to build the future, not focus on the past," Casey said.

Like those involved with the museum bid, Casey said he could not guarantee that SVSC's plan would not include use of the airfield by private business jets.

Another group looking to expand on the numerous public-private partnerships at NASA is called the International Space Development Hub (ISDhub), led by retired teacher John Lee, financial guru Armen Pazian and Amalie Sinclair.

Both groups have been around for several years, are seeking partners and investors and are tight-lipped about funding for the bid. "The money is going to come from our friends here in Silicon Valley," Casey said, saying the Valley's investors prefer to fund companies located nearby. "It's a typical investment."

While ISDhub lacked specific plans, SVSC gave brochures to the Voice with floor plans showing space for two jumbo jets in Hangar One, along with a six-level, 100,000-square-foot structure in the middle of the hangar bay with offices renting at $13 a square foot and hangar bay space at $4.30 per square foot. In Hangar Two and Three there's room for two airships and a combined total of 320,000 square feet of office structures, with the office space costing $4.30 a square foot and workshop and lab space at $2.10 a square foot.

NASA would allow a 90,000-square-foot building to be developed on the airfield, likely to be used by business jets. There's also a golf course that comes with the airfield, which ran up a $194,000 loss over the last year, according to records released Sept. 18.

For long-term funding, ISDhub's Armen Papazian has advocated in papers posted to the group's website that the United States Federal Reserve print more money to fund space exploration and colonization.

"We can afford to create and spend as much money as necessary to invent our future in space," Papazian writes. "We must embrace this enormous molecular universe as our own true and palpable context, for now and the foreseeable future. We must transcend debt-based money and drop scarcity as an economic world view to unlock the resources of our galaxy."

Among the groups associated with ISDhub is one aiming to build an elevator into space.

Both groups seem open to having public events at the new facilities.

"Anybody who uses the airfield needs to realize the public has a tremendous interest in space and space exploration," Casey said, noting the huge crowd that gathered last week at NASA Ames for the launch of NASA's LADDEE spacecraft. "Why Washington continues to de-fund space exploration is a mystery to me."

Google is still interested

Google's executives have been leasing Hangar 211 at Moffett to house a fleet of private planes since 2007 but their flight director, Ken Ambrose of H211 LLC, said NASA has not responded to requests to renew the lease which expires next year. That comes after accusations against NASA for favoritism towards Google. Use of Hangar 211 was never put up for bid before the lease began in 2007. The outcry by Republicans Sen. Chuck Grassley and Congressman Darryl Issa also meant that H211 recently lost access to discounted jet fuel at Moffett supplied by the Department of Defense, which likely saved Google's operation tens of thousands of dollars every year.

H211 had proposed to restore Moffett's massive icon Hangar One for its airplane fleet but was met with silence from NASA last year. Having already been accused of favoritism by members of Congress, NASA then put use of Hangar One and the expensive airfields up for bid with help from the General Services Administration.

Google's executives apparently remain interested, but have been tight-lipped about their plans. At an information meeting for bidders on Aug. 15 in San Francisco, "There were about 8-10 people there who seemed to have some sort of Google affiliation," Siegel said.

"We remain interested in staying at Moffett, and are hopeful something will work out," said Ambrose in a Sept. 16 email.

Comments

Posted by Mark Ciotola, a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

The airfield at Moffett station is an irreplaceable asset for Silicon Valley as well as a refuge for local wildlife. There is also a growing space and sustainability start-up community at the nearby NASA Research Park that could provide a new wave of industries for Silicon Valley that will have a longterm impact upon both the local economy and humanity.


Posted by Bill Hough, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

After almost a decade, NASA and the Navy still refuse to do the right thing regarding this historic structure. Their latest communication proposes a "Remedial Action Alternative" that does not provide for the restoration of the hangar. I object to this proposed "alternative" and propose a third alternative, the "Restoration Alternative", in which the measures proposed in the "Remedial Action Alternative" would be combined with commitment to restore Hangar One to its as-built appearance.

Since the summer of 2005, NASA and the Navy's position concerning Hangar One has been made clear at many public meetings in the Mountain View area. For the past eight years, the reaction from the public continues to be strongly in favor of restoring the Hangar for some kind of adapted re-use like many of the alternatives in this article. (ripping up the runways is an awful idea, BTW) Despite overwhelming public support for the hangar, a federal buck-passing exercise has been going on for almost a decade. Both the Navy and NASA have been metaphorically tossing the restoration of the hangar around like a hot potato. Everyone gives lip service to restoring the hangar but nobody wants to pay for it. It's a national disgrace that NASA and the Navy have been blowing off fixing Hangar One.

An offer by the H211 to step up to preserve the hangar should have removed the cost argument from the discussion. You'd think that NASA would jump at the chance at free money to make this PR nightmare go away but you would be wrong.

NASA's behavior sums up what's wrong with government. An offer was made for private funding to re-skin the hangar. Paying for the re-skinning was the sticking point in the discussions Then money comes along, and what does NASA do? Stall, diddle and procrastinate. This is why people hate government.

A proper Restoration Alternative would involved re-skining Hangar One in addition to all of the environmental work described in Alternative 2-Implementation of Institutional Controls. As described in their July 2013 newsletter, the Navy's Alternative 2 is fundamentally flawed. It justifies an already-reached conclusion by ignoring the community's strong desire to see the hangar preserved as stated at numerous public forums. It's time to discard Alternative and prepare Alternative 3 that meets the joint goals of protecting the environment and preserving history. These goals need not be mutually exclusive.


Posted by hmax, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Google? Ya Think?!


Posted by Long Time MV Resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm

"Silicon Valley is not about museums, Silicon Valley is about building companies," Casey said, taking a dig at the Air and Space West Foundation. He also blasted proposals to have the World Expo at Moffett Field. "The reason people come to Silicon Valley is to build the future, not focus on the past," Casey said.

@ Sean Casey: Please go back to where you came from and ruin your own hometown. I am so tired of people like you coming into my hometown and making it so crowed, and all the issues that go with the over crowding.


Posted by harvardmom, a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I vote for Google. That company's been wonderful for Mountain View, and I want them to stay and thrive. They need an airport, and we need to help them get what they need. Good luck, Google, and thank you for making our fair city hot, relevant, and exciting!


Posted by sleepless, a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

So, who is flying the planes that seem to circle my house between 3 and 5 am, usually on Monday mornings? We have to be careful we don't have even more of that if this becomes an airfield.


Posted by Scott, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm

This airfield is a piece of history. It predates almost everyone reading this article. Once gone this airfield is gone forever. Whoever gets it please open it up to everyone.


Posted by Bill Hough, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Sean Casey said "Silicon Valley is not about museums, Silicon Valley is about building companies."

Yeah, tell the folks at the Tech, Computer History Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum, Jehning Family Lock Museum, the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and History San Josť to get the hell out of town.


Posted by DC, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Sounds like the government, give us 1/2 million $$$ and tell us what you want to do and we may pick a winner. What are the guide lines? Limited flight use, non-removal of Hanger One? Toxic Clean up ? Now lets think who has a few million to throw at the government let me check the internet.


Posted by psr, a resident of The Crossings
on Sep 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I have had family in the south SF bay area for a little over 100 years. It saddens me to look at family photos from the early part of the last century and realize that the places where those pictures were taken no longer exist. Sure the land is still there, but far too much of it is now buried under pavement and ugly modern buildings. Historic buildings, open spaces and agricultural treasures all destroyed in the name of "progress".

The quality of life in the Bay Area is in serious decline. The part that I find the most frustrating is that so much of the change is being brought on by relative newcomers. Should all the things that attracted these people to the area in the first place now be sacrificed simply because they need more room or there is a new building fad that some have latched onto for the moment?

I hope that there is some way for the Moffett complex to actually be preserved. By that, I mean REALLY preserved in fact, not photographed, then torn down to make way for yet another housing development. Phrases like "transit friendly housing" are beginning to make me feel physically ill. Must everything unique and special about our city be sacrificed in order to satisfy some group (ABAG) with no real approval by the people affected by their edicts?

How about some city planning that considers the desires of the citizens for a change?


Posted by scasey, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Well - I welcome everyone's comments on this article.

FYI - here is an interview I did on the Space Show about this topic:

Web Link#!

Ad astra!!

S. Casey


Posted by SpaceQueen, a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I don't think ANYONE has proposed tearing down the hangars at Moffett Field, so I am unsure as to why there is so much disdain for companies other than Google taking over the space. It is not being utilized to its fullest extent at this point. Would you rather have it as a private airport for those with expensive private jets, or would you prefer to have it developed into something that will foster innovation, creativity and jobs?


Posted by Scott Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Space entrepreneurship sounds awesome, but what does it mean exactly?

* Space elevator technology is not exactly "shovel-ready", and I don't imagine they'd be buying prime Silicon Valley real estate just to hopefully use in 10-20 years.

* We're also pretty far north for rocket launches.

Would spacecraft land here? Engineering and assembly happen here? Maybe use the airfield to fly parts in and out on conventional aircraft? Or would this also be mostly about private jets?


Posted by Sharon Nielson, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I have been very disappointed by the comments regarding this article. I for one am tired of the Googlefication of Silicon Valley. I work in Mountain View and the gridlock. What happened to Google's promise to alleviate our traffic problems if they could add another campus in our neighborhood? Too often I hear people extol the virtues of SV's large companies because they have the power and dough. But I am all about getting down to the truth. I Binged Silicon Valley Space Center and read about Dr. Casey and his contribution to our communities. His educational space programs for entrepreneurs and students are amazing. His conferences draw major names in the space industry. How many of you who are bashing him actually read anything about him but that one comment in a small newspaper? This was the first shot sent across the bow in the Moffett Field war. Let's wait get more substantial information.


Posted by RocketSciRick, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Space entrepreneurship does not mean creating a spaceport for rocket launches at Moffett Field.

It means bringing together aerospace technologies with other Silicon Valley technologies and business practices to reduce the cost of space flight and bring resulting benefits to Earth. By pushing the edges of technology envelopes, we mature them and figure out which ones have additional benefits on Earth. Looking at energy, where would solar cells, wind turbines, or fuel cells be if aerospace wasn't pushing them? Could you have GPS or Dish Network without space? If you simply tried to develop these technologies on Earth, how soon do you think if you would have them, if ever? Space application naturally expands the edges of the envelope of our understand on materials and environments, and thus our processes for working with them.

What does space provide that we can't get on Earth? Interesting things happen when surface tension is much more powerful than gravity; this has been repeatedly demonstrated on the ISS. Some parts of space are naturally really, really cold. What could you do if you had an ultra-cold place in a vacuum for a very long time?

Space entrepreneurship is about reducing the cost of access to space, and exploiting applications that provide benefit to it or derive benefit from it. Frankly, I can't think of a better place to do it than in the Silicon Valley technology and business environment. And as a bonus, we get the knowledge and practical experience of NASA Ames. If it is not done here, then I expect the expansion will go to Texas and Colorado, which have rapidly emerging space industries.


Posted by John Cartwright, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2013 at 8:54 am

The Silicon Valley Space Center IDEAS Project is a sure win. Dr Casey's mission to use the asset to make a home for innovative Aerospace entrepreneurs in the very heart of the Silicon Valley is the best use being proposed for the burgeoning NewSpace program, the community, NASA and the revitalization our domestic economy. THESE are the stakeholders. Once again we will shine a light on Innovation in the United States fostering sustainable growth for the aerospace industry starting within the gates of the Moffett Federal Airfield. With a little thought it is not more museums and corporate jet parking spaces for executives that address our challenges. It is the creation of opportunities and prosperity to anyone who strives for it. We need to provide hope, inspiration and entrepreneurship opportunities to our innovative youth. With the generous support the community is offering The Silicon Valley Space Center's bid for the Airfield' it is very clear to the vast majority of us what the "best use" for this asset is. As you see in this article there are "deep pockets" and people that think we need more museums bidding on the Airfield. Speak up!!


Posted by psa188, a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

One thing's for sure: we don't want to lost the Federal airfield adjacent to Hangar One. The MV Voice reports that "Siegel has long advocated for Moffett's runways to be torn up and redeveloped with 'badly needed' transit-oriented housing." I respectfully disagree. Keeping NUQ open for NASA, Air National Guard and emergency flights as it is now is a fair compromise between "no growthers" and aviation advocates. It's virtually impossible to build new aviation capacity in this country so let's not destroy what we have.

This should have been settled years ago. NUQ has lots of restrictions on flight operations which no one is seriously contesting. Air cargo is down in North America. On August 26, Aviation Week reported, "North America and the Asia-Pacific area proved to be the weakest regions in terms of international AFTKs (Available Freight Tonne Kilometers) and cargo demand in the first half of the year, contracting by 2.7% and 2.9%, respectively."

So, please, let's not try to scare people into believing that fleets of air freighters are about to descend on NUQ if only those pesky restrictions were lifted, it's NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Just drive down to SJC at 7:00 PM and watch what's left of the cargo "rush." I'll save you the time, it's down to two Fedex and one or two (depends on day) UPS flights. This region does not generate the same small amounts of air freight that it did in the 1990s and SFO, OAK and SJC can handle it for years to come.


Posted by Ryan, a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm

hahaa, some interesting comments here Sean ;0
seriously though, it seems that your IDEAS project has the best chance of preserving the aeronautical/aerospace legacy of Moffett Field while fostering innovation and job growth in one of the most exciting emerging markets.


Posted by EASEF, a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Founded in 2010, the Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation Web Link is pursuing the goal of revitalizing Hangar One at Moffett. This entails restoration of the physical structure in a way that preserves its iconic aesthetics while creating a self-sustaining conference, exhibition, education and events center. We look forward to the outcome of the current NASA/GSA leasing process and the hard work ahead to make Hangar One a productive asset for the greater Silicon Valley community.


Posted by Scott Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

@RockSciRick: You didn't really answer my question. I'm familiar with the general concept of space entrepreneurship. I'm not familiar with how they're proposing to use this land. Would it be engineering then? assembly? would the airfield close down? would the entire area go to aerospace companies' office buildings, or would part of it find another use?


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Just don't turn it into yet another soulless office park.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Colorado and the City of Denver has a VERY viable Air and Space museum built on the grounds of the former Lowry AF Base.

Web Link

That makes a history museum a win; There is at least ONE manufacturer in the SFBA that no longer exists: Hiller Helecopter. When the government gets around to declassifying " the blue cube " (it's an open secret as to what goes on in there ) and you add Ford Aerospace and GTE Sylvania, you have enough history to make a museum interesting.
Like NCAR, you could display a WHOLE Cray Supercomputer and not just a few boards from it. ( A certain local museum blew me off when I offered to give them some of my Cray stuff I have ).

If you read the design news, you have an airship builder that can be a business who could use one of the existing hangars to house airships:

Web Link

Put aside your personl, petty politics and take advantage of the opportunities you are given to use the existing infrastructure.

Save a bit of history NOW or the people of M.V. will regret it later. ( I'll keep my comments about the enviro-nuts to myself. The Voice would censor them anyway )


Posted by ShareIt, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

Silicon Valley is about more than building companies! It's about inspiration and innovation. Museums exist for us to reflect and consider the past so we can be inspired to make better choices for the present and future. I like the IDEAs plan, in part, but why can't they consider saving some space for an air and space museum too? Just being able to walk through Hangar One and learn about the pre-Silicon Valley history of the airfield would be a fascinating experience.


Posted by RocketSciRick, a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2013 at 1:15 am

@Scott Lamb: I've taken a brief look at the NASA/GSA RFP. Basically, it allows for two kinds of proposals: (1) just Hangar One, or (2) the airfield, including Hangars One, Two, and Three. In either case, the airfield would remain open; it then becomes a matter of whether NASA or a leasee is managing it. Both options require remediation of Hangar One. The second option would require some remedial maintenance on Hangars Two and Three as well.

I believe both ISDHub and SVSC are interested in space entrepreneurship. The founders of Google seem to have some interest as well, but who knows what will be in their bid. So, if there is space entrepreneurship at Moffett Field, the nature of it will depend on who the selected leasee is.

I am an SVSC member. I have my own idea of what space entrepreneurship at Moffett Field entails, which is certainly influenced by my good working relationship with other SVSC members. My opinion is too long to post here. So I've posted it on my own blog, and tried to provide relevant links for readers.
Web Link

My opinion is not necessarily the same what is in the SVSC MFA IDEAS concept, but I'm certainly providing my feedback to the IDEAS team.


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