Community blasts NASA chief's proposal to dispose of Moffett

Moffett's airfields, Hangar One are "excess" property, says NASA

It took little more than a day for local city officials and others concerned about Moffett Field's future to unite in opposition to NASA's push to dispose of Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield.

"We can not leave such a review to unresponsive federal agencies," said Lenny Siegel, chair of the Save Hangar One Committee. His comment distilled the gist of the message backed by the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board and letters from the City of Sunnyvale and Mountain View about the possibility of the General Services Agency stepping in to decide the fate of Moffett.

Derailing restoration plans for historic Hangar One and causing anxiety over Moffett Field's future, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says Hangar One and the runways at Moffett Field are "excess to the agency" and therefore should undergo a review by the General Services Administration, according to an April 6 letter to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. The GSA's involvement is not yet a done deal, however, and Eshoo is trying to get the White House to stop the move.

RAB members expressed frustration over the possibility that the GSA would duplicate the local community's years of planning efforts for Moffett, and reopen old conflicts between RAB members who had disagreed about how the airfield should be used in the future.

"I'm 79 years old and I've been dealing with this issue since 1997," said RAB member Art Schwartz. "If it takes as much time to complete it as it's taken up to now, I might not be here."

"We've vetted this thing so many times I think we know what we want this place to look like," said Carl Honaker, former Moffett Naval Air Station chief officer. "I don't think we need to go back and open those old wounds again."

Honaker blasted the GSA for the time it takes on average to dispose of federal properties, an unprecedented number of which are being dumped in a cost-cutting move.

"The GSA may be able to throw a really nice party in Las Vegas," Honaker said referring to a recent scandal, "but they are the most horrible real estate manager you could ever ever imagine."

RAB members expressed concern about the consequences for Hangar One, as a restoration proposal from Google's founders may not wait for the GSA's review. The delay could mean birds will nest in the hangar's bare skeleton, providing hazards to airplanes while the frame degrades without new siding. Contractors removing the hangar's siding are already removing nests and shooing away a particularly persistent raven on a regular basis, according to Navy project manager Bryce Bartelma.

Bolden's announcement came as a response to Eshoo's continued push to have NASA headquarters sign off on the proposal to save Hangar One, which the community has struggled to do over the last decade. But because there is no "mission" for Hangar One, Bolden says it cannot be leased in the long term to the founders of Google, who through their private plane operator H211 LLC have offered to restore the iconic structure, a restoration priced by NASA at over $45 million.

"When every other public agency in the U.S. is trying to get public-private partnerships, NASA is ignoring them," said RAB member Bob Moss.

So far Bolden has only singled out Hangar One and the Moffett runways as areas that could be surplussed, so there is still some question as to what area will be under review, said Bill Berry, RAB co-chair and former NASA Ames administrator.

The GSA may decide the property should be given to another federal government agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration. If declared surplus by the federal government, it could be split by the cities Sunnyvale and Mountain View along a "sphere of influence" boundary which runs north-south between Moffett's two runways. It could also be offered to a list of non-profit users including Indian Tribes, senior care facilities and homeless shelters.

RAB members said they hoped NASA headquarters would work directly work with the community instead of using the GSA. Otherwise, they said NASA would face considerable pressure.

Bolden's announcement "is of significant concern to the local communities and will likely meet the strongest of local opposition," wrote mayor Mike Kasperzak in a letter to Bolden on Thursday.

IN a statement released Tuesday through NASA Ames public affairs, the agency says "NASA has not moved to excess Moffett Federal Airfield or Hangar One. However the agency is working closely with interested members of Congress and the General Services Administration to evaluate the appropriate future stewardship of these properties. The local communities, federal, state and local agencies, local members and and other interested would all play a key role in this process to determine how to maximize the benefit for all stakeholders. NASA is committed to a process that will best respect the airfield's current uses, the community's interest and the taxpayer's value. Again, NASA has not moved to excess Moffett Field or Hangar One. A disposition of property would only take place after formal notice by NASA and under GSA procedures that would ensure robust public participation and transparency in the process."

Watch this website for more in the coming week as this story develops.

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3 people like this
Posted by don't care
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Most locals have never been to Moffett Field and do not care about preserving any of those rotting and polluted buildings. If some historical groups do care, then they should buy it and turn it into a museum. The government shouldn't be spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to maintain property that has sentimental value to only a few people. There are lots of better things that the government can use the money for, like paying down the debt or improving public schools or fixing roads.

3 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I mentioned this on the original story, but folks should look at what Irvine is doing with the old El Toro Marine air base. I think there are all kinds of cool things that could be done with Hangar One and some other historic buildings if developed right.

3 people like this
Posted by don't care
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Have any private developers shown interest in the old buildings? Most are heavily polluted (asbestos, toxic waste, etc) and would require extensive and expensive refurbishing before they could be reused. Are any developers willing to pay for that, in addition to the cost of the land?

3 people like this
Posted by SaveHangarOne
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm

don't care - Google showed great interest in redeveloping Hangar One. There are start-ups renting space in there too. Tesla used the runways to test their models. Airship Ventures runs their zepellin tours from there. The reason locals don't visit is because it is a federal military property with a guarded gated entry. Though you can get access to the museum and businesses if you show proper i.d. and give reason for your visit.

3 people like this
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I am greatly disappointed at this turn of events but it clearly shows why Bolden has balked at accepting Google's offer. The cost to NASA of owning that real estate is very high and will be largely eliminated if it is given away. There will still be significant costs outside the Ames fence, but giving away the runways will save NASA a lot of money--and eliminate the cost of re-skinning Hanger One.


to don't care: I would be happy to see Hanger One converted into a museum. Maybe if Google bought the entire property for their private airfield, they would be willing to let a part of Hanger One be used for a museum. The chance that NASA or GSA would allow that is nil, however. When the government disposes of real estate, it's almost impossible for any non-government entity to buy it.

In any event, I can't see the runways continuing to be useful for more than another few decades due to Global Warming. That's probably one of the reasons for Bolden's decision.

3 people like this
Posted by Research Centers
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2012 at 2:32 am

It may be not as it appears
Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Bill Hough
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

It's utterly shocking how unresponsive and antagonistic the federal bureaucrats at the Navy, NASA and now the GSA are being on this issue. Obama should listen to his own party's congressional delegation on this. I'm glad that Representative Eshoo is fighting this, and kudos to the Save Hangar One Committee for keeping the hangar issue alive.

3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm

"...The delay could mean birds will nest in the hangar's bare skeleton, providing hazards to airplanes while the frame degrades without new siding. Contractors removing the hangar's siding are already removing nests and shooing away a particularly persistent raven on a regular basis, according to Navy project manager Bryce Bartelma."

Maybe some California Condors will build a nest up there. No expense would be spared in preserving the structure then!

3 people like this
Posted by NASA employee
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Is Bolden saying that flight operations at Ames Research is being discontinued? To make way for Indian tribes, homeless, and senior citizens? That would be a major policy shift.

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

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