A group working to preserve Hangar One at Moffett Field is taking its cause up the chain of command -- literally.
Today, when President Barack Obama touches down in Mountain View for a brief Bay Area visit, members of the Save Hangar One Committee will be there to draw his attention to the Depression-era structure's condition.
"When President Obama comes to Moffett Field, we want him to notice that historic Hangar One, one of world's largest free-standing structures, is being stripped to its frame," said committee member Larry Ellis.
"We are asking the president to direct NASA, the current owner of Moffett Field, to take steps to ensure that the hangar is re-skinned soon, so it is not exposed to the elements. This is a crucial next step in assuring that Hangar One becomes a productive asset as part of our national heritage."
A contractor hired by the Navy is in the midst of removing the hangar's panels, which were discovered about a decade ago to contain PCBs and other cancer-causing toxins. The Navy is responsible for the cleanup even though Moffett Field is now under NASA's control.
Ellis said hangar preservationists are planning to gather at 5:30 p.m. near Moffett Field's main gates, where they will wave signs in the hopes of driving their message home to the commander in chief.
The committee isn't looking to Obama to restore Hangar One funding that was stripped out of last year's federal budget. Rather, its members want to put a spotlight on a promising public-private partnership put forward by Google's top three executives in December.
Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt -- the CEO, cofounder and current chief executive, respectively -- have offered thorough a company they control, H211, to pay the $33 million cost of restoring Hangar One. In exchange, they want to use up to two-thirds of the hangar's floor space to house their fleet of eight private jets.
The proposal was well-received by hangar preservationists, but NASA has been slow to respond.
Instead, the space agency's top administrator, Charles Bolden Jr., unveiled plans on May 3 to transfer responsibility for Moffett Field's runways and Hangar One to another entity through the federal General Services Administration. The move could potentially delay a decision on the H211 proposal for years, Ellis said.
Meanwhile, the hangar would sit exposed to the elements. Although a protective coating is being applied to the exposed frame, Ellis said there inevitably will be gaps because of its numerous nooks and crannies.
"The sooner we get it covered, the better off it will be from the standpoint of preserving a treasure," he said.
Ellis said Bolden's plans to offload Hangar One appear to be an effort to sidestep a ruling by the federal Office of Management and Budget that NASA, not the Navy, is responsible for the structure's restoration.
U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, appeared to agree in a May 9 letter to Bolden. They noted the Navy has already spent $25 million on the cleanup effort.
"The taxpayer dollars invested cannot simply be brushed aside," Eshoo and Lofgren wrote. "We believe you should continue your commitment to finish this project either through NASA funding or a public-private partnership, which, as you know, is 'on the table' but has not been evaluated by NASA."
Whether or not Obama notices the condition of the hangar, Ellis said he is convinced it will be restored one day.
"The building is an iconic feature of Silicon Valley," he said. "There are too many people who care to have the building go away."
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