News

Google backing Earth, Air & Space Collaboratory at Moffett

 

An ambitious plan for a museum and collaborative educational space at Moffett Field is taking shape, thanks to Google's lease deal with NASA for Hangar One and the Moffett Federal Airfields property. On Tuesday, the nonprofit Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation announced that it is receiving financial support from Google to create an Earth, Air & Space Collaboratory at Moffett Field.

NASA's lease with Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures was signed Monday, months after the announcement that Google would be awarded the lease and would take over the running of roughly 1,000 acres of Moffett Field, including Hangars One, Two and Three, an airfield flight operations building, two runways and a private golf course. Along with a requirement to restore and rehabilitate the historic hangars, the lease called for the creation of "an educational facility where the public can explore the site's legacy and the role of technology in the history of Silicon Valley."

The Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation, largely made up of members of the Save Hangar One Committee and the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board, has been working since 2010 to muster support for the creation of a kind of "Smithsonian West" at Moffett.

The exact amount of Google's funding can't be disclosed, at Google's behest, said foundation spokesman Matthew Schmidt. He said that Google's contribution, combined with private donations, make up $500,000 in seed money for the foundation to flesh out its plans for what he described as a world-class educational, conference, exhibition and museum space.

Google will also provide a building or buildings, although it's still up in the air as to whether it will be housed in new or existing buildings at Moffett, Schmidt said. Google's lease includes the potential to build up to 90,000 square feet of new structures, he said.

The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., and the Exploratorium and California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco provide inspiration for the future facility, Schmidt said. There will be exhibits detailing the history of Moffett Field and NASA Ames, as well as the origins of Silicon Valley, he said.

There will be classrooms and laboratory space designed to attract students and educators from the whole Bay Area, as well as public events and meeting space. The focus will be on STE(A)M subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and "Engineering Grand Challenges," big problems facing the planet in the 21st century, such as clean air, clean water and clean energy, said Schmidt. "I think it's one of the things that attracted Google. They have their X labs, and are involved in many ways in solving tough problems," he said.

"It's nice to have a big goal, right? It plays to the Bay Area's strengths in a lot of ways," said Schmidt.

At this early stage, there are still a lot of questions that remain to be answered, including how much it ultimately will cost and when it might be open to the public. Schmidt said the foundation will kick off its fundraising efforts in earnest now that the lease deal is signed. He said the final cost will be "in the tens of millions of dollars," but without more details on exactly where it will be housed, it's impossible to say more.

The foundation expects to start launching some educational or speaking programs by the end of 2015, he said. More details of plans for the Earth, Air & Space Collaboratory are at the foundation's website earthairspace.org.

"It's exciting to be able to tell this story. It all started with wanting to preserve Hangar One and the surrounding area of Moffett Field and find a future use for it," Schmidt said.

In 2003, the Navy had sought to tear down the landmark structure because of toxic lead, asbestos and PCBs in its frame paint and siding. Stripped of its siding, Hangar One is now a massive skeleton in need of a restoration job expected to cost more than $40 million.

Besides paying to restore Hangar One, the lease is estimated to save NASA approximately $6.3 million annually in maintenance and operation costs, and provide $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term, according to NASA spokeswoman Karen Nothon.

Related content:

NASA, Google ink deal for Hangar One, Moffett airfields

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:33 am

This is exciting news. It is undoubtedly also going to mean more high tech workers wanting to get to more high tech jobs.

I hope that Mountain View and Caltrans are already planning for the traffic that this is going to produce. Now is the time to do that, not when the gridlock has occurred.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

The Lite-Rail operating out of the Mountain View Caltrain station - which is a transportation center - goes directly around Moffett Field and goes through the newly developing area. Many companies provide ridership tokens in that area as a benefit to reduce car traffic.


1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm

This morning's POST carried an article about a loop-hole in tax law that might well cost the taxpayers billions of dollars over the period of Google's occupation of this site.

With land valued at/about $5M an acre in this part of the world, a 1000 acres would be valued initially at $5,000,000,000 (billion) dollars, and double in assessed value every 37.5 years. At 1% of acessess value, this means that the nominal tax on this acreage would be at least $50M a year. Given the yearly 2% assessved value increase (via Prop.13), taxes on the first ten years comes to about $550M.

Pushing the calculation out to the full sixty years, property taxes on this acreage would be about $5.7B--a lot more than the $1+B Google is promising to pay.

Maybe this giveaway to Google is a good idea, but it seems like a lot of money that is needed for local needs--such as roads, and other infrastructure refurbishments.

The POST article claims the SCC Assessor is aware of the situation. Will be interesting to see if he actually spends much time trying to determine the property taxes owed by Google for the use of this land.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm

The government has already spent a lot of money working to clean up this site. And it not clean at this time. Contamination is moving through the sewer system, under the freeway to the businesses on the other side. They are trying to resolve this issue. You cannot put houses, etc on land that is a super fund site if you are referring to the airfield. The National Guard uses that airfield, as well as other government type agencies that are shipping large deliverable items.
Not sure what Wayne is expecting to happen here. The use it is being put to will be to the Government's advantage.


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm

> Not sure what Wayne is expecting to happen here.

Wayne is expecting Google to pay its own way. There are a lot of people here in Palo Alto that are always bellowing about "corporate welfare". Well--here is a prime example of "corporate welfare" going on before their eyes. How many PA folks will see it for what it is, and call a spade a spade?

As to the site being a "supersite"--it can be cleaned up. Whether it is used for residential purposes, or commercial purposes--the land is not so toxic that it can not be used for more than a landing strip for Google airplanes.


3 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Wayne Martin, I believe you have misunderstood the deal signed. The Federal govt. isn't considering selling the land, and so no matter what happens, property taxes will not change at Moffett Field. This is a matter of making the best use of the property and maximizing the benefit to the community. Planetary Ventures collaboration with Earth, Air & Space seems to suggest that this might be a pretty good deal for the Peninsula.


3 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 12, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Also, it's my understanding that the tarmac at Moffett is hardened to a strength way beyond that of any of the municipal airports, and so the landing strip is being preserved for emergency services purposes. In the event of the Big One, you just might find your food & water coming in through that property.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Climate scientists promise the whole place will be under water before the lease is out.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

The Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meets 20 November at the Mountain View Senior Center on Escuela at 7:00 - 9:00 PM. This is a government directed group that is cleaning up the base and includes the EPA, Navy, NASA and local city participants. Lenny Siegel is a member who has been championing Hanger 1 and is a newly elected Mountain View City Counsel member. I am sure that this particular meeting will be very interesting since it is the next step as to how everyone proceeds and a celebration as to what has been accomplished. Many people have been working this issue so all are to be commended.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:58 am

> I believe you have misunderstood the deal signed. The Federal govt. isn't
> considering selling the land, and so no matter what happens, property taxes
> will not change at Moffett Field.

From reading the article in the POST, it seems that when private enterprise is located on government lands, then the otherwise tax exempt government land can be taxed at the commercial rates. However, there is a loop-hole that states that if Federal Land were in the possession of the Federal Government, then this constitutes a Federal Enclave and the land can not be taxed.

So, your comment about the taxes not changing is correct--they will probably stay at zero dollars. Do you think that a company as large as Google should be using a 1000 acres (or a significant portion) of publicly-owned land without paying property taxes?

Given the never-ending demand for government services by Californians, and the need to refurbish our infrastructure periodically--allowing Google to not pay for the use of this land via property taxes is clearly "corporate welfare".

Let's not forget that Stanford also has a fairly steep $7.4B property tax exemption for its lands. We are looking at tens of billions of dollars of lost property tax opportunities with these two exemptions in place.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Opps ..

However, there is a loop-hole that states that if Federal Land were in the possession of the Federal Government prior to 1939, then this constitutes a Federal Enclave and the land can not be taxed. Moffett Field was opened in 1917 (if memory serves) to provide a base for anti-uboat patrols. So, this piece of land has been in the hands of the Feds for almost a hundred years now.


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

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