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You need another sign that Menlo Park is getting too expensive: the USGS, one of the city's most reputable employers, is packing its seismologists and geologists to get to Mountain View.
The US Geological Survey cut the ribbon on Wednesday at its new Moffett Field site, marking the first phase of a multi-year move announced as an opportunity to cut costs and strengthen ties with NASA Ames.
Wednesday's ceremony celebrated the arrival of the first 220 USGS employees at Moffett Field. The remaining 200 employees are expected to join them by 2022.
The move was motivated at least in part by skyrocketing rents on the USGS site in Menlo Park, where the federal agency's 11-acre campus has been an integral part of the community since 1954 In 2016, the year of the unveiling, USGS paid out $ 7.5 million in leases to the General Services Administration, essentially the site's owner.
Since GSA is required by law to charge rents to market-rate rents, this figure would have risen to $ 18 million next year, according to USGS Southwest Regional Director Mark Sogge. Instead, the GSA was able to obtain from the USGS a rent exemption that prevented cost increases over the last two years of transition, so that the USGS could redirect these funds – as well as the federal funding obtained by the representative Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – in the construction of its new location.
At Moffett Field, on the other hand, NASA does not charge rent. USGS will be responsible for covering its own operating and maintenance costs; The money that would have been spent on rent can now be used for scientific research, said Colin Williams, director of the movement as director of the Center for Geology, Minerals, Energy and Energy Sciences. geophysics of the USGS. Scientists at the new campus will also research earthquakes, landslide hazards, water quality, ecosystems and species science.
"We have to face the realities of the federal government – we do not have the money we had decades ago," Williams said.
The USGS campus at Moffett Field occupies the second floor of Historic Building 19, built in the 1930s to serve as a barracks. The conversion of space into USGS offices involved a complete renovation of the upper floor. USGS will eventually expand to other Moffett Field buildings for laboratory work as well as larger office space.
Sogge described the move as a "daunting" business. At the first meeting of all the staff announcing the move, longtime employees spoke crying to talk about the prospect of leaving the campus, where many of them had a decades-long career. Finally, he said, opinions have changed and more and more people wanted to be part of the first wave of people who could be welcomed.
But "the mobility of people is the easiest part," he said: until 2022, the USGS will continue the difficult task of moving sensitive lab equipment a distance of 15 minutes. km to the field of Moffett.
The move comes a few years after another Menlo Park institution, Sunset Magazine, left the city to settle in a new trendy headquarters at Jack London Square in Oakland.
The fate of the USGS site at Menlo Park – valued at $ 110 million in 2017 by then-mayor Kirsten Keith – is still undetermined, said GSA Regional Commissioner Dan Brown . The GSA will follow a federal process to decide what to do with the land, although it maintains that the current high rents are likely to complicate the accommodation of a different federal agency. If GSA sells the property, the proceeds will go to a federal construction fund.
At the ceremony on Wednesday, the speakers emphasized the scientific benefits that the new location of the USGS could offer. Sogge described the process as "big step" in their collaboration and NASA Ames Center Assistant Director Carol Carroll highlighted the USGS work on the Apollo project and current and future contributions to the project. Artemis, which aims to send a woman to the moon in 2024. USGS helped mapping the surface of the moon, designing equipment and training astronauts during the landing on the Apollo 11 moon, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary next week.
"This initiative brings together scientists and engineers from two of our country's leading research agencies and is an opportunity to advance our understanding of the Earth, the Moon and our universe," Carroll said.