News


USGS to leave Menlo Park for Moffett Field

 

Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey say they intend to shut down the agency's West Coast science center in Menlo Park over the next five years beginning next year, and relocate the center at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

The first phase of the transition is expected to occur over the next year with about 175 employees -- around one-third of the USGS Menlo Park staff -- moving to Moffett Field in Mountain View.

The full transition is expected to take up to five years, and will involve moving the office's full workforce, along with an array of complex scientific gear installed at the Menlo Park center.

The reason for the move is primarily financial, explained Colin Williams, a USGS science center director who is part of the transition team. The USGS campus at 345 Middlefield Road is owned by the General Services Administration, the government agency that serves as a property manager for federal office buildings. The GSA is obligated under federal law to charge market-rate rent for its properties, even in pricey locales such as the Bay Area, where office space goes for a premium cost.

The USGS is currently paying about $7.5 million a year for its Menlo Park space. With a 10-year lease on the facility set to expire late next year, USGS officials expect to see a significant rent increase if the agency remains there, Mr. Williams said.

"Like everyone else, we're dealing with the added costs for being in the Bay Area," he said. "We're hoping that relocating to the (NASA) campus will give us an opportunity to reduce those costs."

USGS officials say they've been discussing the move to Moffett Field with NASA officials over the last three years. No final lease agreement has been signed yet, but that should be finished in the next couple of months, Mr. Williams said. He emphasized that NASA officials have been very supportive of the plans.

Mr. Williams couldn't specify what the USGS would be paying for its new space, but he said it should be "significantly cheaper" than the agency's current Menlo Park rent.

He noted that relocating to the NASA campus would result in major opportunities to strengthen scientific collaboration between the two federal research agencies on projects such as studying Earth's gravity and atmosphere. Any money saved on rent will free up more funding for research, he said.

"I do want to emphasize we're not doing this solely for financial reasons; it's also for science," he said. "We need to strengthen our technology side and being near NASA will help that. We bring capabilities that complement theirs."

This isn't the first time the USGS has proposed moving out of Menlo Park, where it has been based since 1954. In late 1999, USGS administrators ordered the Menlo Park facility to close and relocate out of the Bay Area, but a groundswell of residents led by Rep. Anna Eshoo pressured the agency to scuttle those plans. The talk of relocating from Menlo Park at that time came just a few years after USGS had spent $42 million to construct its Middlefield Road building.

In recent years, the USGS has downsized its presence on the Menlo Park campus, and other federal agencies have leased out space there.

Moving out of the Menlo Park facility will cause some disruptions for the agency, Mr. Williams conceded. A variety of gear to monitor seismic effects will need to be reinstalled at Moffett Field without any lapse in measuring possible earthquake activity, he said.

Menlo Park reactions

Menlo Park officials say that they're sorry to see the USGS leave.

"Simply put, the USGS is a Menlo Park treasure," said Mayor Rich Cline. He hinted that the city might try to see if anything else could be done: "We plan to stay close and work with the GSA to determine if this decision is final," he said. "We want to keep the USGS if we can. We value the people and the organization that much."

"I was surprised to see they're leaving," said Menlo Park City Manager Alex McIntyre. "They're a big employer."

He said having a federal agency like the USGS and its scientists located in Menlo Park is good for the community, but understands if, due to market prices, the General Services Agency "really (needs) to get out of this expensive property."

Whether another federal agency would occupy the space, or the property would be sold is not yet known, he said.

Comments

33 people like this
Posted by Willows Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 20, 2016 at 9:07 am

This is so sad. Along with losing Sunset Magazine headquarters and the downsizing of Keplers, much of what made Menlo Park anything other than a pricy suburb will be gone. New identity - Facebook. I hope that the city can find a way to preserve the GeoKids daycare center - there are so few daycare spots available, that would be a huge loss.


37 people like this
Posted by lrock
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 20, 2016 at 10:47 am

lrock is a registered user.

add Beltramos and Roger Reynolds to that list. The community that we knew is not what we will know. Too bad.


16 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm

The USGS is a wonderful resource with their evening talks and the GeoKids daycare center which was started by USGS and SRI parents long ago. When my kids attended their preschool they would go on field trips around the campus and they learned a lot from being in that environment. Hopefully GeoKids will survive the move.

Another loss for Menlo Park.


7 people like this
Posted by gina
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Sep 20, 2016 at 2:55 pm

On one hand its sad they are leaving menlo park because of high market rent. On the other hand by moving to Moffett Field they will still have a west coast office. Had they left California all together the next closest USGS office would be in Golden Colorado. So lets be grateful they are still relocating somewhere else in California.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With the GSA being required by law to charge market rates for this property what Federal agency could possibly afford the rent?


1 person likes this
Posted by Morgan J Bearden
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm

I would suspect that GeoKids will survive. BUT, since it was established to serve the needs of the USGS employees I imagine it will follow them to Moffatt Field.

We were very grateful to have GeoKids just outside our office door when our daughter was born in 1987 - one of the first GeoKids!

Best wishes to all...


5 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm

@Peter C. - how about the Pentagon or one of its satellite offices?

And we're losing something else soon. With Facebook bridging its apartments over the freeway - NOT to the campus - but to Bedwell Bayfront Park, there are going to be major changes to that as soon, hearings on changing it are in the works. So long preserve, here comes Facebook and all the amenities and changes they want. No longer will it be a refuge for many of us to escape the noise and distractions we live with during most of any day. It was a wonderful place and to be there at dawn is something everyone should experience, especially with the light now given.

Who says corporations don't run our politicians and government. Of course they do, and this is an example.

Btw - Keeble and Suchet is also closing.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Beth - Wow - increasing access to a PUBLIC park is bad? Is the park your private preserve?


36 people like this
Posted by hold your horses
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 20, 2016 at 7:28 pm

"I would suspect that GeoKids will survive. BUT, since it was established to serve the needs of the USGS employees I imagine it will follow them to Moffatt Field."


NASA Ames already has a childcare facility on site, based on a google search I just did. GeoKids would be redundant.


Before we jump to conclusions, I think it's important to gather more info before determining the viability of GeoKids over the next few years. There are some compelling reasons to suspect GeoKids will be fine:

1: I recall that GeoKids has its own leasing agreement, probably with the GSA (unless there's some sublease with USGS). GeoKids isn't technically a part of the USGS, so it may not be bound by the same issues as the USGS.

2: Since it likely has it's own lease, GeoKids may already be paying market rate (which the GSA is required to charge), so there's no new pricing pressures to force it to move or close.

3: There's just too much demand for good preschool childcare for GeoKids to just disappear. When my wife and I were looking for childcare, all the recommended facilities had waiting lists, and I'm sure it's only gotten worse since then.

4: My anecdotal experience is that the USGS makes up a minority percentage of the GeoKids family population. Several years ago, GeoKids was made publicly available with Fed+USGS employees getting priority access for openings. Even if USGS employees left GeoKids, the openings would be filled by the backlog in the waiting list.


The more I think about this, the more GeoKids looks safe. The key, of course, will be the length and cost of the existing lease.


3 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2016 at 8:31 pm

Peter: You missed my point. No reference to restriction. Oh, there was that mention of corporations and politicians, wasn't there.






2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2016 at 8:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Beth stated "With Facebook bridging its APARTMENTS over the freeway - NOT to the campus - but to Bedwell Bayfront Park, there are going to be major changes to that as soon"


Sure sounds like the concern is about sharing the park with more people rather than about corporations.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 20, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Interesting this will be, when someone else wants to move in there, will there be the usual opposition.

It kinda seems that someone gets upset at any develop but then we moan when people move out.


9 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm

USGS has been a visible company in Menlo. In addition to the children's care and community events, their distribution/recycling of old maps for us to use as gift wrap, paper art, coloring sheets or other ideas was good for everyone as well as the environment. It feels good to have them remain in the area.


5 people like this
Posted by Village person
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 21, 2016 at 12:23 am

Beth, you seem to think USGS is a company. It is a US government agency. That's what the US IN USGS STANDS FOR


3 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2016 at 6:09 am

Village - I know well USGS is a government agency. I misspoke. Why do you choose to be bothered and angered by that?


Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

This is major news, is it not? Some local organization needs to research as to how this will impact the area....financially and otherwise.....would a lucrative social media company be willing to take over the campus and higher lease????


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 21, 2016 at 7:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

IF the GSA is unable to lease this property at the required market rates to an eligible agency then the GSA would need to declare the property as surplus to public needs and place it on the market. The property would then be sold by auction to the highest bidder - complicated by the current zoning of the property.

The new buyer would then have to seek rezoning and submit development proposals which could be as simply as using the existing structures as office spaces or it could involve demolition and replacement with whatever.

And the new owner would pay property taxes based on their purchase price plus the value of improvements.

All of which means change and there is usually strong local resistance to change.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 21, 2016 at 8:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note:

"Valley venture capitalists pay highest office rents in the nation
Silicon Valley venture capitalists pay nearly $130 a month to rent a square foot of office space in the prestigious neighborhood of Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. This amounts to $54,000 in monthly rent for a 5,000-square-foot office. That exceeds rents on Park Avenue in New York. (Silicon Valley Business Journal)"


Like this comment
Posted by Village Person
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 21, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Beth,

I don't mean to be mean however I disagree with your basic premise. You referred to USGS as a corporation and stated that "corporate interests control our politicians and government and this is an example". Unfortunately you are just wrong and see dark motives at work here which is why I corrected you.
The US government doesn't need to be paying market rent in Menlo Park if less expensive alternatives exist. Moffett has plenty of underutilized space. I don't think that USGS moving is a tragedy at all. Let a developer come in and build apartments and higher density housing. It will help alleviate our housing shortage and the location is close to the train.


Like this comment
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I, too, hope Menlo Park will not lose the preschool spaces being provided by GeoKids.

Hold your Horses, unfortunately child care is not on the top of the list of priorities for most companies, landowners or municipalities and this site could very easily close if they don't have a separate rental agreement. Casa de Bambini and Petits Confettis (both preschools in Menlo Park and closed in the last year) are prime examples. Unfortunately, this is happening up and down the Peninsula and we are reaching crisis mode.

I own a preschool in West Menlo Park (Toddle) and it was next to impossible to open a new facility given real estate prices, lack of open space (for play yard) and permitting/neighbor opposition. It took three years and was a full time job (not to mention requiring a huge number of financial resources). I am not optimistic about other new preschools opening given the time, resources and political clout it would take, unless voters start speaking up.


Like this comment
Posted by Bth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Village -

My comment re corporations and politicians was in regard to Facebook's bridge and Bedwell Park's renovation and possible repurposing, not USGS. Perhaps I shouldn't have put the comment on a separate line, but feel it's clear enough. Plus I referenced it again in note to Peter, with no reference to USGS.


Like this comment
Posted by Todd
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

My dad turned down an assignment with the USGS because of the cost of living and the cost of housing in Menlo Park. That was in 1975. If they have to pay market rent, it's amazing they made it this long.


Like this comment
Posted by zztop
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Be thankful. The vast variety of research infrastructure remains in the Bay Area, in particular, the South Bay Area, with the all-important federal geological research component, USGS. I suspect that when Moffett NAS closed, mucho hand wringing commenced, not aware of the broader vision of an incredible opportunity of co-locating federal research, along with other cap intensive startup support at the former NAS base. One can look north and see the wonderful developments at the Presidio. Anyway, it all could have been worse, had the USGS left the Bay Area back in the 1990's. They are staying, in spite of the real expense of the region. Apparently the benefits outweigh the expense. Now, quit the handwringing.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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

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