News

USGS kicks off move from Menlo Park to Moffett Field

New headquarters at NASA Ames offers opportunities for scientific partnerships

Laying the groundwork for a new epicenter for research, the U.S. Geological Survey this week formally began its relocation from Menlo Park to its new headquarters at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

The transition, which is expected to take three years, will eventually close the USGS West Coast science center in Menlo Park and bring its 420-person workforce to the NASA Ames Research Park.

At a July 10 ribbon-cutting event, USGS and NASA senior officials touted the possibilities the move would create for the two federal science agencies to work together. USGS, best known to Californians as the agency that monitors seismic activity, is expected to coordinate with NASA on a host of future projects, using newer technology and automated equipment to pursue its research.

"This relocation sets that stage for a quantum leap in our partnership with NASA," said USGS Southwest Regional Director Mark Sogge. "This move ushers in a new era for USGS, and for me it's an incredibly exciting future."

The decision to move to Moffett Field from Menlo Park was in large part financially based. USGS has reportedly paid $7.5 million a year to lease its Menlo Park offices, and that rent was expected to spike in the coming years.

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The USGS campus at 345 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park 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.

"Like everyone else, we're dealing with the added costs for being in the Bay Area," Colin Williams, a USGS science center director who is part of the transition team, explained in an earlier interview. "We're hoping that relocating to the (NASA) campus will give us an opportunity to reduce those costs."

The new NASA offices were reportedly a bargain in comparison. By moving to Moffett, USGS officials say, the agency could also consolidate its divisions under one roof.

But it is a bittersweet transition for USGS employees, many of whom have worked in Menlo Park for decades. When the move was first announced in 2014, Sogge said some staffers were "in tears" out of concern that their jobs would be on the line if the agency left the Bay Area. News of the pending move was kept a secret until 2016.

The biggest challenge now facing the agency is convincing nervous staffers that the move was a good choice, Sogge said.

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The new USGS center is located at NASA Ames Building 19, a 1930s structure formerly used as a U.S. Navy barracks during the site's days as a military base. More recently, the building has been partitioned and leased for a variety of research startups and outside contractors.

At the ribbon cutting this week, the new USGS offices on the building's second floor were still mostly vacant, an expanse of empty cubicles and offices. A new air-conditioning system and IT network was installed in preparation for the move.

NASA officials at the ribbon cutting emphasized the potential to benefit from their fellow scientists at USGS. The earth sciences have plenty of overlap with the study of distant planets and moons, said Dan Alfano, chief of NASA's Intelligent Systems Division. In the coming months, he said, his team would be working with USGS to automate aspects of their field research, such as using unmanned drones to track map changes to rivers and terrain.

In turn, NASA would benefit from the immense data collected by decades of geological research. That information could be loaded into a machine-learning system to help analyze other planets' geology.

"Bringing these agencies together gives us an amazing scientific talent pool," Alfano said.

By early August, USGS officials expect at least 200 employees to be in place at Moffett, and they gave assurances the transition wouldn't cause any interruption for their research.

What will take longer to relocate is the agency's advanced seismologic gear. In some cases, this equipment will need to be rebuilt. For example, USGS officials were still looking for a new site at Moffett Field to locate an 80-foot "seismic tower," used to quickly relay earthquake data from a network of monitors across the country.

A full transition for personnel and equipment won't be complete until 2022, said Colin Williams, director of the USGS geophysics division.

And is the new building seismically safe?

"That was one of the first things we checked," Williams said with a laugh. "Our seismologists, they wanted to see all the structural work of this building before they moved in."

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USGS kicks off move from Menlo Park to Moffett Field

New headquarters at NASA Ames offers opportunities for scientific partnerships

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 11, 2019, 11:43 am

Laying the groundwork for a new epicenter for research, the U.S. Geological Survey this week formally began its relocation from Menlo Park to its new headquarters at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

The transition, which is expected to take three years, will eventually close the USGS West Coast science center in Menlo Park and bring its 420-person workforce to the NASA Ames Research Park.

At a July 10 ribbon-cutting event, USGS and NASA senior officials touted the possibilities the move would create for the two federal science agencies to work together. USGS, best known to Californians as the agency that monitors seismic activity, is expected to coordinate with NASA on a host of future projects, using newer technology and automated equipment to pursue its research.

"This relocation sets that stage for a quantum leap in our partnership with NASA," said USGS Southwest Regional Director Mark Sogge. "This move ushers in a new era for USGS, and for me it's an incredibly exciting future."

The decision to move to Moffett Field from Menlo Park was in large part financially based. USGS has reportedly paid $7.5 million a year to lease its Menlo Park offices, and that rent was expected to spike in the coming years.

The USGS campus at 345 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park 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.

"Like everyone else, we're dealing with the added costs for being in the Bay Area," Colin Williams, a USGS science center director who is part of the transition team, explained in an earlier interview. "We're hoping that relocating to the (NASA) campus will give us an opportunity to reduce those costs."

The new NASA offices were reportedly a bargain in comparison. By moving to Moffett, USGS officials say, the agency could also consolidate its divisions under one roof.

But it is a bittersweet transition for USGS employees, many of whom have worked in Menlo Park for decades. When the move was first announced in 2014, Sogge said some staffers were "in tears" out of concern that their jobs would be on the line if the agency left the Bay Area. News of the pending move was kept a secret until 2016.

The biggest challenge now facing the agency is convincing nervous staffers that the move was a good choice, Sogge said.

The new USGS center is located at NASA Ames Building 19, a 1930s structure formerly used as a U.S. Navy barracks during the site's days as a military base. More recently, the building has been partitioned and leased for a variety of research startups and outside contractors.

At the ribbon cutting this week, the new USGS offices on the building's second floor were still mostly vacant, an expanse of empty cubicles and offices. A new air-conditioning system and IT network was installed in preparation for the move.

NASA officials at the ribbon cutting emphasized the potential to benefit from their fellow scientists at USGS. The earth sciences have plenty of overlap with the study of distant planets and moons, said Dan Alfano, chief of NASA's Intelligent Systems Division. In the coming months, he said, his team would be working with USGS to automate aspects of their field research, such as using unmanned drones to track map changes to rivers and terrain.

In turn, NASA would benefit from the immense data collected by decades of geological research. That information could be loaded into a machine-learning system to help analyze other planets' geology.

"Bringing these agencies together gives us an amazing scientific talent pool," Alfano said.

By early August, USGS officials expect at least 200 employees to be in place at Moffett, and they gave assurances the transition wouldn't cause any interruption for their research.

What will take longer to relocate is the agency's advanced seismologic gear. In some cases, this equipment will need to be rebuilt. For example, USGS officials were still looking for a new site at Moffett Field to locate an 80-foot "seismic tower," used to quickly relay earthquake data from a network of monitors across the country.

A full transition for personnel and equipment won't be complete until 2022, said Colin Williams, director of the USGS geophysics division.

And is the new building seismically safe?

"That was one of the first things we checked," Williams said with a laugh. "Our seismologists, they wanted to see all the structural work of this building before they moved in."

Comments

Jon Castor
Registered user
Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Jul 11, 2019 at 12:45 pm
Jon Castor, Woodside: Woodside Heights
Registered user
on Jul 11, 2019 at 12:45 pm
Like this comment

Glad to see the GS is staying on the Peninsula.


whateve
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm
whateve, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm
1 person likes this

The most important items of concern to MP residents are missing from the story. What will replace USGS at the Middlefield Rd site? Who is the current owner of the property? What does the current zoning allow? Will we end up with a huge development with massive towers impacting our local MP weather? Will a new development be creating massive amounts of additional traffic? If it's housing can the local schools handle the additional students? Come on Almanac lets cover the important stuff.


No Easy Solutions
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 4:01 pm
No Easy Solutions, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 4:01 pm
Like this comment

@whateve the property is owned by federal government. if GSA can't find a federal tenant, then they could end up selling the property. Here is more context from another news publication, Web Link


whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 4:51 pm
whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2019 at 4:51 pm
2 people like this

No easy solutions
Thanks for the link.
I thought it odd that USGS was paying $7.5 million annual rent. Thus I unfortunately assumed it was a private land owner. If US gov wonder if it's a hold over from the old Camp Fremont days.


someone
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 11, 2019 at 5:59 pm
someone, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 11, 2019 at 5:59 pm
Like this comment

Hope they continue with the free monthly lectures once they move. Wondering if we'll need to show ID to get onto NASA for USGS lectures and educational library.


Jim VanPernis
another community
on Jul 11, 2019 at 8:40 pm
Jim VanPernis, another community
on Jul 11, 2019 at 8:40 pm
5 people like this

Now that the USGS and NASA will be working together on projects at Moffett Field's Building 19, I'd like to be kept informed as to any openings for unpaid volunteers there. This move brings two organizations together both of which have held public outreach lectures and other events I've enjoyed attending. This relocation brings the USGS closer to where I reside and, as a retiree, I'd like to become involved somehow.


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