San Jose Lawmakers Hear Next Steps for Reid-Hillview Closure

Eight months after the Santa Clara County supervisors voted to consider closing Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose lawmakers on Tuesday will review the land’s potential uses and the impact it would have on Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The East San Jose-based Reid-Hillview has been owned by the county since 1961. Though not a magnet for commercial air travel, the facility has served as a headquarters for flight training and other aviation programs. But county officials want to close it once its grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires in 2031. According to the county, rising costs, declining revenues and growing maintenance problems only compound the need to shut the entire place down.

The Board of Supervisors’ December 2018 vote has taken the decades-old airport through an 11-step process to analyze potential closure—one of those steps being a review by the San Jose City Council.

On Tuesday, councilors will get briefed on their options in a report that details the aviation facility’s four main impacts on the city: future land use opportunities, congestion at Mineta San Jose, emergency management and lead levels.

At the May 21 Board of Supervisors meeting, county leaders voted to hire a land-use consultant to develop a site plan for Reid-Hillview. Over the next two years, San Jose officials will join the county in planning process to decide what’s next for the sprawling property if the airport closes for good.

“Should this property become available for redevelopment, it would represent a rare opportunity to better integrate the property and potential new amenities with surrounding neighborhoods,” San Jose Economic Development Director Kim Walesh wrote in a memo on the topic.

While the land could provide the city with a number of opportunities, including rare open space for housing, the airport’s closure also presents a number of potential drawbacks.

For one, Reid-Hillview is considered a “reliever airport” for San Jose’s much larger international airport, SJC, giving smaller planes an alternative place to take off and land.

“If these small aircraft operations don’t transfer to the county’s other airport at San Martin, per FAA rales, SJC would have to accept this traffic, thus potentially increasing airside congestion and delays,” Walesh wrote in her memo to the council.

Reid-Hillview had also been envisioned as a base for first responders should San Jose or one of its neighboring cities get hit by a disaster. It’s also the current home of the Civil Air Patrol, which also aids in disaster relief. Once closed, county officials would have to identify other locations to station organizations like the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Lastly, county officials have expressed some concerns over potentially high lead levels in the area. While the county has reported that airborne lead levels are below the federal and state thresholds, children in the surrounding zip codes have been found with lead in their blood (any lead level is considered toxic under federal guidelines). County Executive Jeff Smith has been tasked with reporting back to the supervisors on how to “analyze and address any concerns regarding airborne lead and associated concerns.”

On Friday afternoon, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Sergio Jimenez, Magdalena Carrasco, Sylvia Arenas and Johnny Khamis asked officials to remedy some of the potential concerns.

“As the city and county continue down the path of bringing this vision to fruition, it is important that the city is clear about important prerequisites,” the mayor and those four councilors wrote in a memo they co-authored.

They’re asking officials to complete a “tower and navigation capacity” at the San Martin airport and find a new location for both San Jose State’s aviation classes and the Civil Air Patrol. The mayor and the council co-authors of the directive are also requesting that the city’s Office of Economic Development reviews the “potential for increased economic development throughout the Reid-Hillview flight path” and consider other economic opportunities throughout the planning process.

“The potential closure of Reid-Hillview Airport by 2031,” they wrote, “offers a dual opportunity to both improve neighborhood safety, and to explore the creation of much needed mixed-income housing and expanded economic development, for a region of the city that has often suffered from underinvestment.”

The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the agenda.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

14 Comments

  1. Small slow planes and large commercial aircraft on the same flight path will sooner or later create a disaster. Closing down Reid Hillview would be a tremendous lost resource in the event of the next conflagration in or just outside of town.

    Sounds like a great opportunity for the city fathers to reap a windfall of campaign contributions and payola though!

  2. If they actually believe that the airport is unhealthy for children than how do they justify making it San Martin children’s problem?

  3. > Over the next two years, San Jose officials will join the county in planning process to decide what’s next for the sprawling property if the airport closes for good.

    Central planning made the Soviet Union what it is today: the “former” Soviet Union.

  4. Santa Clara County doesn’t have a zoo, We should have a zoo here to save the endanger species. On a patch of land that size I would be world class. At last something that San Jose could be recognized for. The Zoo City!

    • Keep Reid-Hillview Airport for saftey with the air guard and fire air squad, for education of youth intrigued to fly with multiple flight schools and the home of SJSU Aviation. Also a huge land parcel the other side of rager waters is prime for development. #KeepRHV #SJSU

  5. In twelve years I can imagine more advanced battery technology will allow for airplanes with electric motors at a discount to current costs of airplane ownership. Existing and new pilots would adopt the electric plane as the maintenance and fuel costs would be minimal. Therefore no more leaded gas. For some reason we still have lead in our airplane fuel. Hanger space will be at a premium until we can get VTOL aircraft to land at home and park in the garage. Reid-Hillview is located in a good place far enough away from SJC so that it doesn’t interfere with commercial aircraft, and close enough to the suburbs to access the airport for most residents of San Jose. Land for jobs vs housing makes sense as we are upside down in that ratio which is affecting our budget. So housing would not necessarily be built there. A great place for industry as homes are nearby for workers and commutes would be nothing at all. Hey, or leave it an airport for our future needs as a highly mobile society. Once the airport is gone it is gone forever as the land will be used up quickly.

    • I agree with you Bruce. Now is a really a silly time to be considering closing an airport. Sam Liccardo is correct that the land use planning was poor in the past, but smart people should be able to envision a new land use plan for the next 50-100 years that fixes those problems and leverages the wonderful asset and opportunity the airport can provide for East San Jose and the entire region. Clearly the airport has lacked a good business plan and vision to prove to its neighbors its worth for a long time, mostly due to community leaders who don’t understand it. But as you noted, new air transportation technologies could radically change the economics and the possible solutions to urban sprawl and gridlock traffic. Does San Jose really want to ace themselves out of those opportunities before they even know how much they could benefit East San Jose? That would be very short-sighted and they may go down in history missing one of the best opportunities they could have had to make their citizens’ lives better, but instead they caved to short-sighted developers who were interested in their own short-term gains with little vision or care for future generations. East San Jose needs jobs and high-income housing that can pay property tax to build better schools, medical centers, and parks. If Uber’s “Jetsons” vision turns out to come true, San Jose needs to be thinking about where future Jetsons families will live. I’m thinking that with the right planning, the Jetsons might live in the houses to the west of Reid-Hillview Airport with taxiways to the airport where they can take off and land without annoying their neighbors. The airport might also provide easy access to a redeveloped Airport Oriented Urban Village on the Eastridge Mall property with office, retail and housing, that would be an example of Urban Air Mobility for the world to follow. That is what I think San Jose is all about. It leads the world in adopting technology that benefits the world. A development of cheap condos for the poor and only more pavement to connect them is last century thinking. I don’t think people who espouse last century ideas should stay in office. We have 12 years to find some more thoughtful and visionary leaders! Same for Santa Monica Airport by the way. Both Airports are at a similar crossroads. Are we going to cave to greedy developers with a formula thought up in the 50’s, or are we going to find some new developers who can leverage what’s coming in the next century and capitalize on it to benefit generations for centuries to come?

      • Below is the link from the City of San Jose. It is the “master plan” from 1972.
        http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/56054

        Looking through this is very interesting. It talks about the dreams of what the city could have been. Now 45 years later, minimally implemented. The parts of the original plan that were done, are now run down and vandalized. Some of them can be rather unsafe given the area they are in. This plan sounds like an Urban Utopia. I can see why people flocked her in the 70’s.

        Page 5 (as labeled) shows the areas that were flooded 2016. They knew this 45 years ago, but we quickly forget history and decide that we were smarter and stronger than Mother Nature.

        Page 19 (as labeled) talks about Kelley Park. Kelley Park is there and it does have a lagoon, but you can’t take a real boats on it. There is no field studies lab, mini-bike track, ethnic cultural center, or adventure play area. The do have Happy Hollow Park which has some kid rides and a zoo with some sad looking animals.

        Page 24 (as labeled) it talks about zoo and park on Blossom Hill road. It has free roaming animals and boat the takes viewers to Monkey Island. The plan sounds wonderful and inviting. That area is mostly office buildings, and barren land. It will probably become overrun with condos in 5 years.

        Page 25 (as labeled) Metcalf Road, near the outdoor gun range, was supposed to have a lagoon with a boat ramp and swimming area. It doesn’t have the swimming area, but does have boat ramp and lagoon. It’s a small fishing pond that was completely dried up on years past. I’m not sure it’s still operational? I think most people skirted the fees and fished from the Monterey Road side.

        We come a long way in 45 years. I’m not sure it’s right direction. Closing Reed-Hillview is just another lost dream of the city.

  6. Just another farce of the local government selling off public lands. They are selling land to Google in back door deals. They are closing a city park (10th Street Municipal Firing range) and giving the land to the ice rink another private entity. Now the airport too. I wonder who will make money on this one. Any profit coming from this will not go into the budget.

    There is something jinky happening here. In a city and county that is so strapped for land why would they be giving it up?

  7. For people who dont live and have kids in this naborhood why dont we move it to were u have babys and have suffered from the lead levels cuz i have my hole life and my kids r too it not safe and its not right for them to keep some thing so unhealthy open so long .

    • Wow high lead levels in your family, that’s horrible! I’m assuming you and your family have been tested for lead, what is level of lead is in your blood?

      If you have not been tested I would do it ASAP. It’s easy, just ask your doctor to order the panel.

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