San Jose Weighs Impact of Closing Reid-Hillview Airport

Jeff West, who’s been flying the San Jose skies for more than 10 years, stores his plane at Reid-Hillview Airport. But if the facility closes in 2031, when its federal operating agreement sunsets, he’d be hard-pressed to find a new home for his aircraft.

“I would have to move it somewhere, most likely San Martin,” he said. “But San Martin is not big enough to hold all of the planes based out of Hillview, and San Jose has a problem where they’re pushing general aviation out.”

West was one of several pilots who showed up to Tuesday’s San Jose City Council meeting to speak out against the airport’s potential closure, which has been the subject of impassioned public discussion for the better part of the past year.

Last December, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to take the airport through an 11-step process to analyze its closure—one of those steps being a San Jose council hearing. County officials have previously cited rising costs, declining revenues and growing maintenance problems as reasons to shutter the decades-old airport.

But fans of the historic facility contend that it serves a vital public service. “It’s going to leave a lot of planes and pilots homeless if they close Reid-Hillview,” West lamented.

Granted, the closure wouldn’t occur until at least 2031 when the airport’s grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires.

That gives county leaders plenty of time to address public concerns such as finding an alternate disaster response headquarters, strategizing for a potential increase in air traffic at San Jose Mineta International Airport and mitigating lead levels. The county will also need to find a new home for San Jose State’s aviation program.

Leading up to today’s meeting, Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members  Sergio Jimenez, Magdalena Carrasco, Sylvia Arenas and Johnny Khamis submitted a proposal to solve some of those problems. They asked county officials to analyze the navigation capacity at San Martin airport and to find another location for the Civil Air Patrol, Cal Fire and SJSU’s aviation classes.

“We want to ensure that there is a plan in place to ensure that small aircraft are relocated to another airport,” Liccardo told San Jose Inside in an interview. “We know that there can be real safety issues if the smaller aircraft are forced to push their operations into a very busy airport like Mineta.”

“We expect the county is thinking about those things,” the mayor added. “We just want to make sure we call them out to make sure they’re on everyone’s radar.”

Carrasco, who represents the district that encompasses the Reid-Hillview Airport, expressed particular concern with the detectible blood lead levels that have reportedly been identified in children living near the facility. The District 5 councilwoman claimed that’s why she pulled her daughter out of nearby Donald J. Meyer Elementary School.

“I moved her out of that school because she was being sprayed with lead,” Carrasco said. “I understand that this is an inconvenience for those that currently have come to really enjoy the airport where it stands, but for the families that I represent that live there, it’s not an inconvenience to have the planes fly over them. It becomes a health hazard to their children and their families.”

Councilwoman Pam Foley said she’s similarly worried about the lead level tests that would be conducted, saying regulators shouldn’t study just the air but the water table underneath the soil as well.

Foley also urged county officials to think about the state of the roads if an earthquake hit San Jose. Reid-Hillview has been envisioned as a staging ground for groups like the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Without it, officials would make the San Martin airport a potential alternate.

“If we’re landing in San Martin how easy is it going to be for us to come up to San Jose?” Foley asked on Tuesday.

San Jose has no decision-making power over the potential closure of Reid-Hillview, but county Supervisor Cindy Chavez stressed the importance of including the city in the conversation. “(The intent is) to have an open broad conversation with the entire community,” she said. “We want to have a thoughtful conversation with the city and we want to have a thoughtful conversation with the neighbors and the pilots.”

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.

One Comment

  1. This proposal is being pushed by the same type of small activist group that was instrumental in getting half our city streets taken away for bicycle commuters — who rarely if ever use the roads to commute.

    Why does the Mayor and Council listen to a relatively small group of busybodies who want to shut down an airport that’s been here longer than any of them have been alive? The reason is pretty clear: at election time the voters forget what they’re doing, and they vote for the same “representatives” again.

    If this Mayor and Council shuts down Reid-Hillview, forcing small aircraft to use the San Jose airport along with commercial airliners, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a mid-air collision like the one that happened in San Diego when a small private plane and an airliner occupied the same airspace at the same time. At least 104 people were killed, both in the air and on the ground.

    Not one San Jose resident was living anywhere near Reid Hillview when it began as an airport. They’re all Johnn-come-lately’s; activist do-gooders who don’t know whatr they’re doing, and who won’t take any responsibility for the added aircraft congestion and safety concerns.

    San Jose is only one city. The current Mayor and Council do not speak for other cities (and they’re not even speaking for the majority of residents they supposedly represent).

    This self-serving Mayor and Council substantially padded their salaries by appointing threir cronies to a Salary Setting Commission. Liccardo’s pay went up by 58,000, to $190,000, and the Councilcritters went up $27,000, to $125,000! (that was only a “suggestion,” but guess what? They’ll pocket the taxpayers’ loot).

    San Jose used to be a pretty clean city. Now it’s getting very corrupt. Money will do that just about every time.

    Vote for new blood, folks. It takse a few terms to get corrupted. This gang has its fingers deep into the wallets of SJ residents, and their fingers are getting in deeper every term.

    At election time they’ll all swear they’re all good boys and girls.

    But really, does anyone believe they’ve suddenly found Jesus?

Leave a Reply to Smokey Cancel reply