The Mineta San Jose International Airport recently earned the distinction from the American City Business Journals of being the best-run airport in the nation. Small local counterpart Reid-Hillview Airport, on the other hand, has been deemed a danger, money-suck and nuisance by a number of East Side residents who want to shut it down.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, which oversees the aging San Jose facility, will vote today on the Reid-Hillview Airport business plan. The county’s aim is to either come up with new ideas about how to generate revenue from the aging facility, whether that means leasing space to new restaurants and shops, or shutting it down entirely.
When it was built in 1939, the Reid-Hillview Airport was surrounded by rural pastures. But the city around it has since grown into the 10th largest in the U.S. Today, it’s surrounded by largely low-income neighborhoods of aging single-family homes.
Meanwhile, plane traffic at the facility has dropped off over the years. And grant money has dried up since 2011 because of a dispute between the county and the Federal Aviation Administration. Residents who’ve been circulating a Change.org petition advocating for Reid-Hillview’s closure plan to show up to today’s hearing to convince supervisors to phase it out or consolidate it with the airport in San Martin.
“One airport in our city boundary is enough,” San Jose resident Kelly Snider wrote on the Change.org petition. “This county land [can be] put to better use,” another petitioner, Marci Gerston, wrote. “It’s time to close the airport!”
Community groups Somos Mayfair and PACT are organizing a group of residents to speak at the board meeting today about safety and nuisance issues from Reid-Hillview, where pilots have been responsible for several crashes that have occurred in neighborhoods and close proximity to 16 schools.
Jaime Alvarado, a 60-year San Jose resident, said he and his neighbors have had to adapt to the plane crashes and noise pollution and live with the reality of lead contamination from the aircraft. Like many of his neighbors, he’d like to see the county convert the 180-acre site to affordable housing, schools, job centers and public parks.
Reid-Hillview supporters, however, say the facility is a valuable asset, housing the San Jose State aviation training and, in event of emergency, Cal Fire and the Civil Air Patrol. And a group of people who want it to remain open have started a petition of their own.
Alvarado said there’s a sense that the county has prioritized the needs of pilots over the demands of the airport’s neighbors. In an effort to improve community relations, some pilots have offered local families free plane rides. But Alvarado said a lot of folks viewed that as more of an attempt to silence critics than address their legitimate concerns.
“The county has never really engaged in dialogue with the community to explain why it is so important to the county to keep operating the airport, that demonstrates total arrogance and disregard for residents,” said Alvarado, his voice rising. “Can you even imagine the county trying to operate an airport in the neighborhoods west of San Jose, Cupertino or Saratoga? But here, on the East Side, they ignore the concerns of people.”
The vote takes place at 1pm today. Click here to watch the live stream.