Lead Contamination Discovery Results in Santa Clara Supervisors’ Decision to Close Reid-Hillview in January

Santa Clara County supervisors unanimously approved a measure Tuesday to close the Reid-Hillview Airport, two weeks after the release of a study that found elevated lead levels in children from the neighborhoods near the airport in East San Jose.

The soonest the airport could close is January and will require the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who represents the area.

The airport serves mostly small private planes, which produce far more lead pollution than larger commercial aircraft, and is much closer to homes than most airports. The vote comes after a decades-long effort by nearby residents to close the airport.

Supervisors also voted to pursue converting the airport to lead-free fuel as soon as possible.

A study released Aug. 3, was sponsored by the county and the California Department of Public Health and analyzed 17,000 blood samples taken from local children between 2011 and 2020. Researchers said the children's lead levels compared with those found in children who drank contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, at the height of that city's lead-poisoning crisis.

Elevated levels of lead in blood is linked to impaired cognitive development, poor academic achievement and many other health risks.

The county had already begun taking steps to close the airport in 2031, the soonest date allowed under the terms of the airport's current grants from the FAA.

"This is about environmental justice, public health and equity for the 52,000 residents living around Reid-Hillview Airport," Chavez said.


  1. Is the headline writer or editor a German or a Scandinavian? (“Januar”)

    Yes, a recently discovered and contrived “crisis” is the excuse for the land grab to re-develop it. The only question is if the developers or the taxpayers will be paying for the clean-up of the site first. Chavez goes on to spout typical, routine Cal-lib blather about it. Down goes the area and state more, again.

  2. “This is about environmental justice, public health and equity for the 52,000 residents living around Reid-Hillview Airport,” said Chavez.

    What this hot air balloon of a woman should have said is “this is about making us elected slobs look good at a cost in legal expenses to taxpayers too high to project.”

  3. Tell CindyChavez that Twisting the results of the study to MISLEAD and Raise Anxiety in the ill-informed public for your Political Gains is disgusting.
    But the Study found..”elevated blood levels of children around Reid-Hillview appear to be ON PAR WITH THOSE ACROSS THE STATE.
    The county-commissioned study noted that 1.7% of children in the vicinity of Reid-Hillview had lead levels high enough to warrant additional screening.”
    “The statewide average of children who meet the same criteria is between 1.5% and 2.6% depending on age.” (SanJoseSpotlight).

  4. WilliamA, Just more blather.. has to say something. Do you really think the FAA, other Federal and State agencies are not monitoring lead levels? The study results are ON PAR with statewide results – No poisoning, nothing to report.
    These so-called at-risk children are more in danger from Obesity, Diabetes, Mexico sourced candy, jewelry (metals/plastics), lead glazed ceramics, and 2nd hand smoke…
    also GANG violence or crime is more likely.

    “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
    Studies have shown that even low levels of secondhand smoke exposure can be harmful.”
    Maybe Corrupt C Chavez they will do a study on how many Parents are smokers and take their children away?

  5. There was no “discovery” of the “crisis” [sic] recently, as the headline says, either. Lead in fuel has been long known and so have been efforts to get rid of it, in other fuels first, for multiple decades with aviation gasoline as well.

    It was handy to raise now as an appeal to emotion to close the airport, though.

    Here it is from the supervisors, complete with the progressive politics.

    Direct Administration and County Counsel to take all necessary actions, including closure, to immediately prevent lead contamination from operations at Reid-Hillview Airport


    That’s from operations. It’s okay to have contamination on site when they “re-purpose” the land the airport is on, no doubt to be cleaned before it is re-developed, excuse me, “transition from re-envisioning to re-purposing.”

  6. Part I: Modus Translationem

    Gallup polling found that over the period 1999-2015, an average of 54% of adults in the U.S. surveyed did not use air travel at all during the year in which they were surveyed with about 19.5% of adults reporting that they traveled 3 times or more in the year in which they were surveyed (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1579/Airlines.aspx?utm_source=genericbutton&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=sharing). As it turns out, air travel–like so much else in our society–is strongly correlated with income levels. The poorest in our society are more likely to report they have never traveled by plane or have traveled by air only very infrequently. The wealthiest are more likely to have reported that they use airports frequently or very frequently, a group that also sharply skews “White” (https://www.airlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/A4A-AirTravelSurvey-20Feb2018-FINAL.pdf).

    Of course, the above refers to regular commercial air travel, not travel on the type of privately-owned planes housed and serviced by “general aviation” airports like Reid-Hillview Airport (RHA). In addition to housing hundreds of privately-owned and operated planes, RHA hosts a number of fixed-base operators (FBOs) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-base_operator) whose services can be reviewed at the RHV website (https://countyairports.sccgov.org/airports/reid-hillview-rhv-airport/airport-based-business). While the website claims RHA operations are self-financing with no reliance on the County general fund, it also documents some $9 million in federal government grants over the decades that allowed RHA to purchase more land, improve that land and equip the airport with necessary infrastructure and facilities (https://countyairports.sccgov.org/airports/reid-hillview-rhv-airport/reid-hillview-history).

    It is safe to say that RHA users—particularly the several hundred who own their own planes—are a generally well-off bunch whose activities are subsidized to some extent by county and federal government. It can also be said that the vast bulk of RHA users do not live in the environs of the airport, a generally low-income part of San Jose’s East Side.

    On the other hand, the vast bulk of commuters using public transportation have low incomes and few alternatives. Almost 70% were found to have average incomes below $50,000 in 2019 with 44.4% earning less than $25,000. In general, low-income people are disproportionately dependent on public transportation because they lack vehicle ownership and resources. Previous surveys have found about 45% of bus riders, in particular, to be poor and working poor earning less than $25,000 with only about 12% earning $75,000 or above, and to be disproportionately Hispanic, Asian and Black (https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2021/acs/acs-48.pdf; https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-public-transportation-riders-demographic-divide-for-cities.html; https://www.apta.com/wp-content/uploads/Resources/resources/statistics/Documents/transit_passenger_characteristics_ text_5_29_2007.pdf; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/03611981211017900#bibr2-03611981211017900).

    Thus, the Eastridge Transit Center (ETC), a mere five-minute walk across Tully Road from RHV, provides bus transport to the working poor of San Jose’s Eastside who live in the shadow of the private planes flying overhead. The ETC is a lifeline for those with limited means. It features an express bus to Stanford Research Park, a rapid bus to the Palo Alto Transit Center, one to West Valley College, another to Evergreen Valley College and three buses to the Milpitas BART station via different routes (https://www.vta.org/go/stations/eastridge-transit-center).

    In February 2020, the last month before the COVID-induced suspension of bus service, about 4,000 people passed through the ETC on a typical weekday using one or another of the seven bus routes available (https://data.vta.org/pages/ridership-by-stop). It is safe to say that Valley Transit Authority bus riders are a generally hard-pressed group who endure long commutes to jobs that often pay below living wages and that their public transit commutes are also subsidized to some extent by public funds. Likewise, a significant share of ETC users live in San Jose’s East Side, a relatively poor area of our town.

  7. Part II: Modus Operandi: Classis Bellica

    Those campaigning for the closure of Reid-Hillview (RHV) are appropriately focused on the airport operations’ negative health impacts on Hispanic/Latino and East Asian San Joseans living in its environs. The immediately adjacent areas to the north and west of RHV consist of highly segregated neighborhoods (census blocks) with up to 90% Hispanic/Latino residents. To the south and east are neighborhoods with up to 88% East Asian residents. These are the San Joseans who bear the brunt of the environmental and health damage caused by the use of the private hobby planes that fly in and fly out of the publicly-owned RHV airport (https://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=SplitView&MeetingID=13226&MediaPosition=&ID=107018&CssClass=#_ftnref19).

    That there is such housing and spatial segregation in San Jose in the first place is the direct consequence of more than a century of racialized and discriminatory policies and practices on the part of landowners, landlords, banks, real estate agents, real estate brokers, homeowners’ associations and outright extrajudicial vigilantism and lawlessness, not to mention local, county, state and national government policies. Racially/ethnically-based segregation stems from conscious acts of commission and omission by powerful vested interests, overwhelmingly “White,” relatively wealthy and mostly conscious of their social class as business and property owners, employers and financiers. (https://belonging.berkeley.edu/rootsraceplace;https://www.sanjoseca.gov/home/ showdocument?id=50333; https://paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/06/28/un-forgetting-the-segregationist-history-of-palo-alto-and-daly-city-and-san-francisco-and; https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2019/03/29/housings-troubled-history-of-discrimination).

    For the most part, that class of people see themselves as having irreconcilable cultural and material conflicts with racial/ethnic minorities and the unpropertied working-class in general and are not timid about engaging in the types of confrontations needed to “keep those people in their place” so to speak. That is to say that East San Jose—as a largely Mexican/Hispanic and East Asian (Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese) area—is the product of racialized class power, oftentimes violent, as the history of the San Jose Police Department, the Ku Klux Klan and other racially-motivated White mobs attest (https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/calls-to-defund-local-law-enforcement-push-san-jose-to-rethink-future-of-policing/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose_Police_Department#Controversy; https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/california-klans-anti-asian-crusade/618513/; https://asamnews.com/2021/01/18/putting-the-spotlight-on-a-forgotten-spotlight-in-asian-american-history/; https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/06/23/violent-encounters-with-police-send-thousands-of-people-to-the-er-every-year).

    Too many politicians and community activists are focused on the race portion of the equation and have downplayed or overlooked the class dimension of the situation. The result of race and class-conscious policies is that many zip codes–such as 95122, 95116, 95127, and 95148 that surround RHV–have high concentrations of poor and working-poor people of color; race, social class and/or income level are highly correlated, as are educational attainment (lower than average), unemployment rates (higher than average), health outcomes (worse than average) and accessibility to public goods and services (below average). (https://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=SplitView&MeetingID=13226&MediaPosition=&ID=107018&CssClass=#_ftnref19; https://www.opportunityatlas.org/; https://eig.org/dci/interactive-map?path=state/CA; https://insight.livestories.com/s/v2/ socioeconomic-status/23999fcc-baf6-4145-97d7-a979a981fc67/).

    Speaking of the availability of public goods and services, the great irony for the poor and working-class residents living near RHV is that the facility is owned by the County and built on County-owned land but its main beneficiaries are—and have always been—high-income/high-wealth hobbyists able to own private planes and who have sufficient leisure time to fly those planes around the region. Next in line are the owners of the for-profit businesses that service the nearly 500 private planes housed at Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV). (For a better sense of who these people are, consider the tech CEOs (retired and active) and FBO owners who have enlisted to push back against the Country Supervisors’ airport closure plans (https://savereidhillview.org/). It’s an exclusive and rather privileged club.)

    Thus, County and federal policies for more than a half-century have been to subsidize the leisure time of wealthy elites at a government-owned facility located in the middle of neighborhoods whose residents can never benefit in any substantial way from said facility. Add to this the negative health effects and physical dangers (8 plane crashes in or near RHV since 2007) as documented in the Board of Supervisors’ proceedings, and one has to ask: why wasn’t this airport shut down 30 years ago? (https://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=SplitView&MeetingID=13226&MediaPosition=&ID=107018&CssClass=#_ftnref19)

  8. Econoclast I’m thinking your head is perfectly egg shaped.
    Very Very scholarly essay. We’re all SO impressed.

  9. Modus Operandi: Victimhood Complex
    Wikipedia? Defund the Police? As dr Fauci would reply ‘Too Long for Me to Read’.
    Looks like a poster claiming everyone is some sort of VICTIM and needs to taken care of by
    “Big Government” versus Taking Control of their own future and putting in the Work to be a VICTOR.

    ” 20 Contrasts Between a VICTIM and VICTORIOUS MINDSET ”

    1. The victim blames others for their failure /
    The victor takes personal responsibility for success or failure

    2. The victim depends on handouts from others to succeed /
    The victor makes do with what they already have to succeed

    3. The victim believes the whole world is against them /
    The victor believes the whole world needs them

    4. The victim feels like everybody owes them something /
    The victor believes nobody owes them anything

    5. The victim is never satisfied and always looking for something more /
    The victor is grateful for what they already have and build upon that for more in life

    6. The victim lives off other people /
    The victor lives to bless other people

    7. The victim sees a challenge as an obstacle /
    The victor sees the obstacle as an opportunity


  10. CA Parrot: The victor mode of thinking is precisely what’s needed, but not for individuals acting alone. Rather, that is the sort of thinking that will propel communities and classes (as in working classes) to victory in the struggles with the elites who are also acting in tandem. Remember, wealth accumulation, social stratification, spatial and racial segregation and capturing political power are social processes involving people acting together to some extent. The “founding fathers” acted as a group, a class of propertied men. The Bolsheviks acted as a class-based movement of hundreds of thousands. Big changes are birthed by people organized and acting jointly (you know, like the Libertarian Party).

    The actors responsible for spatially segregating people on the basis of race and class acted collectively, as did the White vigilante mobs who physically attacked and sometimes killed Chinese, Filipinos, Mexicans and Blacks in the work camps and streets of California cities. The same applies to the suburban homeowners’ associations who banded together to keep people of color out of their developments. The victors in these cases acted and act as collectives with agreed upon aims. (The same goes for the vested interests seeking to keep Reid-Hillview open (https://savereidhillview.org/) and for the industry lobbies who own the city, county, state and national governments.) Victors are always organized into groups and associations–that’s what gives them weight and power and bestows on the groups the spoils of their toils, so to speak.

    Parrot (and this applies to Kulak, HB, Not Him and other fictitious commentators), you really have to stop this childish fascination with social Darwinian capitalism where rugged individualism, bootstraps and invisible hands are the motor force and main attractions. When will you learn that Superman and the litany of superheroes are fictional characters–as fictional as the bots you so profusely create and the characters featured in the works of Horatio Alger (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Alger)?

  11. Two points to the race huckster above:

    1. Why do illegals and their offspring have any “standing” to complain about anything? They’re not even supposed to be here.

    2. Immigrants from SE Asia should be grateful they have a “better life”. They are here only because Americans weren’t paying attention and were too tolerant and accepting. BTW I wonder what the lead levels are like in the places all of these poor afflicted “minorities” scurried out of?
    Is their life better here, or there? So they have very slightly elevated levels of lead that still only 1/5 of the level considered hazardous. Big deal, and so what?

    So stop with the guilt trip – we aren’t going on that.

    Nice try, but no cigar.

  12. It appears the truth struck a nerve…Success is rooted in Personal Responsibility, Self Sufficiency, Sacrifice and Hard Work.

    “One of the consequences of such notions as ‘ENTITLEMENTS’ is that people who have
    contributed Nothing to society
    feel that society owes them Something,
    apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”

    ― Thomas Sowell

  13. Not surprised, someone dull enough to take the bait and lock onto the “Flint Mi” Red Herring, all the while ignoring the Main Study Findings:
    that the..”elevated blood levels of children around Reid-Hillview appear to be ON PAR WITH THOSE ACROSS THE STATE (and it is a Very Big State).
    The county-commissioned study noted that 1.7% of children in the vicinity of Reid-Hillview had lead levels high enough to warrant additional screening.”
    “The statewide average of children who meet the same criteria is between 1.5% and 2.6% depending on age.”

    A RED HERRING is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question or fact. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion.

  14. Lol, StevenG – posting more irrelevant blather.
    Next your favorite mis-information news channel or crooked politician will be telling us how this is an entire statewide controversy being manipulated by Russians..and it is of course..
    “Way Worse than Watergate”.

    It could be possible that StevenG is suffering from lack of reasoning due to negative cognitive ability effects from childhood exposure to lead.
    Using Real Data versus hyperbole & spin to support a pre-determined agenda it is readily apparent that children across the U.S. including areas like RHV and Flint Mi encounter less lead exposure than children over the past 50- 100 years.
    “Blood Lead Levels in Children Aged 1–5 Years — United States, 1999–2010”
    Substantial progress has been made over the past 4 decades in reducing the number of children with elevated BLLs. Data from studies reveal:
    1976–1980 an estimated 88% of children aged 1–5 years had BLLs ≥10 µg/dL.
    1991–1994 the percentage fell sharply to 4.4% (aged 1–5 years had BLLs ≥10 µg/dL).
    1999–2002 to 1.6% (aged 1–5 years had BLLs ≥10 µg/dL).
    2007–2010 to 0.8% (aged 1–5 years had BLLs ≥10 µg/dL).

    National estimates of the geometric mean (GM) BLL with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for children aged 1–5 years declined significantly over time, from:
    1976–1980 estimated GM BLL of 15 µg/dL (CI = 14.2–15.8)
    1988–1991 estimated GM BLL 3.6 µg/dL (CI = 3.3–4.0),
    and this trend continues.
    1999–2002, the GM BLL was 1.9 µg/dL (CI = 1.8–2.1),
    2007–2010 estimated GM BLL of 1.3 µg/dL (CI = 1.3–1.4).

  15. StevenG is a barrel of laughs this morning..
    He is now advocating and yelling about evacuating the industrial world.. maybe he should return to Fear-mongering about the Greek Alphabet?
    The fact is lead exists in the environment – no amount of Crazy ALL CAPs ranting is going make it disappear.

    “.. a 2016 Reuters investigation identified and mapped out more than 3,800 neighborhoods throughout the US with lead exposure rates double those found” in Flint, Michigan’s water lead contamination event.

    “Lead from water accounts for an estimated 10% to 20% of elevated lead levels in children.
    But the bigger risk for lead exposure is found in the Buildings where children Spend Most of Their Time, usually their Home, and sometimes a family member’s home, daycare or school.”

    The fact is lead exposure exists in the environment and State & Federal programs exist to measure, monitor, and abate levels and minimize impact on children. The CDC provides reference points & actions for local regulating officials and medical personnel to treat and manage elevated blood levels.

    ———– Recommended Actions Based on Blood Lead Level (CDC) ———-
    Recommendations for Follow-up and Case Management of Children Based on Blood Lead Levels

    < 5 μg/dL micrograms per deciliter
    Routine assessment of nutritional and developmental milestones
    Anticipatory guidance about common sources of lead exposure
    Follow-up blood lead testing at recommended intervals based on child’s age according to normal schedule

    5–9 μg/dL micrograms per deciliter
    Routine assessment of nutritional and developmental milestones
    Environmental exposure history to identify potential sources of lead -and- environmental investigation of the home to identify potential sources of lead, AS REQUIRED**
    Follow-up blood lead monitoring at recommended intervals according to the schedule
    Nutritional counseling related to calcium and iron intake

    10–19 μg/dL micrograms per deciliter
    Routine assessment of nutritional and developmental milestones
    Environmental exposure history to identify potential sources of lead and environmental investigation of the home to identify potential sources of lead
    Follow-up blood lead monitoring at recommended intervals according to schedule
    Nutritional counseling related to calcium and iron intake; consider lab work to assess iron status

    refer to CDC website for higher levels.

  16. Cindy wants to bestow gifts upon her creditors.
    This isn’t about “The Children”
    That’s just a lead herring.

  17. PART III: Modus Vivendi: Villa Urbana Magna

    The County, City and federal authorities have subsidized the leisure and business activities of wealthy hobby pilots and for-profit enterprises based at the Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) businesses for more than six-decades. The relatively small number of beneficiaries—including the original private owners, the Reid brothers—used their lobbying power over the years to enable, perpetuate and expand the airport and successfully lobbied the City and County to acquire land adjacent to the airport for buffer zones (https://countyairports.sccgov.org/sites/g/files/exjcpb686/files/1959%2002-02%20San%20Jose%20Resolution%2016115%20support%20of%20RHV%20in%20present%20location.pdf; https://countyairports.sccgov.org/airports/reid-hillview-rhv-airport/reid-hillview-history). In other words, the public authorities have used public lands and resources for the benefit of a rather exclusive club of citizens who have never lived in the racially/ethnically segregated neighborhoods around the airport itself. Meanwhile, those living in the immediate environs have not benefitted from RHV while bearing the brunt of the environmental, health and physical dangers posed by airport operations.

    The generally good Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors (BOS) study of alternative uses of the 180-acre County-owned RHV parcel puts forth encouraging possibilities (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/faf/ capital-projects/rh/Documents/Reid%20Hillview%20Vision%20Plan% 20Report.pdf). The document lays out in general terms what can be understood as a super urban village—perhaps an ideal urban village—that integrates housing, public facilities and services, public transportation, open spaces as well as private businesses that will both employ and service many village residents. The study rightly states that such an area must blend with, and serve, existing neighborhoods and integrate existing and new facilities, services and transportation modes. The fact that the parcel is publicly-owned greatly expands the possibilities–and drastically lowers the “out of pocket” costs–for achieving significant public benefits, particularly for the poor and working-classes of East San Jose.

    The study intelligently compares the size of the RHV parcel with other large development projects in the County, both public and private, including the Cottle Transit Village; Santa Row; San Jose State University (SJSU); and the proposed Google Village (Downtown San Jose) (p. 19). Indeed, the study implies the RHV parcel is sufficiently large to incorporate elements of all the above. As I have suggested elsewhere, the BOS and County planners should recognize that California’s 33 public university campuses provide templates for urban and regional planners for ways to make create ideal, large urban villages (https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/scc-supes-set-to-approve-350m-in-bonds-for-affordable-housing/#comment-1701435).

    The college campuses commingle and juxtapose housing, work, leisure, community, infrastructure, services, transport and open spaces in compact, creative, effective and environmentally sustainable ways. The campuses are excellent examples of livable, convenient and affordable, mostly urban, human habitats. Urban planners committed to such principles and values should be studying the campuses for the many ways they shine light on livable futures for all of us—particularly with respect to the future of the RHV parcel. I strongly suggest people take a stroll through the SJSU campus—as I did last week—to refresh the imagination as to the potential for villa urbana magna.

  18. I read the report. The basic problem with it is it includes no air pollution measurements at RHV and vicinity whatsoever. To take the analogy of Flint, MI, this would be like finding elevated lead in blood samples and assuming it to be because of the water WITHOUT EVER TESTING THE WATER.

    There is good reason why they didn’t take lead air samples, which you CAN find on federal web sites elsewhere. They don’t back up the data.

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