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.