Reid-Hillview Airport Update: Ask County to Accelerate Closure

Reid-Hillview Airport in high-density, park-poor East San Jose. Photo credit: Jeremy Zawodny, flickr

Lea la versión en español aquí.

With a new supervisor joining the County Board, and a federal agency taking new action, this is an opportune time to remind the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors of their commitment to pursue early closure of Reid-Hillview Airport in East San Jose. Please ask the board to take action for clean air and soil, and increased parks and green space in this underserved neighborhood.

What’s Happening

For over two years, Green Foothills and our allies have partnered with East San Jose residents to close Reid-Hillview Airport and repurpose the 180 acres of land for a community-centered vision that includes parks and natural habitat. The surrounding neighborhoods have endured lack of sufficient urban green space, constant noise, risk of plane crashes, and dangerous air pollution for decades.

In August 2021, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pursue early closure of Reid-Hillview Airport and to ban the sale of leaded fuel at county airports. The decision was in response to hearing from thousands of residents, including Green Foothills supporters. However, the harmful lead exposure to children did not cease with the ban on sale of leaded fuel, because planes using leaded fuel from other sources are still able to use Reid-Hillview Airport.

In October 2021, Santa Clara County, supported by Green Foothills and other environmental organizations, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act. The EPA issued a preliminary “endangerment finding” in October 2022 that indicated leaded fuel emissions from aircraft cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health.

The public comment period for the preliminary finding ended January 17, and the EPA expects to issue a final version this year, which could allow the EPA to regulate and potentially ban the use of leaded aviation fuel nationwide.

Why It Matters

In addition to protecting public health, the closure of Reid-Hillview Airport represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new urban green space in a park-deficient urban area. The airport is an inappropriate use in the dense urban environment, with some people actually living within the airport buffer zone. While an eventual ban on leaded aviation fuel by the EPA would be welcome, the community will continue to suffer the other harmful effects of the airport as long as it continues to operate. The County should close the airport as soon as possible and repurpose the land for better uses, including open space, as the East San Jose community demands.

With a new County Supervisor, Sylvia Arenas, joining the County Board this month, as well as the EPA issuing its preliminary findings, this is an especially opportune time to reach out to board members and remind them of their commitment to pursue early closure of the airport.

What You Can Do

Send an email to County Supervisors asking them to accelerate efforts to close Reid-Hillview Airport. It is time to continue the path toward improved land use with green space that benefits all. In addition, the County should protect the San Martin community, where the County’s other small airport is located, from impacts related to the closure.

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