SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-2 to not accept any more federal funds to maintain Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose.
The vote sets the stage for the possible closure of the airport by 2031.
The future of the East San Jose airport has been in doubt for decades.
“It’s a hazard for the community,” said Elizabeth Quezada, who lives near the airport.
Reid-Hillview was established in 1939 when the surrounding area was rural. It is now it’s surrounded by neighborhoods, several schools and a shopping mall.
There have been several airplane crashes over the years, including one in 2017 in which an airplane crash landed in a neighborhood and skidded into a house.
At a packed Board of Supervisors meeting, another health concern was raised about the leaded fuels used by small airplanes.
“We’ve become aware of a significant lead problem not only on the site, but also with the surrounding environment and the children in the area,” said County Executive Jeff Smith.
If supervisors would have voted to accept Federal Aviation Administration funds for airport maintenance, the government would have required the airport to remain open for at least 20 more years.
But since supervisors voted to reject the funds, the airport could be allowed to close in 13 years, the remaining time period since Santa Clara County last accepted the federal funds.
One idea is to close the airport and move operations to the county’s other airport in San Martin.
But local pilots said Reid-Hillview plays a crucial role in the training of new pilots and would help serve the community in the event of a fire disaster or earthquake.
San Jose State aviation students who attend classes at Reid-Hillview say closing the airport would jeopardize their program.
“If you take away the airport, you are taking away our aviation department,” said Peyton Yniguez, an SJSU student. “Please invest in the future by keeping and improving on what Reid-Hillview Airport is today.”
The supervisor’s vote also includes a directive to study the possibility of switching to unleaded fuels for airplanes at Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports in the future.