Silicon Valley supporters of Reid-Hillview airport closure face opposition
Disagreements over the danger of jet fuel to neighborhoods in eastern San Jose culminated in a virtual forum on the closure of the Reid-Hillview airport.
The Silicon Valley chapter of environmental justice organization Mothers Out Front invited Santa Clara County supervisor Cindy Chavez to its monthly meeting on Wednesday for a presentation detailing the need to close the over 80 years old airport. years.
Chavez introduced a motion in 2018 to stop accepting federal grants to fund the airport. The decision called for San Jose to explore other land uses after funding runs out in 2031 and the airport closes. Supervisors voted on November 17, 2020 to begin the planning process for land reuse.
“We already knew that there is no safe level of lead in the blood and that the Reid-Hillview aviation emits a lot of lead,” said Chavez. “It’s not just the neighborhood kids, we’re bringing other kids under the flight path to study and play.”
But opponents of the airport closure said the facility was being used for emergency response to help fight forest fires and create local fueling stations. About 10 employees provide support services at the airport, and others use the space for flight training, as do students from the San Jose State Department of Aviation and Technology.
On February 11, 2020, Santa Clara County commissioned epidemiologist Dr Sammy Zahran, who analyzed waterborne illnesses in Flint, Michigan, to study the lead level in 13,000 children near the airport, taking account of lead from non-aviation sources.
Although the findings were due to be presented to the Santa Clara County Supervisory Board in March, Chavez said this week that the study would not be completed and published until the end of July. It is expected to return to the board for discussion on August 17.
“They said we wouldn’t have the results of the main study yet, and I said we were continuing the meeting because we want to let our supporters know that this is a problem,” said Susan Butler. , coordinator of the Mothers Out Front team. Graham said. Butler-Graham, who moderated the meeting, said parents living near the airport were concerned about their children’s lead exposure levels.
Opponents of the airport closure raised concerns about county officials saying lead levels in the air were dangerous before the study was published.
“To say that the lead levels in Reid-Hillview are dangerous is an unsupported claim,” San Martin Neighborhood Alliance president Stephen McHenry told the San José Spotlight. “It looks like one of the things (Chavez) is going to raise at this August meeting is to vote for the airport to be closed.”
County supervisors voted in 2018 to explore the possibility of consolidating the aviation uses of Reid-Hillview with the San Martin Airport, which would effectively move the main fuel plane to the small village just north of Gilroy.
“Why would you want to move a problem and inflict this lead problem on the residents of San Martin?” McHenry asked.
Chavez responded that fewer people live near the San Martin airport compared to Reid-Hillview.
A February 2020 Environmental Protection Agency study showed that Reid-Hillview Airport contributes high levels of lead, but the extent of its contribution has not been specified.
According to the World Health Organization, lead exposure is preventable and no level of exposure is known to be harmless. Exposure to lead in children can cause permanent adverse effects on the brain and nervous system.
When the meeting opened for questions, McHenry asked Chavez if she would still consider closing the airport if the planes switched to unleaded fuel.
“I probably would,” Chavez said. “But let me say one thing about (unleaded fuel) as a possibility. I think it’s very likely that over the next 20 years we’ll see leaded fuel go away, but it’s a very long time for lead affected communities to suffer from it.
Andres Quintero, administrator of the Alum Rock Union school district, challenged opponents of the airport closure, accusing lawmakers of backgrounds for the reuse of the land, such as wanting to attract developers.
According to a recent poll sponsored by the District 5 United community group, 67% of the 1,290 residents surveyed are opposed to the closure of the Reid-Hillview airport.
Last year, Supervisor Mike Wasserman cast the only dissenting vote to accept a report analyzing the airport’s potential future uses. But at his request, the council added pilots and the community of San Martin to the engagement process.
But according to Sandra Hoskin, a member of the McHenry and San Martin planning advisory committee, outreach efforts remain to be seen.
“It didn’t seem like I had an easy way to get involved in the decisions that are made,” Hoskin said.
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.