San Jose City Council to approve plan for major airport growth
Mineta San Jose International Airport is pictured in this file photo. Photo courtesy of SJC.

    In an effort to meet the growing needs of Silicon Valley travelers, San Jose lawmakers on Tuesday will vote on adopting an ambitious plan for the Mineta San Jose International Airport, as aviation leaders prepare for an increase in new travelers over the next decade.

    Forecasting a surge of new growth in air travel, airport officials are laying down the groundwork for a multi-year plan that seeks to build a brand new Terminal C with 14 additional gates, a short term 5,000 slot parking garage and 6,000 long term parking spaces, and a massive 330 room hotel with 300,000 room of square feet. The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve updates to the airport’s capital plan and master plan, which guides growth through 2037.

    The proposed changes mean the airport will have a total of 42 gates, with the east and west ends serving different purposes, according to a city memo.

    “The east side of the airport will continue to be devoted to the air passenger terminal area plus air cargo and aviation support uses, while the west side of the airport will continue to primarily serve general and corporate aviation facilities plus some additional aviation support uses,” said the airport’s director of aviation John Aitken.

    According to airport officials, San Jose’s airport has been the fastest growing in the country, with a 26 percent growth rate in the last three years alone. Without expansion, airport officials said there’s a high risk of increased congestion, delays, poor service levels, and deteriorating staff productivity and passenger dissatisfaction. City officials expect that within the next 17 years — by 2037 — airport travelers will increase from 15 million to 22.5 million.

    But the airport’s plans to develop and expand come at a cost, as construction would cause a “significant unavoidable impact” in an uptick of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, according to a recent draft environmental report on how the airport’s development will affect the city.

    To meet the needs of the city’s growing population sustainably, Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing the City Council look into creating new eco-friendly solutions, such as investing in commercial electric air travel and deploy “low-emission fuels” to expand the airport’s services.

    Liccardo hopes a larger, more efficient airport will deter travelers from driving to San Francisco’s airport since longer commutes contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion on the region’s two major highways — Interstate 280 and 101.

    “San Jose and Silicon Valley create and embrace new technologies that will lead the world to a more sustainable future. Electric air travel currently only appears feasible for small planes on short flights, and electric commercial airline travel may be a decade away,” Liccardo wrote in a memo to his colleagues late Friday. “We should provide a national platform for the demonstration of this promising technology as it emerges, and in the meantime, focus on the deployment of low emission fuels as the best opportunity to provide a cleaner path to expanding air travel.”

    Liccardo called for the airport expansion to include sufficient parking while investing in public transit and “multi-modal” options.

    The plan also includes extensive upgrades to the airport’s taxiways and airplane runways, as well as improvements to its cargo and aviation operations and relocation of the belly-freight facility, maintenance buildings, and a service vehicle fuel station. Airport officials also hope to improve several landside facility improvement projects.

    City Council agenda order changes

    Residents waiting hours to speak on certain items at San Jose City Council meetings may soon get a break as lawmakers on Tuesday consider changing the order of agenda items at weekly council meetings.

    The changes are meant to streamline City Council meetings to prioritize hearing shorter agenda items — such as transportation or environmental issues — earlier to prevent residents and some city officials from sitting through long meetings as they wait for their item to be heard. According to the city manager’s office, the changes will also allow more public participation by moving high-priority items, such as housing and economic development, to later in the day when people get off work.

    The change is due to the city’s increase in housing-related policies, which often require many hours of public input and stalls city officials waiting for hours, City Manager Dave Sykes and City Attorney Richard Doyle said.

    “Over the past year, the city has considered more housing-related agenda items to address the housing crisis and related issues. Such items often require hours of public input, and are heard in the late afternoon in order to allow the public to attend,” Sykes and Doyle wrote in a joint memo. “Other items that have been later in the agenda order… often are shorter items that are handled more expeditiously. However, staff from those departments must wait through the earlier agenda items before their items are heard.”

    If approved, the new changes will also remove board and commission appointments from the Rules and Open Government Committee’s responsibilities and formally recognize the Smart Cities and Service Improvements Committee as a council committee.

    The changes would go into effect Jan. 28.

    The City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose.

    Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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