The potential closure of the 80-year-old Reid-Hillview Airport could have a lasting impact on San Jose, according to a new report, by straining city resources and reducing the capacity of the city’s downtown airport.
Santa Clara County supervisors in December voted to explore closing the airport due to rising costs, declining revenues and growing maintenance concerns. According to a county report, the airport, which opened in 1939, saw its annual take-offs and landings drop from 395,000 in 1978 to 163,000 in 2017.
Neighbors for years voiced noise and safety concerns, while East San Jose advocates said the airport land could be used for much-needed housing amid Silicon Valley’s housing crisis. County supervisors agreed to explore closing the airport, vowing to stop applying for federal grants and to work with San Jose officials on planning other uses for the land.
But Reid-Hillview’s closure could impact the Mineta San Jose International Airport, city leaders said in a new memo. Councilmembers were expected to discuss the report on Tuesday, but administrators on Monday recommended moving it to August because a county director overseeing the airports cannot attend the City Council meeting.
According to Office of Economic Development Director Kim Walesh, Reid-Hillview is used as a “reliever airport” for SJC, and provides small planes an alternate airport for take-off, landing and training flight operations. Its closure would force small planes to land at SJC instead, if they cannot be transferred to the other county-owned airport at San Martin.
“Per FAA rules, SJC would have to accept this traffic, thus potentially reducing airside capacity on the existing runways and effecting commercial aircraft operations,” Walesh wrote.
Walesh also warned councilors that asking her department to study alternative uses for the airport land would increase her team’s workload and could delay other City Council priorities. Another concern related to the county airport, Walesh said, is the exposure to airborne lead levels since aviation gas contains toxin.
Fight over airport restaurant contract
Also on Tuesday, San Jose councilmembers will consider awarding a contract for 14 new restaurants at Mineta San Jose International Airport – a move that would push out two iconic San Jose restaurants.
If San Jose councilors approve the new contracts, San Jose Joe’s, an extension of Original Joe’s, and The Brit, an annex of Britannia Arms, would be be forced to leave SJC. But the owners are fighting back, questioning the legitimacy of the bidding process and saying it was unfair to small, local businesses like theirs.
“We are disappointed with our group not being picked and it’s going to be disappointing to the public,” Brad Rocca, owner of San Jose Joe’s, told San José Spotlight last week. “We’re confused as to how such a big decision was made within 24 hours.”
Rocca wrote a letter to lawmakers imploring them to reconsider the move to replace San Jose Joe’s at the airport.
Airport leaders said the new contracts will provide $3.3 million in minimum guaranteed revenue every year — a nearly 20 percent increase from current profits.
Google to give more money to City Hall
As Google plans its downtown San Jose mega-campus, city elected leaders will look at accepting $4.4 million from the tech giant for community engagement.
The tech company initially pledged $1.3 million to aid San Jose in the civic engagement process and preparation for the land sale. According to a memo from Economic Development Director Kim Walesh, the funds will support additional civic engagement and planning efforts related to affordable housing, parking, financing and community benefits.
“For a development project of large scale, it is appropriate and prudent to request the developer to provide funding upfront to ensure that sufficient staff and consulting resources are in place to do work related to the development without detracting from other City priorities, and to enable departments to anticipate and plan their work and staffing,” Walesh wrote.
San Jose is also planning on doubling its contribution to help get the Google campus off the ground.
Last year, the city dedicated $415,000 for engagement and land sale preparation. Now, officials are eyeing $1.1 million in funds for a variety of activities, including $200,000 for a Diridon area project manager, Diridon Station land use planner and civic engagement manager, among other new jobs.
The remaining $700,000 is pegged for consultants to work on legal, housing and transportation aspects of the project.
Combating climate change
From finding ways to meet solar energy goals to creating an electric vehicle strategy, Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Dev Davis and Sylvia Arenas on Tuesday will discuss a plan to help San Jose meet its climate goals.
The city’s Climate Smart policy, a Paris Agreement-like plan adopted last year, aims to reduce greenhouse gasses. In addition to receiving an update on the policy Tuesday, city elected leaders are pushing for more innovative ways to combat climate change.
“Greenhouse gas emissions have declined 17.6 percent in 2017 compared to 2014 levels,” the councilors wrote in a joint memo. “Now is the time to double down to ensure we continue the momentum.”
Tuesday’s discussion on climate initiatives will include a look at the city’s Clean Energy program, a solar loan initiative and management of electric vehicle charging points.
Downtown design guidelines return
In a push from environmentalists, the City Council will review its downtown design guidelines as it relates to bird safety.
On April 23, Mayor Sam Liccardo asked city officials to conduct more outreach on guidelines that help shape the look of high-rise buildings in downtown San Jose. Officials have met with developers and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society to come up with ideas to protect birds that are in danger of crashing into the cityscape.
Some of the new recommendations include incorporating safety guidelines for the buildings beyond window treatments, such as exterior screens and shutters, to reduce bird collisions.
The City Council meets 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.
Contact Grace Hase at [email protected] or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.