"Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently
fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing
wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first
a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides."
-- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, January 1776
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is
violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
This site is based on the premise that Reid-Hillview is an economic, social, and environmental disaster for East San Jose, San Jose, and Santa Clara county.
I am developing this site to bring attention to a San Jose land use that will provide land for jobs and housing, add at least 2 billion dollars to the local economy, revitalize a neighborhood, redistribute and reduce freeway traffic, reduce development in Coyote Valley, and benefit most county residents. A summarization page is provided to give readers an overview of the points made and explained in this document. Reader comments and link suggestions are welcome. I sincerely hope you visit and leave this site with an open mind.
First, some personal background. I spent four years in the Navy repairing the radar on the F4 Phantom. After I left the service I worked for a Beech Aircraft dealer installing and repairing aircraft electronics. I learned how to fly a sailplane in Fremont and a Cessna 152 in San Luis Obispo. Airplanes are neat. Flying is fun. There is no denying that fact. However, neither is there denying the fact that a recreational airport does not belong in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And make no mistake, this is a recreational airport, purchased and built by Santa Clara County during the 1960s, in the middle of an existing, and growing, residential neighborhood. Also, I have lived in East San Jose since 1990. During that time I have come to realize that East San Jose is a good neighborhood with good people who have tremendous potential. However, as long as Reid-Hillview (RHV) is open, this potential will never be realized. Closing this airport will allow East San Jose to blossom like desert flowers after rain.
On Sunday, 1/30/00, the San Jose Mercury had both an editorial, "The Salvation of Silicon Valley" and an opinion piece, "Its time to put jobs where the houses are" that addressed our current jobs/housing imbalance. The question presented was: How can we "put jobs where the houses are"? However, another question that also needs to be asked is: How can we also make society a better place by putting "jobs where the houses are"? To borrow a phrase from a local computer manufacturer, we need to "think different."
RHV sits on 180 acres of land in East San Jose at the intersection of 101 and 280/680. This location is the gateway to the Bay area. According to the county's 1996 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on closing the airport, RHV generates approximately $10 million dollars a year in business revenue, and $1 million dollars in state and local taxes , provides approximately 100 jobs , and that at least 60% of the flights at RHV are those of student pilots . According to the EIR, any increase in traffic from development of the property can be mitigated by widening some key local intersections . Additionally, according to the EIR, "The proposed closure of RHV will result in a beneficial land use impact with regard to the issue of land use compatibility." and if RHV were developed as a high-tech campus, "The creation of these jobs would substantially lessen San Jose's jobs/housing imbalance." 
In 1939 East San Jose was a reasonable location for a tiny, private airport. However, over the years a number of things have occurred that now makes this an unacceptable location for a larger, expanded, and busier recreational airport.
As an engineer, when trying to define and resolve a problem, I look at the facts and then, partially, base my decision on those facts. As an engineering manager, I try to be as open in my judgments as possible and always try to understand the other side of the discussion before making a decision. In this paper I will review the benefits and drawbacks of the airport to the aviation community, East San Jose, and the county, contrast it to an alternative use of the land, and then, based on the facts, argue that RHV should be closed.
Also, for an item to be considered a benefit, it must be beneficial on a daily basis. For example, airport supporters argue that RHV allows volunteer Angel Flight pilots to ferry passengers for visiting medical facilities in the San Jose area. While that is certainly laudable, and beneficial to the patients, it occurs on such an infrequent basis, and could be accommodated at either San Jose International, or Moffett Field, it cannot be considered a daily benefit. Additionally, the decision must be based on what is best for the neighborhood, the city, and the county, and not what is best for a recreational pilot, or what is best for me.
Alternative land use:
What would be a better use of this land? A use that will benefit nearly all city and county residents, not just the very, very small percentage of residents who are recreational pilots? A use that will enhance the neighborhood, not ruin the neighborhood? A use that will provide a positive contribution to society and the economy?
First, we need to define how county land should be used. County land should be used in a manner that will benefit nearly all city and county residents, not just a very, very small percentage of residents Second, county land should be used in a manner that will enhance neighborhoods, not ruin neighborhoods. Third, county land should be used in a manner that will provide a positive contribution to society and the economy, not help ruin society and the economy. Fourth, county land should be used in a manner that is non-discriminatory against the overwhelming majority of county residents. To not use county land in this manner is irresponsible at best.
The 180 acres of county land currently occupied by Reid-Hillview fits all the negative, irresponsible uses of county land. Why cannot this land be used in a responsible manner? What would be a better use of this valuable land?
Other possible uses of this land that make considerable more sense than having a recreational airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood include:
Each of these uses will benefit all county residents (even the two-tenths of one percent who currently use this 180 acres). Each of these uses will rejuvenate East San Jose and add billions to the local economy. Each of these uses are practical, non-discriminatory, and compatible land-uses with an existing residential neighborhood. The benefits to the county from any one of these uses overwhelm any and all airport benefits. Conversely, the drawbacks from RHV overwhelm the drawbacks of all these uses combined. The benefits and drawbacks to each of these land uses are outlined on a separate page.
I realize that some people will argue that the airport was there first, but this is not an argument. It is a semi-true fact. However, it is also irrelevant. Being "there first" does not bestow some type of squatter's rights to the airport. It is simply a piece of historical trivia. Interestingly, there are so many benefits from closing RHV that pro-airport arguments become negligible, irrelevant, or absurd.
These arguments are: 
As everybody should know, times change. Society evolves. Practices that at one time were acceptable become unacceptable. There comes a point when the "rights" of a community take precedence over the "rights" of a few individuals. As we enter the 21st century there is no justification for having a recreational airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Replacing Reid-Hillview with a high-tech campus, housing, and/or a park will provide jobs for county residents while reducing freeway traffic. Replacing Reid-Hillview with a high-tech campus, housing and/or a park will add up to 2 billion dollars, or more, to the local economy. Replacing Reid-Hillview with a high-tech campus, housing, and/or a park will provide much needed housing and open space for county residents. Replacing Reid-Hillview with a high-tech campus, housing, and/or a park will transform East San Jose from one of the least desirable county neighborhoods to one of the more desirable.
The time has come to close Reid-Hillview. 
 Santa Clara County 1996 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on closing RHV, Volume 2 - Technical Appendices; page H-5, section II "Employment Impact", page H-7, section III "Business Revenue Impact", and page H-9, section V "Tax Impact".
To be honest, I have been suspect of these numbers ever since I first saw them, since they seem to be inflated. It turns out that my suspicions appear correct. New data, as of 10/28/05, states, "Total annual tax revenue generated by E16, PAO, and RHV to federal, state, and local tax recipients is estimated at $1.2 million." This information is in research by the Bay Area Economics (BAE) consultant team hired by the county in regard to the RHV Business Plan written in 2005.
The local tax portion generated by the three airports of the $1.2 million is $768,000, and is distributed into these categories:
Since the BAE tax revenue is not airport specific we need to estimate the amount that is applicable to RHV. In keeping with the conservative nature of this paper I am going to assume that RHV generates $500,000 of the $768,000 total local tax. ($350,000 is a more realistic estimate.) I am also going to conservatively estimate that, in 2005, the land at RHV is worth between $2 million to $3 million an acre.
So, if RHV generates $500,000 in tax revenue a year, and the 180 acres of airport land were sold for between $2.0 million and $3.0 million an acre, then it would take RHV 720 to 1,080 years to equal the revenue from that one-time sale.
This estimate does not take into account the tens-of-millions, maybe hundreds-of-millions, of new city and county tax dollars that will be generated each year by developing the 180 acres in a productive, neighborhood-friendly manner that enhances society. In turn, this greatly increased tax revenue can now be used to enhance the quality of life for all of Santa Clara County.
One additional point is that since the tax revenue given in the 1996 EIR is wrong by such a significant amount, we can only suspect that the $9.2 million in business revenue quoted by the EIR is also grossly over inflated.
Without a doubt, RHV is an economic disaster for Santa Clara county.
 EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page H-4, Exhibit I-2
 EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page B-21, 4th key point - 60% of flight hours are student flights. The remaining 40% of flight hours are approximately 25% personal, and 15% business. The 40% breakdown is based on the graph, "Percent of Usage", on page B-17. This graph lists Business use as 36.3%, Personal use as 58.4%, and Instruction as 4.9% of total flight hours. These figures exclude the RHV flight schools. When flight schools are included the Instruction category increases to nearly 60%, page B-21. The remaining 40% of the total number of RHV flight hours then break down to 25% Personal and 15% Business.
Essentially, this means that, at a minimum, 85% of flight hours are personal/recreational in nature.
One major point to keep in mind is that the 1996 EIR based these percentages on "flight hours". A flight hour is one hour of time that the aircraft engine is running. This is a very important concept to understand. The reason why this is so important is because flight hours of aircraft based at RHV does not provide an accurate estimate of RHV activity.
The reason why I say flight hours are not an accurate measure of RHV activity is because an aircraft can depart RHV (takeoff = 1 operation), fly all over the country while on a personal or business trip, and then return to RHV (landing = 1 operation). We then know that one RHV flight has occurred, which equals 2 RHV aircraft operations. However, if the aircraft is gone for a few months it is possible to total 100, or more, flight hours, while only performing 2 operations at RHV. Conversely, one flight school aircraft engaged in pattern practice (flying in circles) will perform 16 to 20 aircraft operations in one flight hour, or 1600 to 2000 operations in 100 flight hours.
By using flight hours for determining RHV activity, the actual aircraft activity at RHV can be distorted and incorrect. I hope this is clear since it is a very important concept to grasp in order to have an accurate understanding of aircraft activity at RHV.
A much more accurate method of gauging airport activity is aircraft "operations". An operation is either a takeoff or a landing. Two operations (takeoff-land, or land-takeoff) define a RHV flight. If we can determine the nature of RHV operations we have a much better understanding of the activity at RHV. RHV had 205,000 operations in 2004 (and 230,000 in 2000), which equals 102,500 flights for 2004. If we can accurately estimate the number of flights that fall into the recreational, personal, student, business, and miscellaneous (emergency, police, fire-fighting, etc.) categories we can arrive at an alternative, and much more accurate, understanding of aircraft activity at RHV.
Before I continue, let me clarify one point. I consider student pilot flight training at the five RHV flight schools to be a personal/recreational activity, so student pilot operations (takeoff/landing) fall into the personal/recreational category, not the business category. Others will argue that a flight school is a business so all flight operations associated with student pilots should be considered business flights. However, my feeling is that the general public assumes a business flight to be something along the line of Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, or any business with a company plane, using the plane primarily for a business trip to a distant location, not personal use. Since learning how to fly is like learning how to ski, it is primarily a recreational activity. One final point on RHV student flights is that many of these students are foreign (Japanese). I have no problem with foreign students, but I do wonder why they cannot travel a few more miles and learn how to fly at another airport.
RHV flight activity falls into 13 categories. For all practical purposes, there really is little difference between a personal and recreational flight.
RHV Flight Activity: P = personal R = recreational B = business:
These categories should cover 100% of the operations (takeoff/landing) at RHV. Now we need to assign numbers to each category. To do this we need to make some assumptions based on what we do know about each category.
This is the easy category. We know from FAA data at least 60% of operations are local each year. Past years have had higher percentages for local operations.
"Local" operations are when the aircraft never leaves the pattern. The pattern is a semi-rectangular area around the airport that aircraft use to orderly depart and arrive at the airport. If an aircraft never leaves the pattern it is, in essence, just "flying in circles", and is usually for the purpose of practicing takeoffs and landings, or meeting FAA minimum quarterly currency requirements. For example, a pilot, on a quarterly basis, must perform 3 nighttime flights with full-stop landings in order to legally carry passengers at night. So a pilot, in order to remain current, goes to RHV at night, flies in circles and performs 6, or more, operations (3 takeoffs, 3 landings, equals 3 flights) to meet the 3 nighttime flight requirement.
Item 2 to item 7:
Unknown. This is hard to calculate, but we do know that if we can calculate a reasonably accurate number for items 8 to 13 (the business categories) then this category will be the difference between item 1 (local flights) and items 8 to 13.
Item 8 to 13:
The number of business flights is relatively easy to estimate since there just are not very many businesses that have their own aircraft based at RHV. A business aircraft operating cost varies between hundreds of dollars an hour for small aircraft, to thousands of dollars an hour for larger aircraft. The goal of most businesses is to make money. In order to make money a business needs to keep expenses to a minimum. This means that most businesses will not have aircraft, and if they do have a business aircraft it will only be used when absolutely necessary, not everyday.
There are 4 types of business flights at RHV, (items 8, 9, 10, 11):
However, I am also including in the business category the other types of flights, (items 12, 13), that are not personal/recreational, but are not business in nature either. The reason is that while these flights are so infrequent they are statistically negligible, they should still be counted.
An extremely generous estimate of business activity would be 50 business flights a week (10 a day, Monday thru Friday). With this number we have an estimated 100 business flight operations a week (1 flight equals 2 operations; takeoff and landing). If there are 100 business operations a week then there are 5,200 business operations a year (100 operations a week times 52 weeks a year). This represents nearly 3% of the 205,000 aircraft operations at RHV, for 2004. If 60% of operations are local (flying in circles), and 3% are business, then the remainder are personal/recreational (items 2, 3 ,4, 5, 6, 7), which would be 37%.
Adding up the results with the conservative business estimate of 3%:
Local(60%): 123,000 Flying in circles, pattern practice. Personal/Recreational(37%): 75,850 729 flights a week, 104 a day (7 day week). Business(3%): 6,150 59 flights a week, 11 a day (5 day week). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total: 205,000 RHV operations
This means that, at a minimum, 97% of all RHV aircraft operations (takeoff/landing) fall into the personal and recreational category.
The interesting category is Personal/Recreational(37%). I strongly suspect that the majority of these flights are student in nature, either local RHV based students, or students from other airports practicing by flying to RHV. Nor would I be surprised if student flight activity was at least 80% of all RHV airport activity. Eliminate the flight schools and RHV becomes a ghost town.
Finally, I have assumed that the number of yearly operations are evenly distributed over the entire year. However, in reality, RHV has most of its activity in the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, RHV activity drops dramatically.
 EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, pages C6 - C8
 EIR Volume 1 - Reid-Hillview Airport Closure Project - EIR Summary, page viii, page xv.
 The area bounded by King Road, Story Road, White Road, and Quimby Road. This assumes approximately 10,000 homes (apartments, duplexes, and single family homes) with 4 people per home.
 The right of people to expect peace, quiet, and safety in their home far exceeds any so-called right of a recreational pilot to engage in a hobby that annoys, terrorizes, threatens lives, spews leaded exhaust fumes (general aviation continues to use leaded fuel), lowers the standard of living, reduces property values, inhibits people from moving into the neighborhood, and drives current residents out of the neighborhood.
If this airport were located in any other equally populated area of the county it would have been closed years ago, but because it is in East San Jose it remains open. If any East San Jose resident engaged in a hobby with these effects they would be in jail, yet pilots are exempt from the results of their actions. Ironically, there are signs on Story Road that state "No Cruising Zone". Since cruising is simply driving around in circles this should also apply to pilots flying around in circles. Strangely, only the hobby of one minority is illegal, while the equivalent hobby of an extremely smaller, but richer, minority is legal.
 Based on a county population of 1,500,000. Actual county population is higher (1,700,000), which means actual usage percentages are lower.
Let's do the math.
RHV workers 100 5 flight schools with 150 students each a year 750 There are 700 planes based at RHV: Recreational pilots 650 Business pilots 50 ----------------------------------------------------------- Total 1550 Extra pilots to cover mistakes 450 ----------------------------------------------------------- Total 2000 Pilots to cover the occasional rental 1000 ----------------------------------------------------------- Total 3000 (0.2% of pop.) Some more rental pilots 3000 ----------------------------------------------------------- Total 6000 (0.4% of pop.)
Even under the very best case hypothetical scenario of 6,000 users the airport would only used by 0.4% of the county's population. However, as we will see next, the airport is not even used by 0.2% of the county's population.
Let's assume the airport is used by 3,650 people. This means that on January 1st 10 pilots use RHV, on Jan. 2 an additional 10 different pilots use the airport, on Jan. 3 an additional 10 new pilots use the airport, and so on until Dec. 31. Of course this does not happen. The airport mainly benefits the same small (approximately 500 - 1000, the aircraft owners) core group of people. Besides, there are only a limited number of planes available for rent since the majority, if not all, of the rental planes belong to the flight schools. They would rather rent them to students for hourly lessons instead of having the plane gone all day to one individual. In essence, this is a county run private club. This means that at least 99.8% of the county's population cannot, does not, and probably never will, use RHV.
Another way to look at this is that if all 3,373,* pilots, commercial, transport, private, student, helicopter, blimp, etc., who live in Santa Clara county, used RHV, that would still only be two-tenth of 1% of the county's population. More than likely, only a small subset of these pilots fly more than once or twice a month, and of that group only another small subset regularly use RHV.
Based on EIR data, it appears the flight instructors are the primary consistent users of RHV. Virtually all the flight operations at this airport are the result of student pilots, many of whom are from Japan or other countries.
* FAA - 2/2/08 pilot population data for "WP15 San Jose". Data is updated monthly. 07/07/07 data was 3,477 total pilots, and the 08/01/09 data is 3,411 pilots.
 Lead in the blood is positively linked to mental retardation in children, and aggressive, anti-social behavior in children and adults.
New research on lead is released each year, and if it is related in some manner to Reid-Hillview, I will add it at the beginning of this section, before the main section, which provides research and data on lead pollution, along with medical research on the effects of lead pollution on humans.
[03/07/15] In May 2011, The Center For Environmental Health filed a lawsuit against oil companies and 25 California airports to stop selling leaded aviation fuel.
In December 2014, the lawsuit was settled with fuel vendors being fined, and are required to notify all residents within one kilometer of the respective airport that they are breathing lead pollution from aircraft using the airport. This map shows the neighborhhods with the highest concentration of lead pollution from the airports listed in the lawsuit.
This map is specific for Reid-Hillview.
One point that needs to be kept in mind is that the lead pollution does not stop at the one kilometer line. In reality, the lead pollution extends beyond this marker, and is negatively affecting a much larger percentage of the East San Jose population.
[07/24/11] A North Carolina research study shows that children who live near a general aviation airport have higher blood lead levels than do children living further away from the same airport.
The study, “A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels” done by Marie Lynn Miranda, Rebecca Anthopolos, and Douglas Hastings with Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, has shown that children who live near a general aviation airport have higher blood lead levels than do children who live further away from a general aviation airport. This is after adjusting the results to eliminate other sources of lead pollution, with the end result being measurements of blood lead levels directly associated from general aviation aircraft lead pollution.
“Based on the distance to airport coefficients, children living within 500 m, 1000 m, or 1500 m of an airport had average blood lead levels that were 4.4%, 3.8%, or 2.1% higher, respectively, than other children.”
When reading the report, there are three points to keep in mind.
First, the North Carolina study looked at the lead levels of residents in six counties, not at six airports. Each county has multiple airports, and the study found residents who live near a general aviation airport have higher lead levels than residents who live further away from the airport. Since the same results were observed in six different counties, it is reasonable to assume the elevated blood lead levels are not a statistical fluke. Instead, the elevated blood lead levels are the direct result of breathing general aviation lead pollution.
Second, the highest county-wide total for airborne lead pollution was .8 (eight tenths) of a ton of lead per year. This is the cumulative amount from all airports in the county. Contrast that with the .6 (six tenths) of a ton of lead pollution generated solely by Reid-Hillview.
Finally, please keep in mind that Reid-Hillview, on a daily basis, has been putting this lead pollution into the local air for over 50 years. Since any amount of lead in the blood of a child can result in some degree of IQ loss, it is reasonable to assume daily lead pollution from Reid-Hillview has resulted in some, or many, children experiencing IQ loss over the last 45 years.
[04/28/10] The EPA released a proposal soliciting comments regarding EPA banning lead from general aviation fuel.
The proposal is based on past (mentioned below) EPA research showing airborne lead levels on general aviation airports, and in neighborhoods surrounding these airports, is significantly higher than at locations further away from these airports. Additionally, medical research (mentioned below) has shown inhaled airborne lead is absorbed into the blood, and any amount of lead in the blood of a fetus, infant, and young child can result in permanent, measurable, cognitive impairment (brain damage, IQ loss, etc.).
Interestingly, the EPA also delves into the social aspect of this lead pollution by pointing out many of these airports are located in poor and/or minority neighborhoods, and this lead pollution provides another burden on the lives of residents of these neighborhoods.
Comments must be received by June 28 2010. Comment submittal instructions are on page 2, under "Summary".
If I may take a moment and editorialize, I feel this proposal is devastating. It is showing these airports are injurious to the health of airport users, and the health of those living near these airports. Additionally, by implication, it is showing this damage has been occurring since day 1 at any general aviation airport. This means some locations, such as East San Jose with Reid-Hillview, have endured excess airborne lead pollution, along with the negative health effects of this lead pollution, for decades. Entire generations of East San Jose children have been exposed to this lead pollution their entire lives. This is devastating to Santa Clara County, since the county deliberately built Reid-Hillview, during the mid-to-late 1960s, in the middle of an existing, and growing, residential neighborhood (detailed here).
[04/06/10] On April 6 2010, the Santa Clara County (SCC) Airport Commission voted (3/3 tie) against a proposal to require 3rd party groups using SCC airports for public events to provide Proposition 65 compliant warnings to any member of the public attending these events.
The proposal is based on California law, Proposition 65, which requires the public to be notified of their exposure to any chemical known to cause cancer, and/or birth defects. Lead is listed in both categories. It is also based on EPA research showing airborne lead levels on general aviation airports, and in surrounding neighborhoods, to be higher than lead levels in areas not adjacent to an airport. Other research has shown inhaled airborne lead is absorbed into the blood, and research now shows virtually any amount of blood in a fetus, infant, or young child, can result in permanent, measurable, cognitive impairment (brain damage, IQ loss, etc.).
SCC legal counsel took the position Proposition 65 exempts SCC from its obligations, and this exemption also applies to non-government private groups, and individuals, using county airports for public events. In other words, SCC has taken the position the county has no obligation, and/or responsibility to inform the public they are being exposed to elevated levels of airborne lead from general aviation aircraft.
Read the proposal:
[08/01/09] In October 2008, the EPA published a technical document explaining a new method for calculating local air borne lead pollution at general aviation airports. The new methodology is "based on each airport's percentage of the piston-engine aircraft landing and take-off (LTO) activity at these airports.", and is referred to as the LTO method.
The document, "Lead Emissions from the Use of Leaded Aviation Gasoline in the United States", rates Reid-Hillview at number 25, out of 3,414 airports, in terms of lead pollution in the air at the airport, and in neighborhoods adjacent to the airport. The EPA estimates in 2002, aircraft at RHV emitted 580,000 grams of lead into the air, which is 60% of a ton of lead polluting the local air. That is a lot of lead for local residents to breath on a daily basis.
Interestingly, the LTO methodology is similar to the method I developed in 2004 for calculating the lead pollution at RHV. Even more interestingly, both models predict approximately the same amount of lead pollution from RHV. However, the EPA predicts a larger amount of lead pollution than my model. I suspect this is mostly due to the conservative nature of my estimates. In my model, I use the figure of 2 grams of lead per gallon of aviation fuel, and estimate 75% of the lead is exhausted into the air. The EPA, being scientists, are more precise in their figures. For example, the EPA uses 2.12 grams of lead per gallon, and have determined that 95% of the lead in aviation fuel is exhausted into the local air.
[10/31/08] On October 15, 2008, the EPA announced new, dramatically lower, levels for airborne lead pollution. The new levels reflect a 90% reduction in airborne lead pollution, with the values being reduced from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter, to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter.
The industry friendly, Bush administration EPA did not do this because they were bored, or because they did not have anything better to do. The EPA lowered the airborne lead pollution levels because research into lead poisoning of children is showing beyond any reasonable doubt that any amount of lead in the blood of a child can result in permanent, measurable, cognitive impairment.
"In this framework, we have drawn from the entire body of evidence as a basis for concluding that there are causal associations between air-related Pb exposures and population IQ loss." EPA_Lead_Air_IQ_Loss_Data_Memo
Based on EPA data and scientific research, this is what we now know regarding airborne lead pollution.
The data is irrefutable. The above points are explained in more detail later in this section.
Current EPA air lead data, associated research, and references.
[05/30/08] Research released this week demonstrates that lead exposure in a fetus and young child can result in both a diminished brain size, and as violent, aggressive behavior later in life. Some quotes from the 5/28/08 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.
"The first study to follow lead-exposed children from before birth into adulthood has shown that even relatively low levels of lead permanently damage the brain and are linked to higher numbers of arrests, particularly for violent crime."
"But by measuring blood levels of lead before birth and during the first seven years of life, then correlating the levels with arrest records and brain size, Cincinnati researchers have produced the strongest evidence yet that lead plays a major role in crime."
"The link between criminal behavior and lead exposure was found among even the least-contaminated children in the study, who were exposed to amounts of lead similar to what the average U.S. child is exposed to today, said Landrigan, who was not involved in the study published in the online journal PLoS Medicine."
[05/01/08] The EPA released a Fact Sheet on its current working proposal to tighten the current standards for airborne lead pollution. Current research is now showing that any amount of lead in a child can result in some degree of cognitive impairment. Since inhaled lead is absorbed into the blood, eliminating airborne lead pollution takes on a new urgency.
"On May 1, 2008, EPA proposed to substantially strengthen the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for lead. The proposed revisions would improve health protection for at-risk groups, especially children."
"Lead that is emitted into the air can be inhaled or, after it settles out of the air, can be ingested. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Once in the body, lead is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect many organ systems."
"Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory, and behavior. There is no known safe level of lead in the body."
"Scientific evidence about lead and health has expanded dramatically since EPA issued the initial standard of 1.5 ug/m3 in 1978. More than 6,000 new studies on lead health effects, environmental effects and lead in the air have been published since 1990. Evidence from health studies shows that adverse effects occur at much lower levels of lead in blood than previously thought."
"...lead continues to be emitted into the air from many different types of stationary and piston engine aircraft."
"Once inhaled or ingested, lead enters the bloodstream."
"No safe level of lead has been identified."
[03/30/08] In October 2007, the EPA released preliminary results of a study measuring the pollution levels at, and in neighborhoods adjacent to, the Van Nuys and Santa Monica general aviation airports. The Santa Monica Mirror reported, "The study found elevated levels of lead near runway sites and surrounding communities, but the levels found were "below federal and state standards."" However, this article appeared before the EPA slashed the airborne lead level standard by 90% on 10/15/08.
The results (slide 18) show the average lead level around the Van Nuys airport is approximately 2-3 times higher than the overall area average. For comparison purposes, I would think the Van Nuys airport area is more similar to Reid-Hillview than is the Santa Monica airport, so the Van Nuys results are probably more applicable to Reid-Hillview, although both airports show elevated lead levels at, and near, the airport.
In regard to the Van Nuys slide showing airborne lead levels 2-3 times higher than average, there are two very important points that need to be made in order to understand the airport lead pollution lead levels.
First, general aviation airports only create lead pollution when aircraft are operational, unlike lead pollution from industrial sites, which continuously pollute 8 to 24 hours a day. The Van Nuys lead pollution numbers are an average over 24 hours a day, of which there are times when no aircraft are operating. If the numbers were shown only for the periods when aircraft are operating they would be much higher. Averaging the lead pollution over time makes the lead pollution appear lower than it actually is.
Second, and even more important, is the time frame, November through February, when the lead pollution measurements were made. Since general aviation is primarily and overwhelmingly a recreational activity, aircraft operation drops dramatically during the winter months. This is because most GA flights are VFR flights, which requires benign weather with good visibility. If the Van Nuys lead pollution measurements were made during the June, July, August period, versus during the winter, it is more than likely the lead pollution would be much higher due to the huge increase in aircraft activity.
Of course, this is the same time frame when children are outside running around, playing, and breathing in the lead pollution.
[11/25/06] In October 2006, an environmental group, Bluewater Network, filed a petition with the EPA requesting the EPA to do its job and remove the lead from GA fuel. Many of the points in the petition are also presented in this section.Overview:
General aviation aircraft are exempt from air pollution laws, continue to use leaded gasoline, and do not have pollution control devices (catalytic converter, etc.) installed; EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page B22. According to the EPA, "Currently, the largest use of alkyl-lead occurs in aviation gasoline for general aviation (piston-engine) aircraft. In 1998, the aviation industry used approximately 295.3 million gallons of leaded gasoline, which is estimated to contain 1.39 million pounds of TEL.", and "Current allowed uses of alkyl-lead in fuel (particularly for race cars and airplanes) may place certain subpopulations at risk....Therefore, residents in the vicinity of race tracks and general aviation airports where leaded gasoline is still being used as fuel may have an increased risk of lead exposure".
A study which was found on a general aviation web-site (before it was removed from that site) states, "100LL AVGAS still contains roughly four times the lead that was found in regular leaded automotive fuel before it was banned. The lead additive used in AVGAS is an organic tetraethyl lead, the same one used previously in automotive gasoline. This form of lead additive is highly, and aggressively toxic to all complex forms of life." This is why leaded gasoline for cars was banned. Also, a general aviation pilot who considers himself knowledgeable on the subject of aircraft pollution (and I see no reason to not believe him) states, "A GA engine is hundreds of percent dirtier than a car engine." So, at RHV we have hundreds of aircraft flying around in circles, over and over and over and over, burning fuel with four times the lead used in old car gas, in airplanes with engines that are hundreds of percent more polluting than car engines.
EPA Statements and Findings Regarding Airborne Lead Toxins from General Aviation:
"Avgas 100LL contains about 2 grams of lead per gallon, and is typically the most commonly used aviation gasoline"
"However, alkyl-lead compounds combine with other compounds during the combustion process to form lead halides (e.g., PbBrCl, 2PbBrClCNH4Cl, etc.) that are subsequently emitted as microparticulates in exhaust."
"Additionally, through the combustion process, alkyl-lead in gasoline is converted to lead halides and exhausted into the air where it can be inhaled. These lead halides create the potential for exposure to lead through ingestion of soil or dust containing lead, and ingestion of lead-contaminated food or water." Alkyl_lead_action_plan_final.pdf
"Lead poisoning can result from the ingestion or inhalation of inorganic lead compounds emitted as exhaust through the combustion process (as a direct result of the use of alkyl-lead in gasoline)." http://www.epa.gov/pbt/alkyl.htm
However, as gasoline containing alkyl-lead is still currently being used as fuel (particularly for race cars and airplanes), certain subpopulations may remain at risk. Lead particles can remain airborne for some time following the initial introduction into the atmosphere. Therefore, residents in the vicinity of race tracks and general aviation airports where leaded gasoline is still being used as fuel may have an increased risk of lead exposure." Alkyl_lead_action_plan_final.pdf
Currently, the largest uses of alkyl-lead are in aviation gasoline for general aviation (piston-engine) aircraft, and racing gasoline. Neither of these uses are subject to any of the regulations that restrict leaded motor gasoline use."
...However, the Agency is concerned about any sub-populations that may remain at risk, for example, individuals exposed at racetracks or general aviation airports. The Agency also recognizes that these remaining risks should not be taken lightly. EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate the use of leaded gasoline for the racing industry, and the authority to regulate aircraft fuel lies with the Federal Aviation Administration. http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2002/July/Day-23/a18588.htm
Additionally, the EPA has released a study of "33 air toxics that present the greatest threat to public health". Lead is one of these "air toxics". Results from this data place Santa Clara county in the "Highest in U.S." category in regard to lead particles in the air, and, apparently, 85% of the lead pollution in Santa Clara county is from general aviation airplanes. Also, the California EPA Air Resources Board states, "Currently, aircraft fuel is the primary source of inorganic lead emissions contributing about 149 tons (298,000 pounds) of the metal to the state's lead inventory each year."
(emphasis mine on the above EPA statements)
Recent (April 2001) research into the health effects from lead show that "Lead is toxic at concentrations in the blood that were previously thought to be harmless". The study "shows that IQ declines as blood lead rises in children who have a blood lead concentration lower than 10 micrograms per deciliter, the level currently considered acceptable. The lowest blood lead concentration associated with adverse effects has not yet been defined." According to the study's primary author, Dr. Bruce Lanphear, "There is no safe level of blood lead". Dr. Lanphear also states, "There is no magic number for lead poisoning; the science shows that any lead exposure hurts fetuses and young children. What we must do is reduce children's exposure to lead at every opportunity, especially for those children at greatest risk." The research study concludes, "Deficits in cognitive and academic skills associated with lead exposure occur at blood level concentrations lower than 5 ug/dl". Parallel research shows that even if the lead is removed from the blood the brain damage is irreversible.
Similar research reinforces the above study. On 4/17/03 both the San Jose Mercury (SJM page 6A) and the San Francisco Chronicle (SFC page A8) published articles regarding research into the effects of low levels of lead on children. Some quotes:
"Lead levels now widely believed to be safe in children actually produce a severe impact on intellectual development" (SJM/SFC)
"People have been asking, 'How low (a lead concentration) is low enough?" said Dr. Richard Canfield of Cornell University, one of the study's leaders. "The fact is, in our study, we found no evidence for a safe level. There is no safe level of exposure." (SJM/SFC)
"The findings "reflect the growing opinion that low levels of lead are more toxic than we thought.", said Dr. Herbert Needleman." (SJM/SFC)
"In a separate paper in the journal (New England Journal of Medicine), Environmental Protection Agency researchers found that low levels of lead delayed puberty for several months in young girls, especially African Americans and Latinas. Although delaying puberty is not necessarily harmful, the findings suggest that lead is interfering with critical hormonal processes during development." (SJM/SFC)
Other research shows that "Lead is a particular problem for children under 6. Excessive exposure impairs intelligence, growth, ability to hear and perceive language, and concentration. Even exposure to low levels seems to be associated with subsequent intellectual deficiencies. The level of what is considered toxic has been continually reduced in the last 10 to 15 years as a result of new research showing how severe the consequences of lead exposure can be." http://infoserver2.ciesin.org/docs/001-233/001-233.html
"Lead is particularly toxic to the brain, kidneys, reproductive system, and cardiovascular system. Exposures can cause impairments in intellectual functioning, kidney damage, infertility, miscarriage, and hypertension. Lead is a special hazard for young children. Several studies have shown that lead exposures can significantly reduce the IQ of school-aged children; some estimates suggest that every 10-microgram-per-deciliter increase in lead levels in the blood is associated with a 1- to 5-point decrease in the IQ of exposed children. Lead exposures have also been associated with aggressive behavior, delinquency, and attention disorders in boys between the ages of 7 and 11. In adults, lead exposure has been related to increased blood pressure and hypertension, conditions known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease." http://www.wri.org/wri/wr-98-99/metals.htm
"However, because lead particles in air are so small, as much as 50 percent of the lead that is inhaled is retained in the body. Lead is a hazardous substance. Elevated levels above the national standard can adversely affect mental development and performance, kidney function, and blood chemistry. Young children are particularly at risk due to increased sensitivity of young tissues and organs." http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/air/monops/lessons/leadinfo.html
FAA data, for the year 2000, presented on May 3, 2001, at Overfelt High School stated that there were 230,000 operations at RHV between 7 AM and 10 PM (FAA tower hours of operation). 154,100 (67%) of these operations were from pilots flying in circles, over and over and over and over and over and over, practicing takeoffs and landings. As these planes fly around in circles they continually spew lead exhaust fumes into the air. In essence, they are crop-dusting the residents of East San Jose with lead particles. There are at least 8 schools, thousands of homes, and tens-of-thousands of residents, located within this flight pattern (the area bounded by Story Road, King Road, Tully Road, and White Road). Interestingly, these schools rank academically as some of the worst in California.
School Rank (last year) 1 = worst, 10 = best --------------------------------------------------------------------- Dorsa Elem. 1 (1) Clyde Fischer 1 (1) Thomas Ryan Elem. 2 (2) William Overfelt HS 2 (3) Donald Meyer Elem. 2 (2) Ocala Middle 3 (4) William Rogers Elem. 3 (4) Sylvia Cassel Elem. 4 (4)
Additional research is providing more evidence showing the strong relationship between air-borne lead particles and aggressive, anti-social behavior. "The nationwide research study--authored by Colorado State Sociologist Paul Stretesky with Michael Lynch of the University of South Florida, Tampa--supports other recent research that shows a connection between lead exposure and violent behavior." The article also states, "Stretesky, an assistant professor in the sociology department at Colorado State, said that the findings demonstrate that airborne lead is another source of lead exposure that can lead to health problems and behavioral issues and may be more problematic than is widely understood" and "Stretesky said that the research doesn't directly indicate a causal relationship between high levels of lead in the air and increased homicide rates, but did say that the study is another indication that lead levels seem to predispose exposed individuals toward delinquency and aggression."
Even worse, the article states that other research shows 70% of inhaled air-borne lead particles are absorbed into the blood stream. "Prior research shows that 70 percent of small lead particles that are inhaled are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, while larger lead particles may be trapped in mucous and swallowed."
Just How Much Lead Is Introduced Into the Air between 0 to 1000 feet, and from 0 to 1 Mile of Reid-Hillview?
Although the 1996 Environmental Impact Report on closing RHV was commissioned to explore the environmental effects of closing RHV, it conveniently omitted any reference or research into the environmental impacts of having a recreational airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood. I say this sarcastically because the EIR authors took it upon themselves to address the "economic benefit" of the airport by including an economic study of RHV. "Although not a part of the EIR, Attachment A presents information on economic considerations related to the proposed project." (page XXIII EIR Vol 1) Ironically, this "economic" data shows that RHV is an economic disaster.
Without having measuring equipment installed to monitor the air 24 hours a day, every day of the year, we can only estimate the amount of lead introduced into the local air. The more data we have the better our estimate will be. For estimating lead pollution from RHV we know:
Using the above information I am going to base my estimate of airborne lead particles from RHV showered onto local residents within one mile of RHV on two assumptions. First, lets assume that between 30% to 50% of the 500,000 gallons of 100LL sold at RHV is combusted and exhausted locally, and, second, aircraft engines emit between 50% and 70% of their lead content as lead particulate into the air. To be conservative, I am going to ignore any lead from fuel spills, refueling vapors, and refueling waste.
30% to 50% of the 500,000 gallons of 100LL sold at RHV is between 150,000 and 250,000 gallons. Since there are 2 grams of lead per gallon in 100LL, this means the lead content ranges between 300,000 and 500,000 grams of lead. This provides a minimum (50%) and maximum (70%) range of 150,000 to 350,000 grams of lead that is spewed into the local air for East San Jose residents to breath, or an average of 250,000 grams of airborne lead particles.
Medical research measures lead poisoning in terms of one-millionth of a gram (micro-gram) per one-tenth of a liter (deciliter) of blood. There are 1,000,000 micro-grams in each gram of lead. So, if we multiply 150,000 and 350,000 grams of lead by 1,000,000 we find that there are between 150,000,000,000 (150 billion) and 350,000,000,000 (350 billion) micro-grams of lead exhausted into the local air, between 0 and 1000 feet, around RHV every year. This is the air that we breath.
Is the above estimate, 150 billion to 350 billion micro-grams, of local airborne lead particles reasonable?
If this estimate of lead in the local air is true then Santa Clara County is responsible for a major environmental disaster. But since we do not have permanent air-quality measuring equipment installed that has been gathering data daily for the last 40 years how do we confirm the above numbers? One way is to use an alternative method to estimate the amount of local airborne lead, and if the result is similar to the above then it helps to confirm that the above numbers are reasonable. The range of 150,000 to 350,000 grams of local airborne lead is based on 2 assumptions.
Since assumption 2 is based on EPA data that 75% of the lead in fuel in exhausted into the air then this assumption is simply being conservative with existing data. The first assumption has no basis other than being, to me, a reasonable and intuitive assumption based on the high amount of local operations (pilots flying in circles, over and over and over and over and over and over). However, I can understand that an airport supporter might feel that this assumption is specious. So, how do we verify this assumption?
After thinking about this issue for a while I realized that this should be easy to verify. Why it is easy is because aircraft fuel usage is measured differently than automotive fuel usage. In cars, fuel use is measured in miles-per-gallon, while in airplanes fuel use is measured in gallons-per-hour. So, if we can determine the number of hours that an aircraft engine is running locally (between 0-1000 feet within 1 mile of RHV) then we can estimate how many gallons of fuel are exhausted into the local air. This is relatively easy since the necessary data exists and is verifiable.
First, we know from FAA data that there are approximately 235,000 operations (takeoff or landing) a year. However, there really are many more operations than the "official" number. This is due to the fact that the FAA only records operations while the tower is open, between 7 AM and 10 PM. Thus any operations between 10 PM and 7 AM are not recorded. Second, we know from AirNav that 63% of operations are local, and at a FAR 150 presentation it was stated that 67% of operations are local. Third, we know that the low-end Cessna 172 (typical student airplane) averages 9 gallons/hour at cruise (70% full throttle). In order to do the airborne lead calculations I need to again make some assumptions, but these assumptions will be in line with the conservative nature of this paper.
Putting this all together, we get:
RHV has 230,000 operations a year with 138,000 (60%) being local (fly in circles), and 92,000 transient (actually go someplace). 138,000 local operations equals 69,000 local flights (takeoff/landing equal 1 flight), and 92,000 transient operations equal 46,000 flights. If there are 6 local flights per hour then that means 11,500 hours are spent flying in the local air. If a transient flight spends 25 minutes in the local air (see above) then this is (46,000 times 25) 1,150,000 minutes, or 19,167 hours. Combining local flight hours (11,500) with transient flight hours (19,167), we have a total of 30,667 hours a year an aircraft engine is running in the local air. At a 9 gallon per hour fuel use rate this equals 276,003 gallons of leaded fuel exhausted into the local air. This is greater than 50% of the 100LL sold a year at RHV, thus supporting the above estimate that 30% to 50% of leaded fuel sold at RHV is exhausted into the local air.
Another way to look at this data is that since there are 8,760 hours in a year, the 30,667 hours of multiple aircraft engine operation at RHV is equal to 3 aircraft engines running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, spewing lead into the local air, and a 4th aircraft engine running 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, spewing lead into the local air.
It is impossible for anyone to deny that East San Jose children, and everybody else in East San Jose, is experiencing increased airborne lead pollution, with potential lead poisoning, from RHV on a daily basis, simply so that a few people can play, occasionally travel, or engage in business.
There are countless studies demonstrating lead in any amount is extremely harmful to humans. Simply go to Google or AltaVista and search on "lead and health", "lead and pollution", or just "lead".
 Aircraft at RHV either have no muffler or a minimal muffler. Aircraft owners cannot add a muffler as this would be an unapproved engine modification according to the FAA.
A Cornell University study finds that, "Airport noise is harmful to the health and well-being of children and may cause lifelong problems"
"The health problems resulting from chronic airport noise, including higher blood pressure and boosted levels of stress hormones, the researchers say, may have lifelong effects. "This study is probably the most definitive proof that noise causes stress and is harmful to humans," says Gary Evans, a professor of design and environmental analysis in Cornell's College of Human Ecology."
Although the Cornell study was directed at a German airport with jet aircraft, its findings are certainly relevant in regard to RHV. Based on year 2000 FAA tower records at RHV (data gathered daily from 7 AM to 10 PM, although the airport is open 24 hours) there are over 230,000 annual operations at RHV. This averages to an operation every 86 seconds between the hours of 7 AM and 10 PM, 365 days a year. Of course, in reality, there are stretches where there are few, or no, operations during this period. However, this means that there are other periods when air traffic is continuous for hours at a time. When you consider that most of these flights (67% of operations in 2000) are simply pilots flying in circles, over and over and over and over practicing takeoffs and landings, its impossible not to accept the fact that East San Jose residents are continually being exposed to unnecessary and harmful noise (and lead poisoning). Additionally, there are at least 8 schools, and thousands of homes, located within this flight pattern.
Another noise study finds that aircraft noise adversely affects reading development in children. As part of a current FAA noise study at RHV, a monitoring station was installed in my backyard. Coincidentally, I was on vacation during that same period and was able to monitor the monitors. Aircraft over my house consistently registered in the 70s and 80s DB range, and I do not even live near the airport, but there is an elementary school behind my house.
According to the EIR Volume 1 - Reid-Hillview Airport Closure Project , page 61, "In fact, the closure of the airport would, in the short term, result in a beneficial noise impact (EIR emphasis). Redevelopment of the airport property with industrial/commercial uses would, likewise, not result (emphasis mine) in a significant noise impact." This is taking into account traffic increases, etc. that would accompany this development.
On October 15, 2002, the San Jose Mercury published (page 2E) a summary of an article in Psychological Science regarding the effects of aircraft noise on children and academic performance. Essentially, the article states that if an airport is closed then reading skills, along with short-term and long-term memory performance improves in children affected by the airport, while if an airport is opened, then reading skills, along with short-term and long-term memory performance declines in children affected by the new airport. However, "....the researchers also saw a brighter side: Most of the damage appeared to reverse itself when the noise was removed."
Noise is an interesting subject since there is a psychological component to it. A dripping faucet, a barking dog, a buzzing fly or mosquito can be sufficient to drive one person over the edge while another person may be impervious to the noise. However, there is sufficient research demonstrating that noise is harmful to an individual's physical and mental health. Simply go to Google or AltaVista and search on "noise and health" or "noise and pollution". One excellent source is the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse. Another is The Noise Center.
Children, and others, are being exposed to noise pollution on a daily basis simply so that a few people can play or occasionally travel.
 Reid-Hillview generates approximately $10,000,000 a year in business revenue and $1,000,000 a year in tax revenue.
Santa Clara County 1996 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on closing RHV, Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page H-7, section III "Business Revenue Impact", and page H-9, section V "Tax Impact".
However, the existence of RHV depresses local property values by $50,000 to $100,000 per home when compared to similar neighborhoods in South San Jose, West San Jose, Cupertino, and Santa Clara. Since there are easily 10,000 homes negatively affected by RHV this is a minimum economic loss of 500 million to 1 billion dollars. This money can be accessed via home equity loans and be used to remodel homes, send children to college, or any other purpose. Of course, in actuality, all East San Jose home values are depressed to some degree by RHV.
A study, Airport Diminution in Value, concludes that airports depress housing prices between 15% to 43%. "This study indicates that airport proximity consistently has a negative impact on value. This market data indicates that single family residences located in proximity to an airport are worth less than an otherwise similar property that is not located by an airport. This impact on value ranges from -15.1% to -42.6% and averages -27.4%."
A report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, State of the Nation's Housing: 2000, finds that "Among owners with incomes between $20,000 and $59,000 a year, more than 70 percent have more equity in their homes than in stocks.", and those "with incomes of between $60,000 and $99,000 a year, well over half of them have more real estate equity than stock." (San Jose Mercury, page F1, 7/1/00) From the report itself, "Home equity remains an especially important source of wealth for low-income and minority households." and "For half of black homeowners, home equity accounted for 57 percent or more of their net wealth. For half of Hispanic homeowners, the share was even higher at 71 percent or more." I think it is a reasonable assumption that most East San Jose homeowners do not have large stock portfolios and that the majority of their family's net worth is in their home equity.
Additionally, if RHV were redeveloped as a business park, the revenue generated in one week by this new facility would be greater than what RHV generates in a year. According to the San Jose Mercury, 2/4/00 page 2B, Cisco will add approximately $2.8 billion to the local economy at their new Coyote Valley site. Since this site is twice the size of RHV, I am reducing RHV's contribution by 50%. This would be 1.4 billion. However, to be conservative, let's reduce this amount by another 50%, so that a high-tech campus at RHV would contribute $700 million to the economy. This is $13 million a week versus $10 million a year for the airport.
Add this together with the increase in property values and we easily have a minimum 1 to 2 billion dollar increase in the economy, as compared to RHV. The actual increase will be much more. To put this in perspective: It would take Reid-Hillview 100 years to equal the minimum one year economic gain of appreciating housing prices that results from simply closing the airport and doing nothing else, and 200 years to equal the minimum combined one year economic output of a high-tech campus and appreciating housing prices.
[Note] The above estimate of a high-tech campus's contribution to the economy is an educated guess based on information in the SJM. On 9/13/00 the City of San Jose released the First Amendment to the Draft Environmental Impact Reporton the Coyote Valley Research Park. Volume A, page IV-31, (page IV-30 in print form) states the project is a 6.6 million square foot development and Reid-Hillview can provide 3.2 million square feet of development space. This is nearly 50% of the Coyote Valley site, thus validating the above estimate.
 Pro-airport arguments:
1. "RHV was there first." Irrelevant.
This is only partially true (see RHV History), and it is irrelevant. Historical facts are not arguments. Times change. Simply because something used to be okay does not mean it will be okay forever. Slavery used to be acceptable. According to this "argument" it should still be acceptable. In effect, the residents of East San Jose are slaves to this airport. It controls our lives and we have no control over it.
2. "RHV is an economic asset." Negligible/Absurd
According to the county's 1996 environmental report on closing the airport, the 180 acres of land used as a recreational airport contributes approximately 10 million dollars a year to the economy, and $1 million dollars in state and local taxes. However, it depresses East San Jose property values by a minimum of 500 million to 1 billion dollars (10,000 homes depressed $50,000 to $100,000 per home). This money could be accessed via home equity loans and will do much more for the economy than the airport. A high-tech campus will contribute a minimum of $10 million to $20 million a week to the local economy. RHV is an economic disaster. ( , ).
3. "RHV provides jobs." Negligible
According to the county's 1996 environmental report on closing the airport, the airport provides approximately 100 jobs. Replacing the airport with commercial development will provide a minimum of 5,000 jobs. Although the county's report also states commercial development will provide more jobs than the airport, my reasoning is based on the 5,000 jobs Sun Microsystems will provide on their new 80 acre campus on the Agnew's land in Santa Clara.
4. "RHV is a reliever airport for San Jose International." Irrelevant/Negligible
From the RHV 2005 Master Plan, Appendix B - Glossary, a Reliever Airport is "An airport serving general aviation aircraft that might otherwise use a congested air carrier airport". In this case, we are referring to San Jose International (SJC) as the "air carrier airport".
The key phrase in this definition is "might otherwise use". Using SJC is not mandatory for anyone, it is an option. Should RHV close, it is possible a few aircraft could move to SJC, or otherwise use SJC for a landing, in lieu of RHV. However, I suspect that only a small percentage of current RHV traffic would make the transition to using SJC instead of RHV.
SJC is downsizing their overall GA capacity, is mainly catering to their current based aircraft (business/personal), visiting aircraft, and appears to be trying to primarily deal with business traffic. I do not know the exact number of aircraft based at RHV which would fit the SJC corporate GA model. However, using the RHV 2005 Master Plan, Appendix A - Table 1, which contains data for aircraft operations at RHV in 2002, we can make some estimates.
Aircraft operations in the category labeled "Business Turboprop", which fits the type of category served by SJC, were 0.99% (2332) of the total operations (236,071) for the year 2002. Since the data does not differentiate between aircraft based at RHV, and aircraft visiting RHV, I am going to assume that 100% of these operations will move over to SJC. In reality, these operations are going to be distributed between SJC, South County, Palo Alto, and some will not occur if RHV is closed.
The 2,332 annual operations break down into 1,166 flights a year (flight = 2 operations). 1,166 flights breaks down to 3 flights a day that might now be using SJC instead of RHV. Of course, since it is highly unlikely that 100% of the RHV activity will transfer to SJC, in actuality, it appears there will only be, at best, a very minor increase in activity at SJC. Instead of a 3 flights a day increase at SJC, 3 flights a week would seem more reasonable. Of course, these numbers are based on 2002 activity, which was greater than current (2007) activity. So, any increase today would be lower than the 2002 numbers.
The rest of the activity at RHV, the local (flying in circles) operations (151,085 - 64% of the 2002 total), personal flights, recreational flights, etc. will not move to SJC.
5. "RHV is the only profitable county airport and is needed to keep the other two airports open." Irrelevant/Negligible/Absurd
According to the county's 1998 balance sheet the only reason airport operations was profitable was because of some mysterious one-time charge at RHV. The fact is, general aviation is only supported by a very few people. Three airports are, at least, one to many for the demand. The county needs to close RHV and distribute its business between the other two airports. If they cannot be made profitable then the county should get out of the airport business. Where do pilots get the idea that society is obligated to provide them with airport facilities for their hobby?
The 1999 Harvey Rose airport audit data clearly demonstrates that there is insufficient demand in Santa Clara county for three general aviation airports.
6. "RHV is the safest use of the land compared to other uses." Negligible/Absurd
EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page E-55, "Accidents arising from the most intense use discussed (commercial/light industrial) could (emphasis mine) result in 15 injuries and 0.09 fatalities." This is within a 5 mile radius of RHV. The report also states that, statistically, within the same area, but independent of RHV, there are expected to be 38 murders, 19 deaths by falling, 20 by poisoning, 7 by drowning, and 4 from fire/burns. In other words, replacing RHV increases fatalities by a statistically insignificant amount.
Airport supporters point to the SRI study that states there is a calculated 11 to 18 times greater chance of an automobile related fatality if RHV is redeveloped. However, what they omit is the part that there is an 11 to 18 times greater chance of an automobile related fatality than there is of being killed by an airplane. (EIR Volume 1 – Reid-Hillview Airport Closure Project - EIR Summary, page xii). This means that since the probability of an individual on the ground being killed by a crashing airplane is next to zero, their chance of being killed in a car accident is 18 times next to zero, which is still next to zero (18 x 0.005 = 0.09). Which is why the Technical Appendices state there could be an increase of 0.09 fatalities if RHV is closed and developed as an industrial site.
However, if we are really concerned about the safest use of the land and saving lives then we would close this airport. According to the Department of Transportation, the fatality rate, per billion passenger miles, of private planes is 8 times greater than that of an automobile (San Jose Mercury, 2/6/2000, page 18A).
7. "RHV is the best use of the land." Absurd
Airport supporters constantly state "All the county's studies say the airport is the best use of the land." I only have the 1996 Final Environmental Impact Report (volumes 1 and 2) on closing the airport. I have not been able to find anything in it even close to saying, or implying, the airport is the best use of the land. That's because RHV is not even a good use of the land. If the airport were the best, or even a good use of the land, then closing RHV would lower the standard of living in East San Jose. In reality, closing the airport would tremendously improve East San Jose. In fact, the EIR (vol 1, page viii) states, "The proposed closure of RHV will result in a beneficial land use impact with regard to the issue of land use compatibility". RHV is a terrible use of the land.
8. "RHV is needed to train new pilots." Irrelevant/Negligible/Absurd
There is not one person in this country who has to learn how to fly at RHV. Learning how to fly is a luxury, it is a hobby, and it is completely unnecessary. Why do pilots have to learn how to fly in the middle of a residential neighborhood? Where do pilots, and prospective pilots, get the idea that society has an obligation to provide them with airport facilities?
Many student flight hours simply consist of flying in circles, practicing takeoffs and landings. It turns out that the student percentage of annual operations (takeoff or landing) is much higher than 60%. Possibly 80 to 90% of all operations are the result of student pilots. Eliminate the flight schools and the airport becomes a ghost town.
Also, many of these students are from out of country and come here since it is less expensive to learn how to fly in this country than their home country. I certainly have no problem with foreign students. It just seems to me that if they are going to travel thousands of miles to come here and learn how to fly, then they can travel a few more miles down 101 and learn at another (South County, Salinas, Fresno, etc.) airport.
One more point on the impact of student training flights. A non-training recreational, or business flight, might be gone for 8 hours. Yet students have flight lessons in hourly chunks. So, while we can have 1 non-training recreational flight (two operations) in an 8 hour time, we can have 8 student flights with 80 operations (5 takeoffs/5 landings per student, a conservative number for an hour) in the same 8 hours. This is just comparing two airplanes: 1 student, 1 recreational.
Nor is it the responsibility of Santa Clara County to provide training facilities for the domestic and foreign airlines.
9. "RHV is part of a nation wide transportation system." Negligible/Absurd
There might be two or three people who commute daily to Silicon Valley by plane via RHV. Even if there were 100 people a day who commuted via RHV this would still be a trivial and absurd argument to justify the existence of an airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood, because it is the same people who use RHV consistently, not the general population. A better, and much more accurate, transportation analogy is that RHV is a PRIVATE highway, used by less than one-tenth of one percent of county residents, that was built, subsidized, and is run by Santa Clara county. Also, this PRIVATE highway goes through the backyards, front yards, and school yards of hundreds of thousands of county residents, while dumping toxic waste and harmful noise on these residents.
10. "RHV provides a community service." Negligible/Absurd
What service might this be? The service of being conveniently located so that pilots do not have far to drive to engage in their hobby? What community benefits from this service? It certainly is not East San Jose, or even Santa Clara county. Of course, a few people scattered throughout the county benefit from RHV, but that is not what defines a community. In reality, RHV provides a tremendously large disservice to an extremely larger local community.
11. "RHV can be used by all Santa Clara county residents." Negligible/Absurd
While, technically, this is true, it does not take into account the costs needed to "use" this facility. Since these costs are financially out of the reach of many county residents, or simply greater than what an individual considers a reasonable price to pay for a service, in reality the airport is only capable of being used by a very small percentage of county residents.
At a minimum a county resident will need a private pilot license to use RHV. The cost of this license is approximately $7,000 to $10,000 dollars, and one year of their time. This provides a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) license. If a county resident desires to fly on cloudy/rainy days then they need an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) license, which will cost approximately the same as the VFR license. Once they have their license they will need an airplane. An airplane will cost approximately $100/hour to rent, and more for a bigger, better equipped airplane. If someone buys their own aircraft then, in addition to the purchase price, they need to pay monthly storage fee, insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs.
12. "RHV inspires children." Absurd
Inspires them to do what? Hate the society that allows a small minority to harass an entire neighborhood with impunity? The FAA recorded 230,000 operations (takeoff/landing = 2 operations) between 7 AM and 10 PM in year 2000. This averages to an operation every 86 seconds between 7 AM and 10 PM 365 days a year. 154,100 (67%) of these operations were from pilots simply flying in circles practicing takeoffs and landings. This averages to an operation every 127 seconds. There are 8 schools, thousands of homes, and tens of thousands of residents in this practice area. Just how much inspiration does a child need?
If RHV is such an inspiration for children then who, and where, are the East San Jose alumni after 40 years of inspiration? If RHV is such an inspiration for children then why are the local schools ranked near the bottom in the state?
Let's inspire children by exposing them to a first-rate school system. Not by exposing them to the noise, irritation, lead pollution, and lower standard of living that results from RHV.
13. "RHV keeps property values down so that poor people can buy homes." Absurd
To me, this is the only argument that makes even a bit of sense. Of course, it still is ridiculous. Society should provide a mechanism to help poor people. However, ruining a neighborhood to make homes affordable is not the right approach. Especially ruining a neighborhood simply so that some people can play. Lets put a toxic waste site in Palo Alto to make those homes more affordable.
14. "Closing RHV will let East San Jose residents get something for nothing." Absurd
Any increase in property values that results from closing RHV should be thought of as the airport paying a fine or penalty for all the years it has been torturing East San Jose residents.
It appears that if anybody has been getting something for nothing, it is the pilots. This airport benefits, at the most, 1,500 to 3,000 county residents. This is county land and should be used in a way that benefits a larger percentage of county residents, while not ruining life for other county residents. The county airport system is simply welfare for the rich.
According to the Department of Transportation, "The federal government provided more subsidies to the general aviation system per thousand passenger-miles than for commercial aviation for the entire period 1990-2002 (Figure 6). Federal subsidy per thousand passenger-miles for general aviation grew rapidly between 1990 and 1993 and then fell between 1994 and 2000, before rising afterwards." Additionally, the DOT places the "transportation" aspect of general aviation in the correct and proper context, "Some forms of transportation, such as general aviation and boating, are heavily used for recreational purposes, where the objective is to enjoy the transportation activity and then return to the starting point.".
Pilots say they "pay their own way". Currently, there are no charges for taking off or landing at RHV. The (relatively) minor hanger rental fees, other fees, and taxes they pay do not come anywhere near paying for the economic, social, and environmental costs of Reid-Hillview. In order to compensate East San Jose for these tremendous losses, there needs to be an equitable charge attached to every operation (takeoff or landing). Based on an annual rate of 200,000 operations (currently around 230,000/year), pilots need to be charged a minimum of $2,500 per operation. This will generate $500,000,000 for East San Jose schools, environmental cleanup, and redevelopment. Of course, this comes no where near compensating society for the billions of dollars lost due to Reid-Hillview, but it is a start.
This is in keeping with the 1999 Harvey Rose airport audit, which states (page 12) "Since general aviation airports are not a County-mandated service and are of primary benefit to their users, each airport should be recovering its costs through its user fees and charges."
15. "RHV is conveniently located so that pilots do not have far to drive to engage in their hobby." Irrelevant/Negligible/Absurd
The county's environmental report states at least 85% of RHV flights are either student flights or recreational flights. Ruining life for an entire neighborhood, a neighborhood composed of tens of thousands of people, so that a few recreational pilots are not inconvenienced is simply unacceptable.
16. "If RHV closes there is no place to put the displaced aircraft." Absurd/Irrelevant
Currently (11/02), there are approximately 700 aircraft based at RHV. According to the EIR Volume 2 - Technical Appendices, page B-39 - Table 24, in the worst case scenario (close RHV and down size general aviation at SJC to 200 aircraft) there is an excess demand of 459 aircraft at the four closest local airports, but there is an excess capacity of 2,276 aircraft at the remaining local airports *. Granted, this mixture has probably changed somewhat over the previous six years, but there should still be sufficient excess capacity at other local airports to absorb the displaced RHV aircraft. However, the problem in the eye of aircraft owners is that these airports are not as conveniently located as RHV.
Additionally, it is not the responsibility of Santa Clara county taxpayers to provide airport facilities for private aircraft owners.
It is time to stop thinking in terms of what is convenient for a recreational pilot and start thinking in terms as to what is best for East San Jose, San Jose, and Santa Clara County.
One local airport that could accommodate all general aviation in the Bay area is missing from these discussions. That airport is the old Navy base at Moffett Field. Moffett is the ideal location for general aviation. It is centrally located, surrounded by the Bay, a golf course, and industrial sites. Due to the nature of general aviation, local residents would not even be aware these planes were based at Moffett. As an exercise, take a road map and trace the outline of RHV on a piece of paper. Cut it out and then place it over Moffett Field. The area used by RHV only covers a very small portion of Moffett runways by the bay. A side-benefit of using Moffett is that in this age of terrorists using aircraft as weapons it is much easier, and more cost effective, to provide security at Moffett than it is at separate county airports. Additionally, the old Alameda Naval Air Station can also be used for general aviation.
Even if there are no other alternative locations for these airplanes this is still not a valid reason to keep the airport open. Society has no obligation to provide airport facilities to aircraft owners.
* Local airports and excess capacity are: Buchanan Field (43), Frazier Lake (9), Half Moon Bay (270), Hayward (431), Hollister (94), Livermore (142), Monterey (530), Salinas (105), Tracy (652)
17. "Since the county has accepted FAA money, the county is obligated to keep the airport open." Negligible/False
Since 1988 the county has accepted 2 to 3 million dollars from the FAA. The FAA requires that this money be used over a 20 year period. If for some reason an airport closes before the 20 year period is up then the unused money must be paid back. The FAA pro-rates the money to be returned at a rate of 1/20 a year. This means that if 1 million is borrowed and 15 years later the airport is closed then 5/20 of the money (25% or $250,000) must be returned.
The 180 acres occupied by Reid-Hillview is currently (March 2000) worth approximately 200 million to 300 million dollars. Returning any FAA money is trivial.
Additionally, by accepting this money, the county has forfeited local control of the airport. This means the county has no control over the use of this airport and cannot ban pilots from flying in circles or even implement a curfew. This was very shortsighted of the county. Although shortsightedness in pursuit of money is nothing new, in this case it is incompetence. Any county official, elected or otherwise, who is responsible for this travesty should resign.
18. "RHV is needed to fly in disaster relief in case of an earthquake." Absurd
In the event of a catastrophe of this magnitude relief planes could land on Capitol Expressway or any freeway. These roads are in better shape than the runways.
19. "RHV adds character to the neighborhood." Absurd
RHV has had 60 years to add character to the neighborhood. What has it created in that time? Only one of the poorest communities in the Bay area. Only one of the worst school systems in the state. I doubt very many, if any, families have moved to East San Jose because they feel that having a recreational airport in the neighborhood will make their children better people, or make their life better. The primary things RHV adds to the neighborhood are lead pollution, noise pollution, and misery.
20. "RHV is a precious open space in our crowded valley." Absurd
It is an open space. It also looks like a dump. Very few people see this open space since they drive by it at 50 MPH. Unless you are a pilot, the land is useless. If you want this land preserved as a open space then close the airport and turn the land into a park that all county residents can use, enjoy, and appreciate.
21. "People who move near RHV have no right to try and close the airport." Absurd
First, its called freedom of speech. Second, if anything, people who live near Reid-Hillview have more of a right to call for airport closure than pilots, or people who live elsewhere, do to argue that the airport should remain open. This is because their neighborhood and their lives are negatively affected every minute of every hour of every day by this hobby. This is not a matter of whether somebody chooses to live near a recreational airport located in the boondocks, but a matter of county land in the middle of a city being used in a non-productive, destructive, and discriminatory manner to the detriment of society.
22. "East San Jose residents have a good thing going by paying less property tax on home values that are artificially reduced and closing RHV will ruin it." Absurd
I have yet to read an article in the San Jose Mercury that describes people clamoring to buy homes in East San Jose because we have such a good thing. If we have such a good thing why are the schools ranked at the bottom? Why would people rather move to the central valley and endure a terrible commute just to buy a home at the same price as an East San Jose home? If anybody thinks that East San Jose, or even Santa Clara county, benefits from RHV then they are living in a fantasy world.
23. "Closing RHV will deprive me of my right to fly." Absurd.
There is no relation between closing RHV and restricting one's ability to engage in a hobby. Closing RHV will not affect one's ability to fly. There are plenty of other airports where one can fly. The only thing lost by closing RHV is convenience, and there is no right to have a convenient location for a hobby.
In so far as the right to fly argument, there is no right to fly. There never has been a right to fly. There never will be a right to fly. The FAA, the courts, and most of society, consider flying to be a privilege, just like driving a car. As with any privilege, society has the right to restrict it, or eliminate it.
24. "Reid-Hillview is a county-wide resource." Negligible/False
Everything in society has a cost. While this "county-wide resource" is used by less than one-tenth of one percent of county residents, the residents of East San Jose are the ones paying the price for this resource in terms of lead pollution, noise pollution, a depressed local economy, negatively affected schools, a lower quality of life, and reduced standard of living. If everyone in Santa Clara county shared in the cost of this "county-wide resource", for example, with a sales tax increase to compensate for the lost tax revenue by not using the land in a more equitable manner, then it would be closed.
25. "But, I like the airport." Irrelevant
People who say they like the airport remind me of Robert Duvall's character in Apocalypse Now when he says "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." In other words, no matter how bad, how terrible, how wrong something is, there will always be somebody who likes it.
Of course, the lack of any legitimate reasons to justify the existence of a recreational airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood begs the question: Why is this airport still open? The answer is that general aviation pilots have a well organized political machine while East San Jose residents have little, if any, political power. The funny part is that there are not any honest, intelligent, rational, reasonable arguments in favor of the airport. The sad part is that politicians have ignored this fact and allowed the airport to remain open. I wonder whether they overlooked the evidence or never bothered to question the pilot's claims. I wish I knew what was on the mind on any politician who voted to keep the airport open. Since there are no valid arguments in favor of keeping Reid-Hillview open this implies that a vote for RHV was based on ignorance, incompetence, or corruption.
 These neighborhoods are: Cassell, Dorsa, Arbuckle, Capitol-Goss, Dobern, Sierra, Nancy, Lyndale, National Hispanic University, and Ryan. This information is from the San Jose Strong Neighborhood Initiative program regarding the East Valley/680 communities.
However, until Reid-Hillview is closed, it does not matter how many palm trees San Jose plants on Story Road, or how much money is spent, these neighborhoods will remain blighted. Why should the tens-of-thousands of residents in these neighborhoods have to suffer a severely reduced standard of living simply so that a few people can play?
 Let's review the previous information.
Since there are so many negative effects to society from RHV there must be some great, overriding, compelling benefit to society that prevents this airport from being closed. What could it be? Oh, that's right. There are not any great, overriding, compelling benefits to society, and very few minor benefits, from this airport. Children are being exposed to lead poisoning simply so that a few people can play. Eventually, some courageous lawyer is going to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all East San Jose residents against the County for creating, maintaining, aiding, and abetting a public nuisance. If the Burbank Theater can be considered a public nuisance (San Jose Mercury, 3/23/00) then RHV more than qualifies as a public nuisance. It should be nearly impossible to lose this case so the county can expect to be paying $50,000 to $100,000 to at least 200,000 East San Jose residents. This is 10 to 20 billion dollars. Quite an expensive price to pay, simply so that a few people can play.
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© 2000 Bud Beacham. All rights reserved. Page created March 2000. Updated March 7, 2015.