The survey was conducted in neighborhoods under the flight path of airplanes taking off at Reid Hillview airport. It was part of a class project by four graduate students at San Jose State University, asking neighbors whether the airport should be closed over safety concerns.
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In the student’s small sampling of 30 nearby residents, 19 favored closing the airport, while one was for keeping it open and ten needed more information.
“I’m very thankful that they were able to get on the ground and go door to door, because that’s exactly the perspective we were looking for,” said
Maricela Lechuga, a County Airport Commissioner and an airport neighbor who favors closing the airport.
She said the student’s work contradicts an earlier city-wide online survey by District 5 United that found 67 percent support for keeping the airport open, and only 13 percent opposed.
“An online survey can be easily distributed worldwide. So I felt there was a flaw in that methodology,” Lechuga said.
Perhaps the student survey’s key finding was the need for more information.
In August, Santa Clara County will release results of a health study on whether neighbors are being exposed to lead by overflying airplanes.
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Unlike cars, where leaded fuels were banned decades ago, airplane fuels are still leaded.
The survey found most residents were unaware of the possible exposure. Others who were aware of the lead issue said the quantities are too small to worry about.
“The tiny quantity of lead that’s in fuels from an airplane that flies over every half hour or so is not a factor,” said Glen Rands, who has lived under the takeoff zone near Reid Hillview for 20 years.
Rands said he was not part of the survey, but when asked Thursday, he said he would keep the airport open.
“I think the airport is a really good neighbor. I like having it here. I worry if they close it, it could get crowded. They’ll put in more housing or something that will make more traffic,” said Rands.
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There is not final decision on what to do with the airport, but last year, the Board of Supervisors approved a process to begin looking at alternate uses for the airport property.