San Jose intensifies illegal fireworks

San Jose residents could face tougher consequences for participating in illegal fireworks this summer.

The San Jose City Council unanimously voted this month to push ahead with the Social Hosting Ordinance, which penalizes renters and owners for fireworks fired on their property, whether or not they set off the fireworks. Members will vote on final approval later this month.

Complaints about illegal fireworks have tripled during the pandemic. In response, the San Jose Police and Fire Department doubled the fine for first-time violations from $ 500 to $ 1,000. A second violation within 18 months is $ 2,000 and a third violation within the same period is $ 3,000.

Jason Ta, police captain of the support services department, said the department had received about $ 37,000 to combat the illegal sale and use of fireworks for July fourth this year. The department plans to monitor locations known as fireworks hotspots, allow San Jose residents to report fireworks through the 311 app, and potentially use drones for law enforcement purposes. Council members mentioned Alviso and Communication Hill as places with frequent fireworks.

District 4 Councilor David Cohen emphasized the urgency to tackle illegal fireworks as fire season approaches.

“This is a city-wide problem,” he said. “There are fireworks every night in my neighborhood.”

If approved, those violating the Social Hosting Ordinance would have to pay for the police and fire services emergency response.

“The purpose of imposing liability on the social host is to encourage people who hold gatherings to take greater care to ensure that their gatherings do not involve illegal fireworks,” said Deputy Fire Chief Hector Estrada.

Several council members have drawn a parallel between the fireworks policy and the city’s handling of illegal street racing.

“We looked at entities alongside the drivers: the spectators, the organizers and that’s exactly what we’re doing here,” said Councilor Maya Esparza. “It’s not just the people who set off fireworks. It’s the hosts, the owners, and everyone who allows this fireworks display. “

Councilor Pam Foley asked about exemptions from the regulation, such as: B. Schools, for those who use parking lots or empty fields for fireworks after hours without the knowledge of the school.

“We really want to become the social host and not punish the school district for something they also want to prevent,” she said.

While Councilor Dev Davis suggested holding Airbnb hosts liable if their guests use illegal fireworks, Councilor Sylvia Arenas raised concerns about whether violating the ordinance was a valid reason for eviction from a tenant. In this case, she demanded that fees and notices relating to the fireworks ordinance be sent out after the current eviction moratorium expires in June, in order to “not prepare evictions in advance”.

The arenas also called for more outreach and social media advertising to help San Jose residents understand the grave consequences of illegal fireworks.

“We need to communicate this in good time so that we give tenants and landlords time to change their behavior,” she said.

San Jose has usually had a tough time cracking down on illegal sparklers.

Last year, some fireworks quotes were delivered to the wrong address or issued with no evidence, resulting in local residents being wrongly fined for fireworks that they did not set off. A similar problem occurred in 2017 when residents were mistakenly cited for fireworks. City guides said they fixed the problem by asking residents to provide evidence when filing complaints. It doesn’t seem to solve the problem.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, the Council did not discuss how to prevent similar mistakes this year.

The number of complaints received last year more than tripled from 1,946 in 2019 to 6,188.

Esparza reflected on her previous experience with the Red Cross, where she said she saw an entire apartment complex burn down because a tenant used illegal fireworks.

“It’s really about deterrence,” she said. “We don’t want good people. We don’t want to charge any fees. We just want people to stop doing it. “

The San Jose City Council meets on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. You can see the meeting by clicking here. Read this guide to learn how to participate and make public comments.

Contact Patricia Wei at [email protected]

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