May 18, 2021
Trash and debris piles up at the 7th Street ramp to Highway 280 in San Jose. Photo by Ramona Giwargis.
Tired of the city’s garbage piling up, San Jose is considering fines for illegal dumping. However, some say the move could negatively affect low-income residents.
The San Jose City Council will discuss Tuesday whether or not to increase the fines for illegal dumping to $ 10,000. There are currently three tiers of illegal dumping fines in the city: $ 2,500 for the first offense, $ 5,000 for the second offense, and $ 10,000 for the third offense.
Following a suggestion from council members Sergio Jimenez and Raul Peralez, the duo are hoping the quadrupling of the fines will make residents think twice before dumping garbage in places like parks and homeless camps.
“Increasing the city’s fine to $ 10,000 for the first and subsequent offenses sends a clear message that we will no longer tolerate this illegal and harmful behavior, and it has dire consequences for those who dump our communities illegally respect, “Jimenez and Peralez wrote a note.
The memo also called for urging Santa Clara County to extend its hazardous household waste disposal program, which ends at 1:00 p.m. every day
Since the two officials wrote the memo last month, three of their colleagues – Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilors Dev Davis and Pam Foley – have shown support for higher fines. Liccardo, Davis and Foley are also planning to launch better marketing efforts to educate residents about illegal dumping, including raising awareness of the city’s free garbage collection program.
A 2019 study by San Jose State University found that 85% of single-family households knew and used the service, while it fell to just 50% for rental properties.
In recent years, San Jose has stepped up its disease reduction efforts, including implementing a city-wide illegal dumping patrol team backed by the city’s 311 app and an illegal dumping hotline that serves residents and businesses Report piles of rubbish. With most of the city’s operations closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal dumping has increased and there are fewer staff to take care of it.
Before the app launched in 2019, the city had an average of 543 monthly requests to clean up illegal landfills, but they almost tripled to 1,583 requests per month since then.
City reports show that prior to the pandemic, cleaners regularly swept 70 hotspots a day, despite San Jose identifying more than 160 trouble spots in the city.
Since the pandemic began, only 25 of the city’s most common landfills – locations with 13 or more illegal landfills – have been cleaned to save time and money.
The community consensus behind the proposed fine increase is not universal. Resident Taylor Chase says a potential surge would disproportionately affect low-income residents and people of color. Instead, Chase advocates city-approved disposal sites, better contact with paint communities, trash resources for the elderly and disabled, and monthly voluntary street cleanings.
“If you want to stop the problem, you have to help people, not punish them,” Chase wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “This is how you prevent improper waste disposal.”
Some local residents like Jeff Levine, who lives near Roosevelt Park, have long advocated a tougher system of fines to curb illegal dumping.
“The city is doing a lot against illegal dumping,” Levine told San José Spotlight. “I hope they continue to aggressively fund the garbage collection programs. This is not the time to back down.”
Jimenez and Peralez said they realized how fines can single out poorer residents and suggested that the council discuss “just ways” to implement fines and enforce behavior.
“We are confident that the increase in fines, increase in enforcement and rewarding residents who report, will complement current efforts to clean up our city and finally begin to prevent illegal dumping,” their memo said .
The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. You can see the meeting by clicking here. Read this guide to learn how to participate and make public comments.
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.
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