Parking a couch by the side of the freeway in San Jose will soon be punished with a fine of $ 10,000 – one of the highest in the nation.
San Jose City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to increase 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.
“We are fully aware that fines and unequal enforcement can have unintended consequences,” said Councilor Sergio Jimenez. “But it is clear that the same communities are already disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of illegal dumping.”
Jimenez and Councilor Raul Peralez, who wrote the new policy, hope the quadruple increase in fines will make residents think twice before dumping garbage in places like parks and homeless camps.
A big question for residents is how to enforce it. Council members said they were concerned that city officials would not be able to identify every illegal dumping violation and that nothing would change without strict enforcement.
Councilor Maya Esparza said the new fines do not differentiate those who dump illegally because they have no resources.
“You live in a situation in which garbage collection is not feasible,” said Esparza. “If there wasn’t a free dumpster day, they would be forced to dump.”
Jimenez and Peralez suggested that the city offer rewards for people providing information about illegal dumping to officials. They also suggested postponing the fines to educate the public about the increase, offer payment plans and fee waivers for those facing financial problems, and allow them to participate in cleanups as a form of nonprofit service rather than a fine numbers.
“The fines are only part of it,” said Jimenez.
The duo also called for more government funding to work with the city and fight illegal dumping on highways. This has been a sore point for the city as the City Hall often receives complaints about rubbish accumulating on the land that the city does not own and cannot clean, causing agencies to point their fingers at each other.
City officials also pondered equity issues, fearing that the fines could hit the color communities harder. Language barriers, access to the city’s 311 app, and lack of access to a transportation company in low-income areas could all contribute.
A 2019 study by San Jose State University found that 85% of single-family households were aware of and used trash collection services, while the decrease was only 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 before 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.
However, it is less clear how the fines will be enforced on top of the city’s current efforts.
“We can do a thousand, ten thousand or a hundred thousand, but how we catch people dumping is really the big problem,” said Councilor David Cohen.
The council members discussed different solutions, e.g. B. Enforcing the city’s code and implementing cameras, although they agreed it could be an expensive solution.
And the city’s code enforcement department is dealing with its own challenges, including a heavy complaint backlog and staff shortage.
“I really believe there is a room for technology to capture some of these people,” said Jimenez.
Council members agreed that the most important part of the proposal is to provide resources for residents to legally dispose of their garbage.
Homeless attorney Robert Aguirre feared the fines would disproportionately hit the homeless and unhook residents who dump their trash in homeless camps.
“People without a home are punished for such things,” said Aguirre. “I am concerned that this will be used again as something to criminalize the unhoused.”
Some local residents like Jeff Levine, who lives near Roosevelt Park, have long advocated a stricter 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. Now is not the time to retire. “
Jimenez and Peralez said they recognized how fines can highlight poorer residents and suggested that the council discuss “just ways” to implement fines and enforce behavior. Your colleagues agreed that Tuesday’s proposal was a good compromise between enforcing and preventing the fight against the homeless.
To learn more about the extensive pickup service for homeowners and renters in the city, visit the city’s recycling and trash page.
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.