On Sept. 14, Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez (D-2), Lan Diep (D-4), and Dev Davis (D-6) hosted a virtual press conference to address the blight and illegal dumping plaguing San Jose. The Mayor and Councilmembers submitted a memo that will focus on adding $3 million in additional funds dedicated to cleaning difficult and persistent dumping spots and blight.
“COVID-19 and this recession have exacted a severe toll on our city, but there’s much we can do to improve the quality of life of our communities. Collectively, we can do far more to bolster our battle against blight– by the City stepping up its efforts, but also by demanding that our partner public agencies take responsibility for cleaning their own property on our freeways, in our creeks, and railroads,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Finally, I urge every resident and business to follow the rules to do your part– and help the City to do ours: if you have junk to dispose of, call the City for a free pickup, and report illegal dumping and blight on our free 311 app, to enable our rapid response. This a community challenge, but we’re collectively stronger than this problem.”
During COVID-10, illegal dumping, trash and blight have become an obvious and bothersome problem for residents. Chronic homelessness, recent wildfires, and residents and contractors’ irresponsible ways of managing trash have led to continually rising levels of blight within the city. The memo suggests tripling the budget within the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for blight response, adding an additional $1 million per month for three months to address the issue. The funds will focus on highly visible, high traffic locations that have had the greatest impact on resident’s quality of life. City staff will also report back to Council during a future study session on progress made with the additional funding and present their larger trash-reduction strategy.
One of the greatest issues that the City faces in cleaning these high traffic locations is lack of resources. City staff regularly collects 45 tons of trash and debris from city streets each week. These additional funds will allow for hiring more contractors and bring back some furloughed employees to increase the level of service to the community. The Mayor and Councilmembers suggest prioritizing the RFP process for companies that hire unemployed community members to help secure transitional job training efforts.
The Mayor and Councilmembers also ask for the status of discussions with partner agencies such as Union Pacific RailRoad, CalTrans, and Valley Water, and the actions they are taking to keep their areas of responsibility clean. Recent collaboration with the city on efforts to clean blight in partner-supervised areas have been restricted due to COVID-19 concerns. The Mayor and Councilmembers call on the city’s partners to look at alternative and safe ways to take on this challenge.
Illegal dumping and blight has increased around the world as part of a phenomenon that has become known as “COVID Cleaning”. People sheltering in place are following prevention guidance that includes suggestions to “clean and disinfect”, and many donation centers are not accepting items during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some donation centers have closed down completely because they can’t process any more donations. These items often end up in widely viewed dumping sites. Additional resources will help guide new strategies to cleaning these afflicted areas and improving quality of life for all residents.