SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A member of the San Jose City Council is calling for a sharp rise in illegal dumping fines to respond to a growing problem throughout the city.
Councilmember Sergio Jimenez is expected to introduce a proposal that would scrap the tiered fines for illegal dumping for an across-the-board fine of $10,000 per offense.
"We have an unprecedented level of garbage around the city, of dumping," Jimenez told KPIX 5 on Monday. "I just think that the residents have had enough. And so they're calling upon us, the elected officials, to do something about it and I think this is a good first step to address it."
Currently, a first offense comes with a $2,500 fine and a $5,000 fine for a second offence. A $10,000 fine is only being levied for a third offense.
"When it comes to illegal dumping, there should not be a three strikes approach, as it sends the wrong message to those seeking to harm our communities," Jimenez said in a statement.
"Our residents work hard to maintain our neighborhoods, and for that reason our city owes it to them to give them the support they need to protect our communities from illegal dumping," the councilmember went on to say.
Jimenez collaborated with planning commissioner Rolando Bonilla on the proposal following walking tours around parts of the city where dumping has become an issue.
"Although we are in a pandemic, we will not allow anyone to turn our communities into dumping yards," Bonilla said. "It is clear to me that the City of San Jose must take a no-nonsense approach against those who seek to disrespect our communities with this behavior."
Jimenez told KPIX 5 that the problem came to a head last summer when an illegal dumpsite grew out of control along Monterey Highway in South San Jose. Cleanup of the site by city crews took several days.
Another massive dumping site that raised the ire of neighbors last year was an area underneath Interstate 280, which became infested with rats.
"Frankly as a resident, I am sick of it. People shouldn't live here with rats running wild," Julie Riera Matsushima, a neighbor of the I-280 dumping site, told KPIX 5 last September.
In the last three months of 2020, the city dedicated $3 million towards cleaning up illegally dumped trash.
"It just looks like a bunch of scars around the neighborhood." said Scott VanGorden, who has been noticing the trash piles and doesn't disagree with the proposed fines.
"Ten thousand dollars, sounds like it's a bit harsh. But at the same time, what can we do to solve the problem?" VanGorden said.
Joe Viveris, another San Jose resident, wondered if the fines would be hard to collect. "That's pretty high. I bet a lot of people couldn't even pay it," he said.
The proposal will first be introduced in a committee meeting on April 28.
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