For the first time on Tuesday, the San Jose City Council voted to crack down on illegal dumping of trash and debris in the city, a growing problem for many city leaders and community members.
Starting in 2016, violators will be fined $2,500 for a first violation, $5,000 for the second and $10,000 for the third. This is the first time the city has enacted such penalties.
City officials said the council still must hold a second reading on the ordinance. Upon completion of a second reading, the ordinance will go for a third reading and final vote before the council.
According to the city report, the amount of illegally dumped material — including tables, chairs, couches, strollers, televisions and other large items that don't fit in trash cans — has risen 75 percent in San Jose and 50 percent on private property over the last three years.
"It's gotten much worse over the last three years," said Diane Buchanan, director of the city's Code Enforcement Division.
As defined in the report, "illegal dumping" means the willful, intentional or negligent depositing, throwing, dropping, placing or dumping of solid waste or hazardous materials on public or private property that is not expressly designated for that purpose.
"Illegal dumping" does not include littering, discarding or dropping small quantities of solid waste ordinarily carried on or about the person, or escaping from trash containers or garbage carts including but not limited to, beverage containers and closures, packaging, wrappers, wastepaper, newspapers and magazines.
"We think the words 'illegal dumping' will help the public understand what we're trying to ... get across," Buchanan said. "Right now, the code says 'improper placement of solid waste' and a lot of folks don't understand what that means. We think 'illegal dumping' will simplify that."
Garden City Construction President James Salata is all too familiar with the issue.
"Every other day, somebody dumps there," he said. "Either I clean it up or the Department of Transportation comes and takes it away — at taxpayers’ expense, of course."
Realizing that his company's First Street property had become something of a dumping ground, Salata decided to take action.
"Our solution is to get cameras and record the license plates of whoever leaves it and it's cut the problem down to next to nothing," he said.
Ahead of the vote, San Jose was the only major Bay Area city without fines for illegal dumping. Both Oakland and San Francisco can fine violators $1,000 for dumping unwanted items on the streets, the Mercury News reported.