San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and several councilmembers on Monday announced a proposal for $3 million in extra funding to address an increase in trash and blight in the city's streets.
The money would help triple the amount of trash collected weekly and increase the numbers of dumpsters, boots on the ground and fund other solutions.
"Right now we are picking up 45 tons of trash every single week ... but as we can tell it is not enough," Liccardo said. "That is why we need to get them more resources."
Liccardo said the trash pile-up is a national problem that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and its economic impacts.
“This is something of a perfect storm," Liccardo said. "The impacts from COVID and certainly the recession we are all challenged with and many, many factors have led to this situation. Quite recently, it's the fact that we cannot deploy as many people outdoors because of the health impacts of being outside" amid heavy smoke from wildfires.
Since the start of the pandemic, the city has seen significant spikes in illegal dumping.
One major reason, Deputy City Manager Jim Ortbal said, is the lack of trash collection resources at homeless encampments.
There are about 200 known homeless encampments around the city but only about 10% of those encampments receive weekly trash pick-up and nearly half get trash services once a month or less, Ortbal said.
However, residents in homes have also significantly contributed to the illegal dumping. Appliance dumping has increased about 160% since shelter-in-place orders started, according to Liccardo.
"I would say the significant increase we have found has been from household cleaning. It's COVID cleaning and it's a phenomenon that has been happening in every large city in the United States," said Olympia Williams, manager of the city's Beautify SJ neighborhood cleaning initiative.
San Francisco and Oakland have seen similar upticks in illegal dumping as well, Williams said.
"By making this commitment to resources we are saying it is on us (the city). We recognize that we need to step up and do our part to ensure we dedicate the resources," Liccardo said. "At the same time, we are asking those property owners, who should be maintaining their property, to do the same."
This also applies to state or county-owned property like Caltrans, Liccardo said. When trash accumulates on properties outside of the city's jurisdiction, the city cannot take care of it.
A part of the proposed budget increase is a clear outline of responsibilities between city, county and state partners, Liccardo said.
"No amount of money is going to overcome the legal jurisdictional issues ... but I do believe that the new resources and funding will create a difference," said Councilmember Lan Diep, who also co-sponsored the proposed increase.
Already, city leaders have implemented creative strategies to address the pile-up through the Beautify SJ initiative. For example, there are now 54 currently or recently unhoused individuals that are being paid to pick up trash. The city has also installed new dumpsters around encampments and hotspots.
The $3 million will be in addition to $4 million that was previously allocated to Beautify SJ for trash solutions by the City Council in June. The funding will come from the general fund and coronavirus relief funds and be used for the remainder of 2020.
"If you ask residents if this is something we should be spending money on, I would suspect that they would say yes because I believe we are going to be able to see a noticeable difference," Councilmember and co-sponsor Sergio Jimenez said.
The City Council will discuss the proposed budget increase during its meeting on Sept. 22.
San Jose residents who want to dispose of appliances or large amounts of trash can contact the city for free garbage pick-up through the city's website or download the 311 app.