San Jose city leaders propose $10,000 illegal dumping fine

City leaders in San Jose are considering cracking down on illegal dumping with a steep automatic $10,000 fine. It is quadruple the amount of the current fine.

Those behind the proposed legislation said blight and cleanliness rank among the top concerns in San Jose. City leaders hope the hefty fine will make people think twice.

The idea is still being thought out and researched. City leaders hope it will act as deterrent but know enforcement will be a challenge.

Through the years, Jeff Levine’s cameras have captured people disposing trash illegally in his neighborhood in downtown San Jose. He’s fed up and posted videos on YouTube hoping to catch the perpetrators.

"It basically shows a total lack of respect for anybody else," said Levine.

Last September, San Jose partnered with Union Pacific Railroad spending an estimated $300,000 to clean up a dump site, the size of a football field, on Monterey Road.

"What we often hear is well Arizona’s roads aren't as dirty, or Phoenix’s roads or Seattle’s roads," said San Jose Councilmember Sergio Jimenez.

Jiminez along with Planning Commissioner Vice Chair Rolando Bonilla want fines increased to $10,000 for the first offense. Right now, it’s $2,500 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second offense and $10,000 for the third.

"We’re sending a mixed message," said Bonilla. "There shouldn’t be any tiers. There shouldn’t be levels to illegal dumping, illegal dumping period is wrong."

The fine could be the harshest in any Bay Area city.

"Obviously, I recognize it's steep and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the highest out there," said Jimenez.

According to the Beautify San Jose program, in 2020, the city made more than 17,000 pickups for illegal dumping. There are 100 hotspots to date.

"Just raising the fine to $10,000, $20,000 that in itself doesn’t do anything unless they put some teeth behind it," said Levine.

Levine wants a dashboard detailing enforcement. A challenge for this proposal is finding the budget to dedicate more resources to enforce it.

"Even the idea of upping the fine is going to dissuade some folks from dumping and even that in itself is a success," said Jimenez.

A memo still needs to be drafted and presented to the Rules Committee on April 28. The committee will then decide if it should be heard in front of the full city council next month.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or