San Jose scrambling to catch up with reports of illegal dumping

A new report reveals the City of San Jose collected nearly five tons of litter last year. The demand for clean-up services is so high that the city doesn't have enough staff or resources to keep up. An annual survey among San Jose residents found less than 20 percent are satisfied with the city's cleanliness.

Old mattresses, cat furniture and a stove range are among the items illegally dumped on Lotus Street in San Jose right in front of a “No Dumping” sign. Last year, crews cleaned up 15,000 illegal dump spots throughout the city which is double from the year before.

“You wouldn't do that to your own house so it irritates me when people so casually do it somewhere else because it's not in front of their house,” said Jeff Levine of San Jose.

Levine’s security cameras captured people time and time again dumping trash in front of his home.

“I’ve seen cars where they have mattresses on the roof and they are looking for an appropriate place to dump it,” said Levine. 

At Tuesday's city council meeting, a new report on the Beautify San Jose program, that aims to tackle blight, trash and illegal dumping, revealed some staggering numbers. Last year, crews collected 4,900 tons of debris, 4,300 mattresses, 1,300 gallons of paint and 950 gallons of human waste.

Service requests to clean up all the trash through the “MySanJose App” reporting tool have tripled.

“It’s great that the community is so engaged and interacting and reporting,” said Valerie Osmond of the City of San Jose Environmental Services Department. “At the same time, I think it caught us off guard and we are scrambling to catch up.”

Osmond said, a team of six people is just not enough.

“We are a victim of our own success,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We are adding staff to the rapid response team.”

The mayor and the city council now plan to allocate $3.5 million in the next budget cycle for more staff and more equipment. More money will also go toward a pilot program where homeless people help clean up the trash.

“The needs have grown, our staff is smaller,” said Liccardo. “We have the most thinly staffed city hall in the country. Obviously the most urgent needs, police, medical services are the ones that get the resources. Many of these quality of life issues have simply not gotten the resources.”

The fines for illegal dumping is pretty steep, which is $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second offense. Last year, the city issued 23 citations which is triple from the year before.