Councilman Khamis’ Housing Proposal on Arrests, Evictions Called a ‘Police State’ Overreach

As housing advocates lobby for stronger tenant protections in a housing market assiduously pricing out low-income renters, San Jose is considering an ordinance that would make it easier to evict people.

Councilman Johnny Khamis, in a proposal co-signed by Councilman Tam Nguyen and submitted to Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee, pitched a Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program as a way to slash criminal activity by up to 60 percent.

Renter rights advocates, however, fear such a policy could lead to unjust, fast-tracked evictions.

“This will have a disproportionate impact on minority tenants,” said Sandy Perry, who leads the Silicon Valley Renters Coalition. “But it’s going to impact all tenants. It's bad for everyone. It's going to make more people homeless and it does nothing about criminal landlords.”

Under Khamis’ plan, property owners would be able to kick someone out based on an arrest, regardless of a conviction. The San Jose Police Department would supply landlords with the names of people arrested for crimes committed on or near the property.

Participating landlords would be able to dump renters for gang, guns, sex and drug crimes—already common grounds for eviction. But the ordinance would give property owners a more effective screening and enforcement tool, Khamis said in his memo. It would also improve the relationship between police and landlords, he added.

“Our low-income residents deserve to life in safe neighborhoods, which is the reason we are bringing forward this crime-fighting tool for San Jose,” Khamis wrote. “Residents living in marginalized neighborhoods are often afraid to call police because criminals leave the neighborhood for a short period of time and always return.”

Khamis bills himself as libertarian, but in the past year he has signed his name to some controversial policy proposals that expand government reach. In August, Khamis suggested that the city install license plate readers on its fleet of garbage trucks. Now, he wants to institutionalize tougher screening in a market that already gives landlords the upper hand.

“This feels like a police state type issue,” Perry said.

A concern among tenant advocates is that these apartment oversight programs can leave renters on the hook for crimes—or suspected crimes—by anyone in the household. Even if the tenant wasn’t involved, was a victim or if crime occurred somewhere off the property. An eviction on the record would also make it more difficult for tenants to find a new place to stay.

Those side-effects make the crime-free housing idea a risky proposition, opponents say, especially in a market that’s pushed the rental vacancy down to about 3 percent and the homeless population up to the fifth-largest in the nation.

A study on crime-free housing ordinances by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law warned that nuisance policies like crime-free housing programs expose cities and landlords to legal liability, among other issues. The proscriptive 2013 report cites examples of domestic violence victims opting not to call the police when they needed help for fear of violating the lease agreement.

“These ordinances can reduce the supply of rental housing, displace crime victims and others who need to reach out to the police for help, chill reporting of crime to the police in the first place … and prevent persons with criminal records from finding stable housing,” the study cautioned.

Mesa, in Arizona, launched one of the first crime-free housing programs in 1992. Since then, more than 2,000 cities have adopted a similar ordinance. Eight Bay Area cities have enacted crime-free housing programs: Fremont, Union City, Hayward, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Leandro, Livermore and Richmond.

According to Khamis’ memo—which revives a controversial proposal from two years ago—cities that have implemented the program have seen a 40 percent drop in calls for service and a 60 percent drop in police reports.

While the programs make for good marketing for landlords, they also have the ability marginalize people who have made mistakes by incentivizing landlords to turn away people with criminal records. Ex-offenders are not considered a protected class, so landlords can already turn them away based on their history.

"[T]he Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program runs contrary to our state and local policy of reintegrating formerly incarcerated people into the community," the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley wrote to city leaders. "Barring these individuals with past convictions from housing could lead to more and more families unable to find housing in Silicon Valley and could disproportionately affect people with disabilities and other groups protected by state and federal civil rights laws. We are further concerned that, without community input and careful oversight, such a policy will target specific racial and economic groups based on unfounded stereotypes about crime, increasing racial segregation and inequality in our community."

In the letter signed by several other community groups, Law Foundation attorneys Nadia Aziz and Kyra Kazantis said the ordinance could endanger victims of domestic violence and put more families on the streets.

Meanwhile, San Jose’s elected leaders are also exploring the idea of creating a “just cause” protection to prevent landlords from wrongly evicting a tenant. Existing policy allows landlords to evict someone for no reason if they give a 60-day notice.

City staff also plans to bring a draft rent control ordinance back to the council by early next year.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for September 30, 2015:

  • After winning a public records appeal, San Jose Inside editor Josh Koehn read through more of SJPD Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia’s emails. Turned out, Garcia didn’t have much to hide except a habit of using his work email account for personal use. Read the follow-up to that saga here.
  • The city needs a SJPD employee to fill an unplanned vacancy on the Police and Fire Department Retirement Plan Board.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

23 Comments

  1. This SJ Inside report is a substandard, pandering instrument to those bad people who cannot afford to live in San Jose and permit their residences to be used for criminal activity, threatening and victimizing good people, the elderly and the disabled..

    Council Member Khamis and Council Member Tam Nguyen’s proposal is overdue and will be welcomed by property owners as well as to the good people who are threatened and oftened victimized by the criminal element.

    Remember, Councilmember Tam Nguyen, Esq. is also a practicing Attorney at Law.

    The Housing advocates position on this matter, as cited in this P.O.S. yellow journalistic piece, are; without merit, self-serving and contemptuous. Bad people should be condemned to immediate evictions without the slightest concerns of any kind as to their well-being and or to their plight.

    Fast-tract evictions, to elininate crimminal activities and the criminal element, are an important tool to erradicate bad tennants especially, as San Jose moves forward with a communist ideologically based Rent Control Ordinance slated for 2016.

    The Housing Department should be eliminated (this will necesitate a City Charter change).

    Good Job Councilmembers Khamis and T. Nguyen!

    Good Job SJPD!

    David S. Wall

  2. Ms Wadsworth, I have followed with interest your take on housing in San Jose. It is clear which side you stand, but I was still surprised to see the following paragraph without quote and citation:

    Khamis bills himself as libertarian, but in the past year he has signed his name to some controversial policy proposals that expand government reach. In August, Khamis suggested that the city install license plate readers on its fleet of garbage trucks. Now, he wants to institutionalize tougher screening in a market that already gives landlords the upper hand.

    Of note is your unsubstantiated assertion in the final sentence that landlords are given the upper hand in screening. This, I can assure you, is false. There is no industry more regulated than housing, and the screening process is under constant scrutiny. The arms of Fair Housing go so deep it is beyond most lay persons belief. There are many protected classes in CA: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, medical condition, ancestry, source of income, age, genetic information, and arbitrary discrimination. Each “protected status” can be leveraged to try to prove some sort of discrimination. If a complaint is made, the landlord has to prove that they did not discriminate against one of these protected classes. HUD, Project Sentinel and the SV Law Foundation are always at the ready to pounce. Also the process in which applicants are dealt with, spoken to, and toured during the screening process are all under legislative regulation. No industry must ensure fairness to non-customers like landlords do. Existing tenants have even more rights and the level of regulation that arbitrates the tenant/landlord relationships is not seen in any other industry. There are many historical reasons for this and to be a landlord one must accept the regulations, but to say the landlords have the upper hand is just not true.

    I suggest you take a course in CA property management before making such a statement or at least try to find someone else to make it and then quote them to keep your journalist integrity in place. Your statement lays bare both your lack of knowledge on this subject and your bias against those that offer housing services to over 440,000 people in San Jose. Something the press, the city, the unions, and the SV Law Foundation are not willing to do.

    • From the article:

      The San Jose Police Department would supply landlords with the names of people arrested for crimes committed on or near the property.

      I would say, “…for crimes committed on the property, or directly connected with the property”. “Near” the property might have nothing to do with either the other tenants, the owner, or the property.

      Next, Paul Valentine says:

      There are many protected classes in CA: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, medical condition, ancestry, source of income, age, genetic information, and arbitrary discrimination.

      Hey! I’m a Viet Nam combat vet. Where are we? That’s OK, I never considered myself special like all those other folks.

      Paul V. says:

      Each “protected status” can be leveraged to try to prove some sort of discrimination. If a complaint is made, the landlord has to prove that they did not discriminate against one of these protected classes.

      That’s what is wrong: the rental property owner (RPO) must in effect, prove a negative: It must be ‘proven’ that the owner did not discriminate — based on one of those self-serving classifications. But how do you prove something you didn’t do? The legal presumption is that a tenant is being evicted, for example, because she’s a woman, not because she broke the lease by having her boyfriend move in. That presumption is a higher bar than most businesses face.

      I’ve had many rental apartments and commercial rentals, so this is experience speaking: no owner wants to evict anyone. It is a last resort. Evictions cost more money than the renter’s deposit, often far more, and as soon as an Unlawful Detainer notice is served on them, the tenant instantly stops paying any more rent. So between the UD posting and the eviction, the deposit is wiped out.

      Evictions are expensive for the RPO. All they want is for the tenant to keep their agreement, and pay on time. No owner I ever met decided to evict someone because she was a woman, or because of her age, or any of the other supposed reasons.

      Also, I have found that a tenant who came to me saying there’s a problem, and can they pay half now, and half in a week, is almost never a problem (even though by accepting any payment, I’m giving them the whole month). People sometimes have money problems. But it’s the ones who never say anything, and who hide out around the first of the month, who are sending up red flags. Most non-payment problems that lead to an eviction are planned out by the tenant. (I recall a guy who had a 4-plex many years ago, sitting on his front steps, actually crying. The local tenat organization had him so tied up in knots he douldn’t take it.)

      Tenants can also use different strategies to keep living there for much longer than that month. For example, if a tenant complains to the owner that his toilet is running all the time, he has just made a ‘habitability’ complaint. Even though he could fix it himself, or I could get it fixed the same day, it is presumed that if he gets an eviction notice during the following six months, it was in retaliation for his habitability complaint. I got to know when someone was playing those rules games: they would make sure to document some sort of habitability complaint just short of every 6 months.

      The only evictions I ever had were for non-payment of rent. But it’s not fair to all the other tenants who pay on time, if you give the non-payer a free pass. On occasion when someone would trash the place, soon after that they were long gone, so I would just get the repairs done and rent it again. No one to evict in those cases, just a big financial loss.

      If this article writer thinks it’s easy dealing with the rental public, please try it for a while. I would love to have the Council do the same thing. And I like Khamis’ point: what about the tenants who are just trying to live their lives in peace, but have to tolerate drug dealing at all hours?

      No owner wants to evict anyone. Also, very few people are arrested. If a tenant is arrested for something he did on or to the property, or the other tenants, it’s best for all concerned to get rid of him. His problems should not become everyone else’s problems.

    • Paul V – I think she assumed you were smart enough to know she was referring to the historically tight rental market – commonly understand as giving sellers AND landlords the upper hand. Maybe brush up on the 5th grade reading comprehension before pushing property management classes on the writer…

      • RGC – Thank you for reading my comment, I am honored anyone takes that time to read anything I write. I guess Ms Wadsworth should assume I am not smart enough. Actually, many people have pointed out that I am not that smart, such as you did in your comment. That’s okay, I think smart (and clever, as well as ironic and snarky) is (are) overrated.

        To Ms Wadsworth’s sentence, the subject is “he”, the object is “screening” and in no where in the sentence or paragraph mention relative tightness of market. The paragraph is a commentary on civil liberties. The “not smart” reader would mostly like connect upper hand with and the fairness of the screening process. But Fair Housing (the law that governs the screening process) is not more or less strict in tight or lose markets. No one is supposed to have the the upper hand. Actually, as Smokey lays out (thank you, too, for reading my comment), there is a pretty good case that the tenant actually has the upper hand in the screening process. So I stand, given what little I know of grammar and sentence structure, the sentence is not true and misleading. I can not say if intentional or not. If you request it, I will actually share some thoughts on the “smartness” of Ms. Wadsworth vagueness in that sentence.

        In your comment, it is interesting to see that sellers and landlords and grouped together. It is, in fact, again not true that sellers have the upper hand in tight markets, but it is a common misunderstanding. The reality, for anyone who has sold a house knows, is that the buyer has the upper hand. They can lay a series of contingencies within the contract to hold the exclusive right to buy the property without actually having to buy it. They get this exclusive option for free. This is a huge advantage as they can do due diligence and actually get in contract on other properties, while the seller must sit nervously and hope the deal does not fall through. This advantage is only partially mitigated in a tight market, as aggressive real estate agents convince buyers to sign “no contingency” purchase agreements. This in reality is also misleading as a seller who thinks they can make a nice little business collecting EMDs from desperate buyers will soon find out that there are remedies for a buyer to fight and delay the release of the EMD to the seller. They can hold it up for a long time and at great expense so a smart seller will release the EMD even on a “no contingency” offer. The entire buying process is vastly weighted to the buyer, in both tight and lose markets.

        When you say upper hand in tight markets one could guess that you are referring to price. I argue this is not true. A landlord can not make you rent and a seller can not make you buy anything at a price you will not accept. Both parties enter into the deal at their own free will. Otherwise it is not a contract.

        I think you are confusing commonly understood (which I find many people misunderstand many things, particularly in real estate) with the reality of the how laws and contracts work.

        Thanks again!

  3. Many were worried about Khamis when he was running for office. The man clearly lacks American values and is proposing policies that are intrusive and borderline fascist. Many of us are not surprised. He is suggesting very dangerous policies. From garbage truck cameras to “spy” on residents to allowing property owners to evict tenants who who were arrested. This without due process. I think something stinks in Almaden!

    • Lacks American values? What a ridiculous and borderline-racist comment. If putting license plate readers on garbage trucks is “spying”, is it spying to put garbage plate readers on police cars? This technology helps police catch wanted criminals and locate stolen vehicles. You can make the argument that security cameras in stores are “spying” on the customers inside, but it’s a completely worthwhile and rational social decision we make when we shrug off our brief appearance on security footage, because those cameras are there in case someone steals or robs the store.

        • I was hesitant to call you out on that because I had a feeling you would ignore the rest of my post. I don’t deny that it’s easier for you to argue that your comment lacked racial implications than it is for you to argue that Khamis wants to spy on people. Do you want to address the main topic we were discussing, or should we discuss the implicit bias laden in an accusation that a person lacks “American values”?

          • I didn’t know what a garbage plate was. as for calling me out?! Who do you think you are anyways. Stop the attitude bucko and get civilized.

          • Rose Garden Rsident,

            You still haven’t said why you think license plate readers are “un-American”.

            You can take a picture of anyone on the street, or their car, any time you want. Is that ‘un-American’, too?

  4. Why limit this to only renters? If Mr. Khamis can grant landlords the power to evict based on an arrest, he must be able to grant mortgage companies the power to call the note if a homeowner is arrested.

  5. I think this proposal makes sense. Maybe an arrest is early but a conviction should be clear enough. The convicted person could be removed/evicted from the property but the other tenants can stay if they want.

  6. If Ben Carson, become the next President,
    I would recommend Johnny Boy Khanis as the next Brain Trans Plant, right after Sam , Rosen, and Stone.
    I have been researching the Caste system in India. This guy Modi, that got the red carpet treatment, is not all he is cracked up to be. Throw Ro, a few H-1Bs , into the soup, and you got some real Silicon Valley Stew. It will have a strong odor, of unemployment and no taxes paid by the chefs.
    Who wants a taste?

  7. > Under Khamis’ plan, property owners would be able to kick someone out based on an arrest, regardless of a conviction. The San Jose Police Department would supply landlords with the names of people arrested for crimes committed on or near the property.

    Good idea.

    It protects law abiding renters who have to live next to criminal jerks.

    Landlords constantly receive complaints from renters about the jerks in the next apartment and it is frustrating how little information they can get and the limited options that they have to do anything.

    How does Jenn propose to protect her kids from the drug dealer in the next apartment AND HIS CONSTANT STREAM OF CREEPY, SLEAZY CUSTOMERS?

  8. For.all those real Vietnam combat veterans and former POW’s who served their country faithfully, there is no space between Viet and Nam as one poster writes. It seems everyone over 50 now claims to be a Vietnam Veteran. Most veterans would only ask a simple thank-you and be on your way, unlike those posting nonsense on the Internet. Don’t include us in your nonsense.

    • As a ‘real’ Viet Nam veteran, let me help: there was typically a space between Viet and Nam until the style changed. You could look it up. I didn’t have to, since I got my draft notice in 1966 and ended up there.

      Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Tianjin used to be spelled Peking, Canton, Amoy, Tientsin, too. Times and styles change. Note too the spelling of the Viet Cong.

      A simple ‘Thank you’, and you can be on your way. ☺

  9. > In August, Khamis suggested that the city install license plate readers on its fleet of garbage trucks.

    Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are a great idea.

    No need to put them on garbage trucks. Just have workshops to show neighborhoods how to set up their own privately operated ALPR cooperatives.

    Ten private ALPRs at strategic intersections in every neighborhood and burglars and prowlers will quickly be put out of business.

    The copsters just ask the neighborhoods if they’re seen anything suspicious, and the neighborhoods share the data that the copsters need to know.

    • Finally something we can agree upon.

      I’m quite surprised none of the Almaden neighborhoods who were being hammered by burglars a few months back didn’t slap some of these up around their major points of ingress and egress.

      These systems would probably be similar in cost to what they were paying TAPS and much more effective at detecting the vehicles the bad guys were using to get in and out.

      For the “police state”, “big brother” paranoia people, the solution is simple.. Don’t engage in criminal activity, and you’ll have nothing to worry about!

      As far as the proposed criminal tenant ordinance, this would be great for many low income neighborhoods that are essentially under the control of criminal street gangs. There are hundreds of good people in most of these neighborhoods, but the few bad people who harbor the gang members and support the drug activity are largely responsible for the diminished quality of life in these areas.

      Once again, the solution is simple.. Don’t want to get evicted? Don’t commit crimes!

  10. “’This will have a disproportionate impact on minority tenants,’ said Sandy Perry, who leads the Silicon Valley Renters Coalition.”

    Based on the tone of the remainder of the quote, it is clear that Perry sees this disproportionate impact as both a bad thing and somehow unjust. What Perry fails to acknowledge – and what can be verified with a little research into DOJ arrest/conviction statistics and DOJ statistics on suspect identification of victims – is that the reason there could be a disproportionate impact on minority tenants is because minorities – hispanics and blacks, specifically – commit crime at rates which tend to be in excess of their population representation. This set of facts is an important counterpoint to the typical Social Justice Warrior bleating (among whom I feel confident we can count Perry). It is no less important to acknowledge that these same minority groups tend to be the primary victims of crime committed by their same ethnic groups. And so, while, yes, there may be a disproportionate impact among ‘minority communities’, the rational well-informed citizen might not see this as such a bad thing, much less unjust in some way.

    That being said, I would hate for any reader to construe my comments as carrying implicit support for Khamis. I am not. I think that he is a whining, spineless, deceitful little weasel (and here, actual weasels may feel free to contact me and complain about the unjust comparison, rightly asserting that they serve a vital purpose on God’s green earth and further asserting that no such vital purpose has yet been discovered for Khamis).

    What I do support, though, is more responsible governance. People with a criminal history should not benefit from taxpayer dollars in any way. It should be easier to evict criminal or irresponsible tenants. Recipients of Section 8 and other welfare benefits should be routinely tested for drugs and receive a flat dollar amount based on need at the time of application and regardless of how many more children they produce in their time on public assistance. Landlords should be more accountable to neighborhood groups for the quality of tenant they maintain and it should be easier for landlords to evict tenants who demonstrate that they are a nuisance to the community.

    • Once YOU YOURSELF have lived under those oppressive conditions and have become financially stable and successful despite all that BS you require these people to go through, then maybe your suggestions would have any sense of legitimacy and I will let you be so gung-ho about implementing all of those internment-like policies. It is almost impossible to feed yourself LET ALONE A FAMILY under these conditions.
      And shame on you for pushing your thumb down on these marginalized groups who are already struggling.
      Your “well it sucks to suck” attitude is terrible.
      It does nothing productive towards helping improve our community. You’re simply “shooing” these undesirables away. Not cool, man.
      Evicting these people who are trying to just make it in life, who are trying to move past their criminal records, will not clean up crime. Increased homelessness leads to crimes of desperation, such as thefts and muggings, and this proposal will do just that: increase homelessness.

      No one should be defined by the worst day of their life, and you’re doing JUST that. If there are people with prior’s trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, an arrest regardless of conviction shouldn’t be the deciding point of eviction.
      Try living downtown, especially on a Thursday night. EVERYwhere “is a nuisance.” Your eugenic views need some re-evaluating or you’ve been watching too much Daredevil.

      By agreeing with Khamis, you are supporting him. Stop.