In the last of a series of meetings on the issue, San Jose’s Housing & Community Development Commission voted almost unanimously on Friday against the implementation of the controversial “crime-free multi-housing” program with the city’s landlords. The program centers around a lease addendum ordinance that allows landlords and property managers to force evictions on all tenants in a unit if any one of those tenants or their associates is arrested on site, regardless of whether a conviction is acquired.
Much of the commission’s conversation centered around a report summarizing the findings of the previous meetings as compiled by the Housing Director’s office. According to the report, community members voiced extreme skepticism at the program, and stakeholders voted unanimously in favor of abandoning it altogether.
Mobile Home Landlord Commissioner Mike Graves expressed the strongest opposition to the program. “I believe that we can do better on public policing,” he said. “I totally agree on some little bits and pieces, but this thing has got all kinds of pitfalls that are beyond belief.
“I don’t want it to go forward. I don’t know how much more abundantly clear I can make that.”
Lee Thompson, commissioner for District 10, agreed, noting redundancy between the program and San Jose’s recently-implemented Responsible Landlords Initiative. “A lot of the same things are covered in here,” he said. “We’re adding more things for the police to be involved in. They’ve got a whole lot do right now, without adding more duties and obligations.”
Santa Clara County recently floated the idea of crime-free multi-housing at a recent Safety and Justice Committee meeting. A letter drafted by both the county’s child abuse and domestic abuse councils spoke out strongly against the program, citing the negative impact it would have on victims. District 2 Commissioner Alex Shoor remarked upon the letter’s findings.
“I’m using that to inform my thinking coming to the meeting,” he said to the commission. “We obviously don’t want unintended consequences where it hurts victims of domestic violence, who are now kicked out of their home because of their court affiliation.”
The only real support for the lease addendum came from Michael Fitzgerald, commissioner for District 8. “I see it as the leverage that people who are desperate might need,” he said. “The only concern has been about the unfair results, but no one seems to be concerned about all of the other good tenants who are doing what they are supposed to do, and have to suffer in fear.”
He continued, “Fremont, Hayward, Pleasanton, San Diego and so forth said that it works very well. The impact of the program did not create homelessness, which is one of the big objections I read. Their experience is contrary to our feelings about it in San Jose, apparently.”
During public comments, Anthony King, an activist with Silicon Valley De-Bug, took issue with the characterization of the program’s success.
“I’m looking at page nine of this report,” he said, “and it says the cities that responded did not conduct any formal studies on the issue. We can’t talk about how homelessness might or might not be impacted if these police departments are admitting that they didn’t conduct any studies. There is no empirical data saying that this program has made these communities safer, stronger, or healthier.”
Ahmer Ahmed, an activist with All Of Us Or None, a civil offender’s rights group, seconded King’s assertion. “If there is crime in the neighborhoods, this is not addressing any of it,” he told the commission. “The information that you are reading is not impartial. Everything that you have spoken of is not impartial. I can’t understand this as a crime-free initiative, and it has nothing to do with crime.”
Before the final vote was cast, Shawn Cartwright, of the San Jose Tenant’s Union, warned the commission of the “legal creep” that would inevitably result from such a program, and minorities would be targeted as a result.
While the Housing Commission’s vote does not prevent the program from being enacted by the city, their stance on the issue seems to broadly reflect that of communities that stand to be most affected by it. The decision sets a strong precedent against pursuing the matter further.