San Jose Commission Opposes Crime-Free Multi-Housing Idea

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.

Randle Aubrey is a lifelong Bay Area resident and the proprietor of the political commentary blog SOAPBOX, as well as a co-host on Face For Radio, a weekly pop culture podcast. You can find SOAPBOX at www.getuponit.org, and Face For Radio at www.echoplexmedia.com.

22 Comments

  1. What an incredibly unfair burden to impose on tenants: having to avoid being arrested, something the vast majority of us are able to do our entire lives.

  2. From the article:

    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 believe” are the key words. But reality intrudes: Policing has not been nearly effective enough, whether because of too few police, or because there are always those with no skin in the game emitting their partisan opinions:

    Ahmer Ahmed, an activist… 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.”

    But Ahmed’s opinion is far less impartial than anyone’s. He obviously has an axe to grind. And contrary to his assertion, this has everything to do with crime. This initiative is intended as a tool that would allow property owners to get rid of tenants who are causing grief for the large majority of law abiding tenants.

    Spare us these “activists”. Who elected them?? An ‘activist’ is almost always someone promoting their leftist agenda — and we see how well that has worked out for the rest of us, haven’t we?

    To paraphrase President Reagan: Are we better off with these activists than we were eight years ago?

    Not only “No” — but “Hell, No!”

  3. Facts can be very inconvenient. While the effect on net crime is uncertain, the approach has been successful in lowering public housing criminal hot spots and supported by public housing tenants. SJ’s crime maps highlighted it too the last time I triangulated the data.

    I’ve met activist Anthony King. He’s self-described as homeless or formally homeless (it varies). He’s articulate and seems physically and mentally capable of employment, but remains unemployed and dependent on public assistance.

    • He remains unemployed and dependent on public assistance and argues for property owners to be legally forced to keep criminal element (those arrested) in their apartments/houses? Who’d have ever thought the homeless would be one of the entitled elite? Only in Silicon Valley!

      • Sadly we lack colorful activist characters like San Francisco “erotic service provider” aka male prostitute Starchild. He lives in rent-controlled housing and featured in the NY Times piece on SF’s housing woes. BARF activists want more housing – affordable or market rate. See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/business/economy/san-francisco-housing-tech-boom-sf-barf.html?_r=0

        Anthony & I agree that many homeless advocacy organizations (e.g., Destination/Home, Community Technology Alliance, Downtown Streets, and Emergency Housing Consortium (or whatever they’ve rebranded themselves as) appear unmotivated in meaningful efforts to address the problem. Instead, it’s about keeping the grant money flowing to support high staff salaries. We disagree on items like establishing municipal campgrounds (i.e., Jungle 2.0) for the homeless.

  4. Crime-free multi-housing? I’m not sure what that even means. Is that like Shangrila?
    We can’t get crime-free in the housing we have.
    How could you possibly get crime-free public-housing after you just turned it into a sanctuary for criminals?

  5. Commenters — what you don’t understand about this program, is that it allows landlords to kick out tenants because someone committed a crime 4 blocks away, and then came and visited the tenant afterward. It allows a tenant to be kicked out because he got arrested by the cops, even though he was never charged with a crime because there was no proof he did anything. Go visit your grandma, and get arrested while leaving the property for a probation violation you committed miles away? Get evicted. This is how it is being used across the state.

    The data is clear — black/brown men and women have much more frequent interactions with law enforcement, even if they aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re already being punished by the police for their skin color, so why should they also get punished by their landlords (or have their family members/friends get punished by their landlords) for the same thing?

    Look, you have proof a tenant committed a crime on the property, cool. Kick ‘em out. But what happens off the property is not a landlord’s business.

    • What you might understand, but refuse to admit, is that “black/brown men” commit crimes in numbers far greater than their percentages in the population, which is the reason for their more frequent contacts with the police, not the smokescreen of racism which you flippantly present as a fact. This is San Jose we’re talking about, an extremely diverse city with an extremely diverse police department. I’ve worked these streets for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen anyone “punished” for the color of their skin. No one gets arrested when “there’s no proof he did anything.”

      The frequent reality in most less affluent, multi-unit housing complexes is that a few problem tenants often make life miserable for the majority of residents who are struggling to work, pay their bills and raise their children under difficult circumstances. Providing landlords with a tool to remove those troublemakers is a benefit to the rest of the tenants living near them who are somehow able to follow society’s rules. All someone has to do to avoid eviction is avoid being arrested, which most of us are able to do our entire lives.

    • Stephanie,
      “But what happens off the property is not a landlord’s business.” The state doesn’t agree. It might be worthwhile to eliminate housing restrictions on convicted ‘off-property’ sex-crime offenders too, but the recidivism rate suggests it should be maintained.

      “black/brown men and women have much more frequent interactions with law ” Blacks constitute about 45% of California’s 3-strike prison population and account for 50% of US non-suicide gun homicides. These are convictions, not merely interactions. Highly disproportionate. The US black population is 12.3% and California’s is 6.7% Black criminals overwhelmingly victimize other blacks.

      You might want to review law enforcement officer performance by race statistics. “interactions” are more likely among the same race. The racial mix of the patrol area doesn’t indicate bias. The data suggests that white officers are tougher on whites, black officers on blacks, latin officers on latins. Exceptions? Of course. Ferguson is one. Overall law enforcement is generally tougher in same race interactions.

      (US Bureau of Justice report) “Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders, the report found. The report also found that recidivism was highest among males, blacks and young adults.”

      Public housing restrictions like those in this article were proposed by tenants and neighborhood groups. They were the primary victims and knew the root cause. Where implemented and enforced, crime has significantly declined and quality of life improved for tenants and neighbors.

      In practice, property managers only act based on complaints (I believe it’s unlawful otherwise). They lack a elaborate NSA-type spy system that pinpoints any real or imagined ne’er-do-well that happens upon the property. Only after notice, repeated warnings, and ongoing complaints are tenants evicted.

      The flip side is liability. San Jose is liable when a pothole or broken sidewalk causes injury after it’s been reported, but remains neglected. Private and public (in many states) property owners are similarly liable.

      A few years ago, a group of Oakland residents banded together to sue a property owner that knowingly permitted his property of be used for criminal activity. Their small-claims suits were consolidated leading to a massive judgement against the owner. I seem to recall it forced eviction of his sketchy tenants and ultimately a sale of the the building to satisfy the judgement. Similar last year in Richmond. The landlord in that case was the Richmond Public Housing Authority.

      “Go visit your grandma, and get arrested while leaving the property for a probation violation you committed miles away? Get evicted. This is how it is being used across the state.” The claim doesn’t seem credible. Please provide specific instances. At first glance, such behavior would be pursued by housing authorities, housing advocates, and their attorneys.

      Then there’s the public policy issue which others have already described.

    • The simple solution would be to not get arrested at grandmas, your moms or anywhere.

    • You ask why should they also get punished by their landlords so I ask why should the community and law abiding residents be terrorized by habitually arrested criminal element? Why should THEY be punished for being renters? Apologists for criminals are the worst. Get a clue, the perps aren’t the victims!

  6. Landlords should shutter all of their rental properties and convert those properties to “High-end; Market Rate” investment instruments.

    Landlords who accept “Section 8 Housing Vouchers” do so to their own peril.

    Landlords should not be burdened to provide housing for anyone who cannot obey the law or not have the financial wherewithal to live here in San Jose.

    The position of San Jose’s Housing & Community Development Commission is an illustration why this “Commission” should be eliminated.

    San Jose Councilmembers and Mayor Liccardo have repeatedly shown an institutional destain for San Jose Police Officers. San Jose cannot recruit and or retain Police Officers to make neighborhoods safe and secure.

    People with means to “Escape San Jose” are doing so. For those of you who cannot, you have my sincerest condolences.

    David S. Wall

  7. Can you include a copy of the proposal with the news article? Is that too much to ask?

  8. If we move our underpaid Cops, Teachers and other public servants into this new low income housing instead of homeless criminals, this whole problem should be a win win for the city don’t you think?

    • Liccardo, I believe, attempted to have some affordable housing designated for teachers. Was thwarted because fair housing rules prohibit this restriction.

      Always wondered if he threw in the towel too quickly. I recall a nice high rise built by the Chicago Teachers Union pension fund for Chicago teachers. A condo board can be much more selective than a rental. Likewise some groups have exclusive housing for retired religious workers or their congregations.

      A few years back, I recall a NYC condo was sued because it failed to OK a sale to a black prospective purchaser (and associate of Democratic Mayor David Dinkins). The condo board claimed race wasn’t the issue, but political affiliation was. Only registered Republicans allowed. The board prevailed as I recall. With highly touted public-private partnerships, it seems like SJ could facilitate affordable housing to attract and retain scarce public safety employees.

      • > With highly touted public-private partnerships, it seems like SJ could facilitate affordable housing to attract and retain scarce public safety employees.

        Instead of complicated, indirect, Rube Goldberg subsidies intended to stick the costs to unsuspecting working class people, why not just pay public safety employees — and everyone else — market rate salary and benefits.

        Problem solved and all the political consultants and insider fixers are out of work.

        GIVE PEACE A CHANCE! And common sense, too!

        • SJOTB,
          Agree, higher compensation has merit. Conversely, a housing benefit:
          a. could encourage more public safety employees to live in SJ instead of more affordable and remote central valley, San Benito, etc. locales.
          b. more economical (for employees and for taxpayers)
          c. lower inflation risk
          d. property appreciation benefit

          There are many flavors ranging from HUD’s program for public safety first-time buyers, to housing subsidies like DC and various (many non-US) departments offer. CSJ may not be able to comfortably swallow a $22M / year hike in SJPD compensation (and likely increased demands from SJFD and others).

          Seems like we should explore all practical options to attract and retain valuable public safety employees – not just one.

          • The problem with subsidies is that they distort, misrepresent, or conceal the true cost of goods and services.

            Businesses love to pay for things by trade outs or service credits because they are paying “wholesale” according to their books. The payee imagines he is getting something at “retail” because that’s how he sees the world.

            When governments (really, politicians) subsidize something, they are trying to avoid paying for something with real, accountable tax dollars and instead paying with fictitious or phony baloney subsidy dollars.

            If you want to know how phoney accounting can get, take a look at what emergency rooms bill out versus what they really get paid and by whom.

            Economic cloud cuckoo land courtesy of government interference.

  9. I was just kidding you guys, subsidized housing for people making 6 figures plus. I can hear the screams of pain and laughter already!