San Jose is asking for state and federal aid to recover from the flood that inundated low-lying neighborhoods last week and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
When Coyote Creek jumped its banks on Feb. 21, San Jose declared a “local emergency,” which allowed the city to issue evacuation orders and waive certain permitting requirements to turn schools and community centers into overnight shelters.
Now, the plan is to ask for emergency proclamations from Gov. Jerry Grown and President Donald Trump, which would make state and federal money available for recovery efforts. The City Council on Tuesday will vote on ratifying the emergency proclamation to include a petition for outside help.
Officials in other parts of the state initially feared that California’s oppositional relationship with President Trump would imperil federal aid. But already this season, some 34 California counties and the Hoopa Valley tribe have been approved for federal relief after a series of storms triggered floods, mudslides and avalanches throughout the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it could cover up to 75 percent of the recovery costs.
Also on Tuesday, Mayor Sam Liccardo will ask his colleagues to schedule a public discussion about the flood and why people had little to no warning about when it would strike. People should have known about the danger before first-responders showed up at their door with a boat, he acknowledged.
The flooding came from the Anderson Dam, which filled to the brink with record rainfall and forced the Santa Clara Valley Water District to release as much as possible down an emergency spillway. It marked the first time in 11 years that the reservoir spilled over.
But the water district and city weren’t on the same page about the urgency of the situation, which is why people in Rock Springs received no notification and why others were alerted just an hour or two before the flood flushed them out of their homes.
“The bureaucratic finger-pointing stops today,” the mayor said at a press conference Friday morning. “This happened in my city. I am responsible. I don’t care what any bureaucracy or any other agency believed they did or didn’t do. It happened in our city. We are responsible.”
About 350 people were evacuated by boat in the largely working-class Vietnamese and Latino Rock Springs neighborhood, which bore the brunt of the damage. Homeless people who lived on the river banks near the city-owned Los Lagos Golf Course had to be rescued from trees they clambered up to evade the rising water.
As the water barreled into Naglee Park, Councilman Raul Peralez began knocking on doors to tell people to get out. For many people, that was their first and only warning other than posts from friends on their Facebook feed. By the time the flood reached three mobile home parks along Old Oakland Road and Upper Penitencia Creek in the Berryessa district, Santa Clara County sent out emergency alerts on cellphones in the late night and early morning.
“Clearly, flaws and shortfalls must be identified and addressed so that we may protect residents from future floods,” Liccardo wrote in a council memo.
As people face the daunting task of cleaning up their homes and businesses, the city will consider waiving permit and inspection fees for property repairs in flooded areas.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for February 28, 2017:
- San Jose plans to join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump over his so-called “travel ban,” which sought to bar refugees and anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S. The council will vote on whether to file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Washington state, which sued to block the executive order that sent American airports into chaos as customs agents detained valid visa holders and even lawful permanent residents. “Already we have seen the impacts of this unconstitutional executive order to our region,” reads a memo signed by Mayor Liccardo, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Peralez, Sylvia Arenas and Sergio Jimenez. “It has undermined the operations of our leading tech employers, exacerbated the fears of our residents, and driven a deeper wedge among our diverse immigrant community. We should take this opportunity to amplify the voice of San Jose's immigrant and refugee community.”
- The city agreed to pay $180,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by man who broke both wrists when his bicycle tire got stuck in a storm grate in the bike lane. The accident, which happened two years ago by Diridon Station in downtown, required the cyclist to undergo surgery, miss work and pay exorbitant medical bills.
- Police Chief Eddie Garcia will talk about a new report that identified racial disparities in traffic and pedestrian stops. According to the findings, Black and Latino drivers are far more likely than their white and Asian counterparts to get pulled over, get a field interview, get ordered to sit on a street curb and end up with a criminal citation.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260