Two elected officials in San Jose want to earmark an extra $150,000 from the city’s budget to expand mediation services for tenants and landlords.
Councilmen Don Rocha and Sergio Jimenez proposed the one-time cash infusion to boost the Responsible Landlord Engagement Initiative (RLEI), a decade-old program that helps renters defend themselves against unscrupulous landlords. The service also empowers landlords to fight back against problem tenants.
The proposal comes up for consideration at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, during a public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 budget. Bolstering protections for renters has been a significant priority for the city this year. In April, a divided council outlawed no-cause evictions and strengthened its rent control ordinance.
The RLEI—one of the few free mediation options available for tenants—is an important part of those efforts, Rocha and Jimenez said. Jaime Angulo and Maryela Perez, who administer RLEI through Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, have resolved 46 cases to date and boast a 100 percent success rate in small claims court. The pair works with landlords, property managers and renters to address problems such as neglect and criminal activity.
But the two-person team is too small to deal with the demand spurred by a competitive housing market. Rocha and Jimenez said council members often call on the responsible landlord program to address problem homes in all 10 council districts.
“RLEI has shown great leadership and success in engaging neighbors and landlords,” Rocha and Jimenez wrote in their shared memo. “In [Jimenez’s] District 2, RLEI was utilized as a resource to address problem homes in the area, saving law and code enforcement time and resources.”
The program’s success is best illustrated by its return on investment, they added: $1.28 for every dollar the city spends on RLEI. The mediation service relies on a $150,000 federal grant, which assumes a match in local funding. If the city fails to support it, however, the program can’t last, Rocha and Jimenez said.
“The funding situation for RLEI is very dire,” the pair wrote. “A contribution from the city in the amount of $150,000 will allow the program to continue at current funding levels.”
The city’s five-year budget outlook includes a projected $86.5 million shortfall. As a result, Mayor Sam Liccardo cautioned in his spending plan against dipping into the general fund to support certain ongoing expenses. “However,” Rocha and Jimenez argued, “supporting RLEI will undoubtedly lead to a cost savings.”
Click here to read the mayor’s spending proposal.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for June 13, 2017:
- Councilman Johnny Khamis is urging the city to require a proposed 41-unit, low-income development to include a community center. People who live in the area, off of Gallup and Mesa drives, lack a community space. A group of residents was forced to host Zumba classes under carports, where children play in the driveways while their mothers exercise. But cars come and go during the classes, which makes it unsafe for the kids. Khamis said they’ve tried to find spaces in nearby churches, to no avail. “The neighborhood needs a space where they can have neighborhood watch and neighborhood association meetings, hold celebrations like quincañeras and present Zumba classes,” Khamis wrote.
- A planned $350 million, 25-story tower by Santana Row will include a publicly accessible rooftop, which the developer promised to keep open to everyone from dawn to dusk. Council members Chappie Jones and Dev Davis want the developer to throw in a few more perks, since the building—called Volar—is considered a signature project. As a condition of approval, they suggest requiring a way-finding art installation at the ground level to direct people to the rooftop at 35 S. Winchester Blvd. They also want the developer to provide a free shuttle to and from the local train station, a carpool matching service, kiosks with transit information, bicycle storage and on-site amenities such as bike repair and dry cleaning.
- The city will consider spending $230,000 on psychological screenings for new police officers. San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia also requested four annual renewal options to work with Law Enforcement Psychological Services, Inc., a Palo Alto-based firm.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260