Mayor Wants City to Sue Scam Artists Preying on Flood Victims

UPDATE: The City Council on Tuesday gave City Attorney Rick Doyle the go-ahead to pursue lawsuits against people illegally taking advantage of flood victims.

While many people stepped up to help victims of the Coyote Creek flood that swept through San Jose last month, others have reportedly tried to take advantage. Complaints of price-gouging contractors and negligent landlords have prompted city officials to consider legal action on behalf of residents.

Under state law, San Jose is one of only four cities in California that can bring lawsuits of unfair business practices against private parties. The City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to pursue that course of action.

“We have an opportunity today to put this law to good use,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a memo co-signed by Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Raul Peralez, Lan Diep and Tam Nguyen. “[A]s we hear reports of contractors charging four times their proffered estimates for performing work such as pumping water from inundated basements on South 19th Street, while desperate homeowners have little time to explore.”

According to California’s Business and Professions Code, City Attorney Rick Doyle could file suit by himself or with legal nonprofits to bring private actions. Liccardo wants Doyle to identify how much money the city would have to allocate to pursue either option and then report back to the council at a later date.

“In the wake of the devastating floods in our Coyote Creek neighborhoods, we know too well that where disasters occur, scam-artists soon follow,” the memo states. “While many of our local businesses and property owners have stepped up in community-minded spirit, providing vacant apartments for displaced families, and donating $6.3 million to our flood relief fund, we have heard too many complaints about price-gauging contractors, unresponsive landlords and contractors promising to do repairs and then failing to do so.”

In some cases, landlords have refused to get rid of fast-growing mold and make critical repairs, forcing flood victims to leave without any relief from their rent obligations, according to the memo.

“Many of the flood survivors, struggling to get back on their feet, lack the resources, access to counsel, or time to bring private litigation of their own,” Liccardo wrote. “Having the city bring actions on their behalf can send a clear message to those looking to take advantage of vulnerable residents.”

The city could team up with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley or Santa Clara University Law School’s Alexander Law Clinic.

In the month since the flood, the city has cleared about 4,000 homes and apartments for re-entry. But many families remain displaced. Last week, city leaders put out a call for help, asking landlords to house some 500 or so flood victims who haven’t been able to return home since the late February floods and 70 more who are still staying in shelters.

While flood victims qualify for rental subsidies and security deposits from a relief fund, Silicon Valley’s competitive rental market has made it tough to find landlords willing to accommodate them.

“While many residents may be able to eventually return to their homes, families need housing solutions right now to help bridge that gap,” San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said in a press release last week. “Finding immediate housing opportunities for our displaced neighbors is a critical part of helping our community continue to recover from this disaster.”

Property owners interesting in offering short- or intermediate-term housing for flood victims can visit or call 877.428.8844 for information on how to list their units. Click here for the latest updates on flood recovery efforts.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for March 28, 2017:

  • In his preliminary spending plan, which projects a $47 million shortfall over the next two fiscal years, Liccardo calls for a targeted approach that focuses on the city’s most pressing challenges. In the wake of last month’s devastating flood, the mayor proposes investing in recovery efforts and upgrading emergency alert technologies. He also suggests bringing back volunteer disaster preparedness training through the Community Emergency Response Team, which the city suspended last year because of staffing constraints. Liccardo also wants to increase street pavement allocations to $50 million, which would save money in the long run by preventing future repairs. While the city worked out a deal with its unions to save nearly $3 billion in pension costs over the next three decades, rising retirement costs will continue to eat away at city services. Some of that will be offset by two tax measures voters approved last fall—a quarter-cent sales tax and a business licensing tax hike. Click here to read the entirety of the mayor’s March budget message.
  • Once again, San Jose failed to build enough affordable housing to meet state-set targets. In 2016, the city issued building permits for 2,088 units of new residential construction, but only 314 of those were pegged as below market-rate. According to a new report, the city met just 13 percent of its annual affordable housing goal. It exceeded its yearly target for market-rate units, however, building 110 percent of its goal of 1,617 units. Meanwhile, though the cost of rent has begun to even out, housing costs in the South Bay remain at an all-time high. About half of all renters in San Jose spend at least a third of their income to keep a roof over their heads. While the vast majority of new housing in the region is market rate, the overwhelming need is for affordable units. Nearly 60 percent of all workers in Santa Clara County are classified as low income, according to the California Employment Development Department.
  • The city will consider joining lawsuits brought by other cities and states against President Donald Trump’s immigration orders. “Due to the fluid nature of the current litigation challenging the executive orders … the authorization being sought should allow the city attorney to respond to the quickly changing administrative and litigation landscape without having to return repeatedly to council for further authorization for San Jose to join as an amicus,” City Attorney Rick Doyle wrote.
  • Councilman Lan Diep took a trip to New York City this past weekend, courtesy of nonprofit advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy, to talk about how to deal with potential loss of federal funding due to local immigration policies.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. If there’s anybody that knows a thing or two about price gouging and failing to perform services it’s the City of San Jose.
    But maybe for once the City should buckle down and focus on its duties and leave private sector business problems to be hashed out by the interested parties. In other words mind your own f*****g business.

  2. The Mayor wants to sue scam artist and price gougers. Great, but let’s start with the biggest scam artist in town,
    That would be the Water District and its management for scamming the taxpayers out of nearly 20 years of tax funds that seem to have padded the nest of that agency.
    It’s time for a Grand Jury investigation.
    In the meantime those funds should be paying for the damages done by the negligence of both the Water District and the City of San Jose.

    San Jose wants to sue the Federal Government over immigration laws, they better figure out how they will replace the $100,000,000 plus they’ll be losing if San Jose does not comply with Federal Law. San Jose is obligated to the legal citizens of the city, not to criminals that are sitting in jails or prisons. It’s time the Federal Government started locking up dangerous politicians that are harboring criminals in illegal scams called sanctuary cities.

  3. With one hand tapping the shoulders of San Jose landlords for help in accommodating flood victims, and the other busy waving in foreigners seeking sanctuary from all corners of the globe, it’s a testament to the limitations of an Ivy League education that the mayor can’t see how the latter has greatly aggravated the shortage responsible for the former. I would love to see the mayor challenged with the question: “Were one apartment made available, with the choice of awarding it to a flood-displaced family of white Trump supporters or a newly arrived family of illegals from Mexico, which family would you see turned away?”

  4. Da Mare is doing a little fancy dancing here. He’d rather we focus on local ‘scam artists’ than how AG Sessions is cutting him off at the knees, sanctuarily speaking.

  5. The link to the affordable housing item (second bullet on 3/28 agenda) seems broken.

    “Nearly 60 percent of all workers in Santa Clara County are classified as low income, according to the California Employment Development Department.”

    Huh? Census Bureau says 8.3% and SCC has highest median income in nation.

  6. Note this about Lam Diep’s Big Apple excursion

    “The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) is a left-leaning nonprofit advocacy group in the United States. CPD is a federation of groups that includes some of the old chapters of ACORN. The group’s stated goal is to “envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.” The organization is allied with teachers’ unions and has published studies criticizing charter schools. CPD’s website

    Characterizing CPD as a “nonprofit advocacy group” is akin to describing Stalin as a great humanitarian.

  7. Liccardo is deflecting from his own culpability. He is deliberately taking sides with America-haters from Islamic terrorist countries over our own citizens. Can anyone explain why?

    Why is Mayor Liccardo being an Islamic suckup? Why is he (and the Council members who support him) wasting our tax money by jumping on the ‘sue Trump’ bandwagon? He will not affect the outcome one iota, since Hawaii and Minnesota have already done everything legally necessary to produce a decision. Thus, Liccardo and the Council are wasting every tax dollar this nonsense costs. And the potholes keep getting worse…

    This über-stupid lawsuit is an unpatriotic attempt to try and circumvent the President’s legal authority, in which the Administration has merely suspended (for only 90 days) the Islamic horde that continues to flood in from seven known hotbeds of terrorism: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Why does Liccardo and his Council cronies want that influx to continue unabated? They have not provided a single credible answer to that question.

    The President’s legal authority is black letter law, written in crystal clear, unambiguous language and passed by Congress by an overlwhelming majority. But those elected America-haters ignore our Constitution and the safety of U.S, citizens—for which the President is ultimately responsible. “Treason” is not too strong a word in this situation: only seven or eight decades ago they would have been indicted and prosecuted for the aid and comfort they are giving to the enemy. Why should that be any different today?

    I would really like to believe that leftist politicians like Liccardo possess at least some semblance of patriotism. But I just don’t see any—quite the opposite. Why are they going out of their way to take the side of America-hating foreigners over U.S. citizens? Why are they wasting tax money on this totally frivolous lawsuit; money that should be used exclusively to run the city for the benefit of all its residents? Why are they going out of their way—using our money (but never their own)—to coddle this group of self-serving, unwanted foreigners, most of whom will promptly be ensconced as additional parasites on the taxpayers? Because based on the “undocumented immigrants” who arrived here before them, that is exactly what will happen.

    So can we hear from any readers who think the city’s amicus brief is justified? Because I would sincerely like to understand your rationale. Do you have any credible reasons? Or is this just another leftist emo-issue that you’ve joined without thinking? And how will you try to spin it, if/when someone in that Islamic hate-America crowd gets here and murders more innocent Americans? Whose side are you on? Does your ongoing juvenile tantrum over being on the losing side in the election extend to selling out our country? I’m serious. I would like to know how, or if, you think. Or are you just taking sides in a knee-jerk reaction… because Trump?

    I have more questions for any enablers of Liccardo’s lack of patriotism, but they can begin with ^those.^

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