San Jose to Discuss Flood-Risk Disclosures, Teacher Housing, Development of Downtown Tower

The Coyote Creek flood struck several San Jose neighborhoods in February and inflicted tens of millions of dollars in property damage. But many of the victims were renters who never considered the need for flood insurance, or assumed they were covered under their landlord’s policy.

A bill working its way through the state Legislature would require landlords to tell tenants about their property’s flood risk. Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) proposed the legislation in the aftermath of the flood, which caught the city off guard and displaced thousands of residents.

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to endorse the bill, which drew support from public interest law firms and tenant rights groups.

“The historic flooding caused $50 million in private property damage and many occupants of those properties did not own the premises,” Betsy Shotwell, San Jose’s director of intergovernmental relations, wrote in a memo to the council. “Instead, they leased the properties, and as such, many did not consider the need for flood insurance or assumed that they are covered under the property owner's policy. As a result, many tenants lost all of their possessions, including their vehicles, leaving them with little or no insurance coverage to recover from the devastating flood.”

Under California law, landlords already have to notify prospective tenants about, among other things, toxic mold, past pest extermination, the facility’s smoking policy and whether the utility bill is linked to other units. AB 646 would require them to also provide written notice if their property lies in a federally designated flood zone.

“Prior to experiencing flooding, tenants are oftentimes not aware if a property was prone to flooding or had experienced flooding prior to their lease of the property,” Shotwell wrote. “Providing for the disclosure of this information to prospective tenants will help to ensure that they are aware of the threat of potential flooding and can make informed decisions as to whether to acquire flood insurance.”

The California Apartment Association, which lobbies on behalf of landlords, opposes the bill as written. The landlord lobby wants to revise the language to require only a “generic notice” that directs potential renters to look up the information on their own.

The council will also vote this week on whether to extend a local emergency declaration, which qualifies the city for outside funding and other help as it recovers from the late-February disaster.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 23, 2017:

  • Plans are underway to transform downtown’s former Greyhound bus stop into a 708-unit apartment tower. The project is expected to bring the city more than $7.5 million in permit fees, $15 million in park fees and $22 million to subsidize new affordable housing. It would also bump up the property tax revenue by a considerable margin, from about $20,000 a year to $3 million. To qualify for tax breaks to build in downtown, the developer has to break ground by summer 2018, hire only licensed contractors, post bids on the Bay Area Builders Exchange website and refuse to work with any companies with a history of wage theft. In addition, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Raul Peralez and Sylvia Arenas want the developers to make a good-faith effort to hire local apprentices.
  • Councilman Don Rocha wants the city to endorse a state bill that would offer down payment assistance to teachers who want to buy a home in an expensive region. California has one of the highest student-teacher ratios in the nation, Rocha noted in a memo. The national average comes to 16 students per teacher. In Santa Clara County, it’s 22 students for every teacher. According to local union officials, the South Bay’s high cost of living has led to a 15 percent annual turnover rate of teachers. “The teacher shortage in California is particularly acute in San Jose, where the cost of living has significantly outpaced teacher salaries,” Rocha wrote. “In Santa Clara County, the average income for teachers’ ranges between $80,000 to $90,000, while the income required to own a single-family home is over $170,000 a year. This substantial gap makes it extremely difficult to attract and retain teachers.” AB 1182, penned by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), would provide deferred-payment, low-interest subordinate mortgage loans on condition that the applicant commits to teaching in the high-cost region for at least five years after they buy a home.

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. > Standard clever, cynical remarks regarding our local government.

    You’re getting lazy, Galtus. You’re just going through the motions.

  2. If the aim is to inform prospective tenants (and home buyers, for that matter) of serious location-related perils, then first up has to be San Jose City Hall, the only local peril with both a citywide reach (crumbling roads, neglected parks, dangerously understaffed police department, ruinous tolerance for the homeless, etc.) and the ability to bring precision harm to a particular neighborhood (think homeless shelters, Section 8 housing, allowing developers to ruin neighborhoods, etc.).

    The above-mentioned Greyhound depot development is a case-in-point. City Hall’s main concern seems to be saddling the builder with obligations to hire homeless and at-risk youth as apprentices (veterans were thrown in to suppress the gag reflex) and adhere to a “wage theft” policy adopted by the city last year for its own contracts (now slipped into the permit process for the private sector). I guess the days of prioritizing the safety and quality of structures are gone, pushed aside by the progressive agenda. Once these towers are built, won’t every prospective tenant deserve written notification that its builders were forced to employ a percentage of homeless and at-risk laborers?

  3. I have yet to see why Attorneys for Plaintiffs have not raised any questions concerning the misuse of FUND 469-Storm Sewer Capital FUND and FUND 446 Storm Sewer Operating FUND by Mayor Reed and specifically Councilmember Liccardo.

    The entire flood was foreseeable and preventable if the aforementioned FUNDs would have been used properly!

    David S. Wall

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