San Jose to Request Federal, State Aid for Flood Cleanup

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

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


  1. President Trump should hold another Trump rally in San Jose. Just change the name to “Trump Administration Federal Emergency Assistance Center”.

    And then he should require aid recipients to file on stage graduation style and receive their federal assistance checks PERSONALLY from The Donald himself in exchange for a voter registration form.

    That’s the way the Democrats would do it.

  2. Your a rogue city with Liccardo, one of the three amigos with no leadership ability asking for funds. You’ll get them because your taxpayers are entitled. If it were up to me I would send in a team to handle every dollar and Liccardo could wear his rubber boots while shoveling mudd until his screw up was fixed. Losers leading losers, never works.

  3. “… 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.”

    What’s to discuss? The mayor, while doing his best impression of an undisciplined jackass, made it very clear on the day of the flood that warning delays were the fault of the fire department and the EOC; he has yet to retract that accusation (or even acknowledge ever saying it). I suggest someone dig up the news coverage of that first interview, play it at the meeting, and then declare the issue decided and the meeting adjourned.

  4. What? Asking for funds from Trumps Federal government, Oh the shame of it all.

    I can’t wait for the checks to arrive from Apple, Google, and Facebook. How about some relief from Mexico, Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and North Korea.

    Taking money from these capitalist pigs how dare you even suggest it!

  5. It’s time to transfer the Office of Emergency Services back to the City Manager from SJ Fire. SJFD has gutted the OES budget leaving no money for disaster planning, rapid response, or alerts.

    • You must be smokin’ something. SJFD has nothing to do with OES…all budgets for training come from the City budget or UWASI grants.

  6. San Jose needs a competent newspaper. The Murky Gnus and this publication are clearly unfit…

    Can anyone point to a single campaign promise Slick Sam Liccardo has accomplished?

    His book was full of “progressive” ideas and this newspaper wrote many editorials and columns from a comfortable position behind Sam’s pant zipper throughout the Mayoral race… what has it gotten taxpayers?

    Sham stated he was fully behind Measure B, then once elected got rid of it. He promised to rebuild SJPD after his policies decimated it… lowest staffing in the nation.

    Sham promised that Uber and Lyft drivers would get business licenses and comply with background checks. Nah, backpedaled on that too.

    Sham assured taxpayers that San Jose would regulate marijuana dispensaries and card clubs. Oops, there’s tons of illegal pot clubs throughout the City along with houses converted into illegal grow houses. The violations at Matrix card club are too extensive to list here.

    Lickarod’s Administration has failed time and time gain. We so how woefully unprepared emergency responders are due to Reed and Slick Sammy… even when we knew floods were expected! How does one supposed the response would be a unprepared disaster, like a major earthquake? The Computer Aided Dispatch system fails under normal operating workload… given additional stressors and lack of cell tower communication- completely useless. Isn’t Sham the one who was going to make San Jose better through technology?

    We see, again and again, that voting for METRO/SJI and Murky Gnus endorsed candidates is detrimental to our community.

  7. There’s no accountability in this “it takes a village” governing philosophy of our local politicians. And once again it’s the people who suffer the results.
    Not until San Jose’s voters finally wake up and elect politicians who understand that local waterways are a local responsibility will we act rationally in our own interests and guide our own flood prevention destiny in a logical and cost effective manner.
    Until then we’ll get nothing but excuses and whining from Democrat panderers like Lickaraod.

  8. So we will get plenty of federal relief tax money (hold on that’s our money right?) to cover SJ and SCVWD officials screwing up and failing to spend local tax monies collected for flood control on Coyote Creek. What a great country! Nothing like double taxing residents for the same service. Guess SJ and SCVWD can add the unspent tax money they have collected for flood into their reserve funds. Have to laugh that the SJ mayor is asking the President and his administration for federal money after voicing his disdain and questioning the abilities of the President currently in office. Who is the bigger man now Licarrdo?

  9. What does our mayor say when Federal Funds are not forthcoming because we have identified our city a Sanctuary City?

  10. THE DISTRICT WILL NEVER CHANGE ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS, TAX MORE TAX READ THE AUDIT 2012 IT EXPLAINS THE DISTRICT managers and why employees distrust them. which is why there is no function at the top. ask why a 3rd boardroom was approved. ask for that DA audit, open the books. If you watched the meeting last nite, pretty much talk talk talk, oh we are humble. the chair says.

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