San Jose Weighs Strict Drought Plan, Echoing State Restrictions

To step in line with unprecedented state mandates limiting water use, city of San Jose officials will consider a long list of local restrictions on lawn-watering, car-washing and serving water at restaurants.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider an urgency ordinance that would allow San Jose to impose a seasonal moratorium on new lawns and filling swimming pools, ban drinkable water for irrigation and set curfews for outdoor watering. Also going before the council this week is a declaration of a 25 percent water shortage, which will enable the city to heighten enforcement.

While rainfall since last summer has been about average in San Jose, the last few months have been especially dry, Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow says in her report. The Sierra snowpack, which accounts for half the region's water supply, is 94 percent below average to date. Santa Clara County's groundwater basins have also lowered compared to last year. Meanwhile, population and commercial activity continues to grow.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25-percent cutback in statewide water use. Water regulators then handed down a series of mandates restricting potable water use. The new rules, echoed in city code, limit potable water use for outdoor landscapes, fountains and car washes. Restaurants can't serve water unless a customer specifically asks for some. Commercial car washes must use a recirculating system.

The mandatory irrigation schedule will limit watering to two days a week. Landscape and turf at addresses ending in odd numbers can water only on Monday and Thursday. Even-number addresses can only water on Tuesday and Friday. Even on designated days, customers cannot water between 10am and 8pm.

Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilwoman Margie Matthews said the city should also encourage people to eschew lawns for native, drought-tolerant plans and less wasteful drip irrigation. They also urge the city to declare a 30 percent water shortage, above the state threshold, to convey the importance of conservation.

They also suggest coordinating with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which has resources to monitor compliance but lacks authority to enforce water cutbacks.

"[T]here have been no referrals of alleged water waste sent to the city for code enforcement purposes in anyone's memory," Liccardo and Matthews write in their joint memo. "We need to better work together, with the district, and with our retailers; we must develop a system of routinely reporting water waste to city code enforcement officers for swift response."

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 21, 2015:

  • In her final annual report as Independent Police Auditor, LaDoris Cordell calls for an overhaul of the way the San Jose Police Department reviews complaints about racial bias. Never in the history of the department has a single citizen complaint of bias been upheld. If that's the case, she says, the agency should reconsider the way it evaluates those claims, to take a more comprehensive look at the officer's history of complaints and behavioral patterns instead of reviewing complaints on a case by case basis.
  • On a related note, Chief Larry Esquivel released his annual report of department-initiated investigations. In 2014, SJPD initiated 36 complaints with a combined 45 allegations against sworn officers, down from a high of 66 complaints and 88 allegations in 2010. Last year, 71 percent of those allegations were validated. The Independent Police Auditor isn't permitted to review department-initiated complaints, even if the allegations were sustained. So it's unclear what happened in those cases, except that the majority involved "conduct unbecoming to an officer." "Since transparency is critical to the integrity of the department and to building trust with the community, there should be independent civilian oversight of all [department-initiated investigations]," Cordell says in her report. "Without oversight, the police are left to police themselves."
  • Drew Lanza, venture capitalist and Harvard alumnus, was appointed to a four-year term on the nine-member Police and Fire Department Retirement Plan Board.
  • A pair of bills proposed by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) would require police to undergo more training to deal with people with intellectual disabilities or mental illness. Councilman Don Rocha wants the city to endorse those legislative proposals.
  • High turnover has led to a pretty severe shortage of building inspectors in the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement. Of 17 authorized positions, only six are filled. Clients are calling in with complaints about slow service and the backlog keeps piling up. Mayor Sam Liccardo suggests bumping up the pay grade to attract and retain more job candidates.
  • Police plan to update their computer-aided dispatch software. The Ops Force: Discover by Omega Group will cost $122,00 the first year and $464,000 after four one-year extensions to the contract.
  • Street peddlers may get a pass on permitting fees if the council approves a grace period to give vendors time to come up to code. The waiver would coincide with a small business-boosting educational effort to teach self-employed street vendors how to come into compliance with local laws.

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. The same City of San Jose that is approving housing like crazy, with construction everywhere, is concerned about residents’ water use? Insane.

  2. I see no reason that we should not have permanent statewide legislation prohibiting serving water in restaurants unless the customer requests it. It saves water 2 ways—the water many restaurant patrons don’t drink, and the water used to wash all those glasses. Most of California is semi-arid, so more droughts are just a matter of time. We can forestall them by this one simple measure.

    “…we must develop a system of routinely reporting water waste to city code enforcement officers for swift response.” Swift response from any department in SJ? Jennifer has told us twice now that there are 17 building inspector positions, but only 6 are filled, which is a main reason why it takes so long to get a construction project built around here. How many code enforcement positions are there, Jennifer, and how many are filled?

  3. Right, let’s make sure people stop watering their lawns so the Central Valley almond farmers can grow more trees in the desert.

    • Desert? Do you have any idea how much water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin River system is diverted into those concrete lined canals that flow south through that “desert” and over the mountains into Los Angeles? Do you know why one of those canals is named after the current Gov Brown’s father?

  4. Is it politics as usual for San Jose? Is it more of the Reed pony show?. A public full disclosure would be nice.

    -The Omega Group has won the contract for new computer-aided dispatch software (over a half million dollars).
    -The Omega Group is now owned by Trimble Navigations of Sunnyvale. The CEO of Trimple Navigations is Steven Berglund.
    -Steven Berglund has close ties to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Carl Guardino.
    -Steven Berglund contributed $20,000 to the “Citizens for a Safe and Strong San Jose, Supporting Liccardo for Mayor”.
    -A “Contingency” line item for $20,000 has been added to the software agreement/contract with The Omega Group.

    • Berglund/Omega may get the contract but think how much more lucrative that contract might have been if SJ was at full stregnth!

  5. the drought of water, adequate roads for population & jobs, airport capacity, and other rational land-use/quality of life Infrastructure for this once-great state are the direct result of 65 years of state Democrat-control of the legislature by their enviro and special interest backers, including the 1970’s Jerry Brown “Think Small”, “Small is Beautiful”. “Lower Expectations” policy and legislative luddite-like nihilism. Infrastructure takes years of master planning and build outs. California has some of the best Civil Engineers, but they are restricted by Democrats and political dogmatic Environmentalists from doing what these engineers and planners do best to serve the people’s infrastructure needs to support even Democrat political legislative policy and actions (GHG reduction thru better transportation flows, water adequacy without rationing, sewer, educartion, and other infrastructures, immigration, upward economic mobility, etc). Supply-side Republicans and Libertarians need to grow to overcome Democrat monopolies and their control-your-life crises (they created)n “demand management.” Phooey on Dems!

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