San Jose’s Process for Controversial “Crime Free Multi-Housing Program” Gives Community the Runaround

While the San Jose City Council ranked rent control and plans to strengthen tenant protections as its second highest priority this past year, they are currently conducting community outreach around a program that puts more authority in the hands of landlords to evict entire families at once. Perhaps because the incongruence starts here the process of presenting the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program to tenants has been anything, but smooth.

Photo by Affordable Housing Network

San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis’ answer for safer neighborhoods – the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program — presents a world where landlords don’t know how to do their job and tenants will continue to be at their mercy.

Last month, a stakeholder meeting with housing, civil rights, and public advocates including city staff, and law enforcement unanimously voted down the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program. Now, the city is carrying out their public outreach to hear community concerns and feedback in a dangerously incongruent way.

The first of four community meetings was held in District 10 last week, the meetings are being held in the areas of the city that get the highest number of calls for service; higher crime areas of the city. 

At this meeting about 30 folks were in the audience, including Councilman Johnny Khamis and staff, along with staff from other city and even state officials. Khamis welcomed the group and said, “I’m hoping all of you will keep an open mind… we are not married to any names or any specific approach necessarily, but this is one way that I think we can decrease crime in this neighborhood.” 

In just over ten minutes a program that will require tenants to sign an addition to their lease, where they agree to have everyone in the unit evicted if anyone “under their control” is arrested is shown on a screen and talked through by SJPD personnel. Attendees were not given any handouts of this information to look over, to take home and consider, to share with others. There was only the lecture style presentation.

Nearly everything in the program that is presented as an “opportunity” for landlords to be educated and their properties to be assessed for safety, as well as for resident engagement ALREADY exists and is available from the SJPD.

Crime Prevention Specialists, like the folks facilitating small groups at this meeting go out to properties and talk about increasing safety, assess the property and talk to residents. All a landlord or other group has to do is call them and it’s free of cost.

When asked about this, Esther Mota of SJPD said that currently the police department does not share information of arrests with property owners, “That would be something new,” she stated.

James Stagi of the Housing Department added, “Landlords do have the ability to evict for any number of reasons as long as they go through the standard process; this is in place already. This program would expedite that process and points out very specific reasons why the tenant can be evicted.”

This is alarming when we live in a state and a city that already has a fast eviction process.

Mota said the essence of the crime-free lease addendum was important for people to hear and so she read it word for word:

Resident, any member of the resident’s household or a guest or other persons affiliated with the resident shall not engage in any illegal activity, including drug-related criminal activity, prostitution, criminal street gang activity, assault and battery, discharge a firearms, sexual offenses and any act intended to facilitate criminal activity on or near the premises

Violation of the above illegal activities shall be good cause for immediate termination of the tenant and proof of violation shall not require a criminal conviction

During the questions from the audience, concerns were raised around everything from rental insurance rates for tenants, adding homeless people as issues for a landlord - not just tenants, to whether folks on parole would be able to live at a participating crime free property. A property manager asked for clarification around what she would interpret as a discriminatory act, if she were to choose not to rent to someone on parole. Most concerns had no clear answers, the presenters could not answer whether any city had faced litigation for this program, or whether a domestic violence victim would be evicted along with her abuser.

After the Q& A there was small group discussion, one in English and one for Spanish speakers. At least in the Spanish speaking group this part continued the confusion, and questions about the program were met with, “Cuando usted escucho esto esa es la oportunidad para preguntar esa pregunta porque ahora estamos pasando a otra cosa,” basically you missed your chance to ask in the larger group, we are moving on. One participant raved about the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, saying it was “marvelous,” and that if it had been in place before, she would have avoided having to go to court when she kicked out a prostitute and a drug addict while she was subleasing the rooms in her apartment. But that would not be the case – both she and her subtenants would have been out on the street if this program had been in place. How did a regular at community meetings, who described herself as a pebble in politicians shoes and who knew Khamis’ staff, not understand the program? Materials are only in English, there was an interpreter here, but something was obviously lost.

In the small group facilitators mostly stepped away from concerns about the Crime-Free program to what people’s experiences with crime is and suggestions to reducing crime and improving safety. This seems like a reverse approach to finding solutions. If the city of San Jose was genuine in their rhetoric of finding solutions with the community and really believed that tenants could come up with solutions to deter crime and increase safety in their neighborhoods they would ASK first, not present a plan that makes tenants the only group with something to loose.

In small groups, District 10 residents did have a lot of praise of recent community meetings with Councilman Khamis and his staff because of the results they have seen in improving problems in their neighborhood. Why not continue to do that? Get landlords to be more engaged in their properties, have police walk the neighborhoods and gather as a community – why increase the level of stress and fear of eviction San Jose renters already face? A landlord himself, repeatedly said that problems existed where landlords allowed them.

At the end of the meeting Councilman Khamis asked how many people lived in the Hoffman Via Monte neighborhood and about three hands went up. At least one area resident had already left the meeting. “I don’t know how to better reach out to you,” said Khamis.

Arturo, a resident of District 10 for 4 years attended the meeting still in his work clothes and said, “Because of all the violence within the neighborhoods people are terrified to come and give their comments.”

Khamus replied, “That’s the whole purpose of this, to address the violence,” adding, “This is something I’d like to try on a temporary basis and there are a lot of people who are hesitating, but I’d rather err on the side of doing something than err on the side of doing nothing.”

I will deduce that in the opening when he said “keep an open mind” he meant keep an open mind about moving forward with this plan.


There are still two upcoming community outreach meetings 

Thurs. 1/14 from 7pm-8:30pm
Immanuel Lutheran Church at 1710 Moorpark Ave. San Jose, CA 95128

Tues. 1/19 from 7pm-8:30pm
McKinley Community Center at 651 Macredes Ave. San Jose, Ca 95116 

Find out more information at http://sanjoseca.gov/neighborhoods


Related Media:
As Is, the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program is Wrong for San Jose

Renters Rally at First Advisory Committee Meeting to Revise San Jose's Rent Ordinance
Renter's Organizing Workshop in San Jose's District 7


About Liz Gonzalez

Liz Gonzalez is a San Jose based writer and holistic healing practitioner, she leads a weekly meditation circle at De-Bug on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm.

This article is part of the category: Community 
This article is part of the tags: Councilman Johnny Khamis  / Crime Free  / Crime Free Multi-Housing Program  / San Jose 

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