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San Jose could be fined if it doesn't clear homeless encampments along waterways

San Jose is facing an expensive ultimatum from the state.

The state water board is essentially ordering the city to clear homeless encampments along its waterways, saying those camps are leading to major water pollution. If the city can’t get it done by June 2025, it could face fines of $100,000 a day.

San Jose gets its storm permits from the state, which monitors the runoff in the creeks, so even though the city filters most water before it hits the creek, the state measures the water already in the creek, which has been polluted by encampments.

“If we are out of compliance with our storm water permit, we can be subject to daily fines of up to $50,000 per pollutant,” Mayor Matt Mahan said.

“Per pollutant” drives up the fines since a single pollutant can be trash, bio waste, plastics or metals.

The city estimates almost 90% of the pollutants come from encampments.

As much as the city has been looking for places to house the unhoused, it will need more, and faster.

“To do that at that kind of scale requires us to build out safe sleeping, safe parking, modular units,” Mahan said.

Councilmember Pam Foley was able to get community cooperation for an emergency housing facility in her district, saying residents generally approved the idea since the displaced homeless people would have a place to go instead of into the neighborhoods.

“The only hesitation is will they get it done? Will we get it done? Do they trust government to get it done?” she said.

City leaders acknowledge enforcement might get tougher, but they hope the encampment residents will want to move for both comfort and safety reasons.

The city said it could take six months to develop an overall plan, which means it will have about 10 months left to come into compliance.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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