San Jose approves new anti-graffiti efforts and Diridon Station design
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

San Jose elected leaders Tuesday unanimously approved beefing up anti-graffiti efforts with a new policy that reduces the time it takes to paint over tagging on private property when more than one complaint has been filed.

The new shortened process means city officials can re-inspect a private property site where graffiti was previously reported and immediately issue a citation, cutting out code enforcement officers from the process.

“It was a much bigger problem than one would think because it was taking so long to get the graffiti cleaned up,” said Councilmember Johnny Khamis. “I appreciate the refining and streamlining.”

Previously, Beautify SJ staff would notify code enforcement officials to inspect a site after a second complaint had been received. Then code enforcement would send a warning notice to the property owner to remove the tagging before re-inspecting the site. If the site had not been cleaned after the two-week period, code enforcement officers would issue the property owner a $250 citation.

But now, city officials will send code enforcement officers pictures of the vandalism to avoid having to inspect a site twice, removing the two-week grace period for the second act of vandalism and effectively sending the owner an immediate fine.

Some lawmakers Tuesday discussed other strategies the city could implement to curb tagging in hot spots around the city, such as a service where business owners who are frequently targeted can directly pay the city to repaint over graffiti. Public Works officials said they are looking to start a grant or assistance program to help property owners who are frequently targeted with tagging. 

Officials will also look into the possibility of using cover-up paint that graffiti cannot stick on to as easily, while Mayor Sam Liccardo raised the idea of using drones to inspect and verify a complaint instead of city inspectors. 

The new policy comes after San Jose spent years cracking down on graffiti and vandalism, aided by city tools such as a 24-hour hotline, email service and city app, My San Jose, that launched in 2017 to allow residents to report such illegal activities.

City officials painted over at least 2.4 million square feet of graffiti drawings in 2019. But reports of vandalism on private property have slowly been increasing over the last four years. In 2016, 1,715 complaints were received, but that number climbed to 2,397 two years later.

The new change will apply to all private properties and process goes into effect this month.

Redesigning Diridon Station

Also on Tuesday, San Jose lawmakers unanimously approved a new track alignment for Diridon Station, one of the Bay Area’s most critical transit hubs, determining how the trains will come and go through the station.

Regional transit leaders presented the City Council with several options last week, which included building an elevated viaduct over highway 280 — a long, bridge-like concrete structure that the trains would run on. But that option sparked controversy among neighbors who said the viaduct’s design would affect the construction of affordable housing in the neighborhood and eat up space in Tamien Park.

Transit leaders and lawmakers agreed with residents living in the Tamien and Washington neighborhood, recommending the layout that includes a four-track option through the platform’s existing alignment and no viaduct. No viaduct would reduce the project’s cost by half and have fewer negative impacts to the area, according to city documents.

Lawmakers on Tuesday heavily stressed the importance of community engagement throughout the process, despite the project not breaking ground for many more years.

“I am appreciative of the fact that this is a city that is very deeply concerned about neighborhood impacts and how they affect families and neighborhoods,” Liccardo said. “I know that we’re going to have a lot more conversation in the months ahead and years ahead.”

In a joint memo, Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Sergio Jimenez, Maya Esparza and Dev Davis said they want to ensure the surrounding community isn’t excluded from the plan’s development process through the creation of a neighbor-led committee. Regional leaders said a “three-pronged” strategy where project leaders receive community feedback would be implemented during the planning, construction, and design process to mitigate noise, vibration, and visual impacts on residents.

“As we move through each phase we’re going to continue to refine our outreach strategy and really address the needs at that phase recognizing as part of an overall kind of project development process, from initial planning all the way through construction,” said San Jose Deputy City Manager Jim Ortbal.

The vital detail will determine how the neighborhood grows and changes in the coming years as Google builds its massive San Jose development next to the station, which will serve as one of the Bay Area’s busiest transit corridors.

The newly-designed transit epicenter will be a key meeting point for the BART expansion, commuter and high-speed rail, local light rail and bus lines and is expected to open around 2030.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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