Dear PoP – Should the City Remove This Light Pole?

Light_pole, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

My husband and I recently moved to near NE / H street and are working to improve our home. One obstacle we’ve run into is the light pole in the back alley. It currently sits in the middle of the property line, preventing full access to the backyard. Here is a picture. We cannot fully open the gate or park our car because of the limited width of the lot that the light pole creates.

I’ve contacted DC’s Dept. of Transportation, specifically someone in infrastructure project management. He was a very helpful individual, and moved along our request to have the light pole moved about 8ft (to the end of the property line). Unfortunately, the request was denied by his superiors. That means we’d have to pay the cost of moving the light pole instead of the city. The individual gave me a ballpark figure of around $5000 to move the light pole, and an additional $2800 if the light pole is old and should be replaced. Do you know, or do your readers have knowledge of another avenue that we can pursue? Do you think contacting our Alderman Tommy Wells might resolve this? We simply want the light pole moved about 8ft to the end of the property line, but don’t feel it’s just that we should have to front 100% of the costs; especially if the pole needs to be replaced.


Hmm, I can see that would be incredibly frustrating. This is something you should definitely bring to the attention of your Council Member’s office. However, I’m not sure he’ll be able to do anything about it. If the pole sits on city property and you bought the house this way then I’m not sure if the city will be obligated to move it. But I’m just guessing. We have some incredibly knowledgeable readers here so perhaps they’ll be able to give some specific advice. But most definitely approach your constituent services rep. from Wells’ office!

141 Comment

  • WIth all the (huge huge amts!) of federal money available for energy efficiency projects, including street lighting and home retrofits, it seems citizens and government, and pepco could come together and use this opportunity to not only move the pole but use new LED lights as a demo with a nice subsidy from USDOE! How about an alley neighborhood lighting challenge. They’ve got such energy challenges in Baltimore, why not here!? Are we ready for the smart grid? How about some renewables too!

    Anyone notice how fast the graffiti went up on the new renewable light poles and masonry on the new cool bike trail along the red line north of union station?

  • I swear i have read almost this exact post or situation elsewhere. maybe citypaper?

    and why can’t you open your gate? it opens in. what’s blocking it?

    and where is your carpark? why is this blocking it?

    something ain’t right here.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @Eric in Ledroit These folks were in the H Street, NE article in the Post on Saturday:

  • You should have ‘relocated’ it with a BFW and a pick axe. Most lamp post are just bolted to their mounting with 4 large bolts. Undo those bolt, pick axe the base, be sure to cap-off the electrical leads, and bury them in a pile of sakrete. The only problem here is that by requesting the move initially they now know that there’s a light pole there. I would guarantee you they had no idea of the location of the pole until you alerted them to it. DDOT’s IPMA is about as backwards as they come.

    [not actually advocating the destruction of gov’t property, but you sure wouldn’t have been the first person to have to take things into their own hands to rectify the incompetence and stupidity of the DC gov.]

  • Seems to me, if the ligth pole is old and needs to be replaced, they should move it when it gets replaced, not charge you more to move it….

  • Assuming it’s located legally, I’m actually on the city’s side there. It was there when you bought the house, and it’s an unnecessary expense to the city to move it.

    Check your survey. If they have an easement then you don’t have any real say in the matter. It would be a lot cheaper to move your gate.

  • The gate can only swing outward (if it swung into the yard, it would hit a parked car). The gate can only open as wide as the light pole, which means you have to drive in from the opposite side of the alley (making the turn from the alley too sharp to fit the car inside the lot). If the light pole was moved, then the gate could swing open 180 degrees (making it possible to park/turn into the lot from the alley). We have a mid-size car. As it stands, we have to street park. We’re not sure if the light pole is even on our property or 100% the alley.

  • PEPCO or other utilities may have an easement running along back there, but light posts and cable carrying posts are usually erected at property borders and corners.

    This is unusual and you need to claim ingress and egress rights to and from your property.

    You need to start with a good boundary survey of your property with detailed set back requirements.

  • I like you ontarioroader

  • Not an ideal solution, but what about making your gate the equivalent of a pocket door in a house? Don’t know the term, but a sliding door vs a swing out door?

  • No, I don’t think the city should remove it. You presumably bought the house knowing it was there. In my opinion, you should have done your due diligence and either gotten an answer from the city about it prior to moving in, or not bought it if it bothered you. Your PR campaign is admirable- I am always one to believe that the squeaky wheel gets greased, and more power to you if you succeed. But honestly, I’m hoping tax dollars don’t go towards this. That said, I think it should be fine if you removed it on your own dime.

  • but why should they pay for a new light pole? then the city is milking them.

  • Move the gate or park on the street – unfortunate placement of lightpost but it was there before you.

    If you bought the house as is, w/lightpost, don’t expect us taxpayers to pay for it to be moved.

  • I’m with SG et al. Plus, moving the gate will be less of a headache, and you knew what you were getting into when you bought the house. Of course, I would probably just park on the street and keep the back yard, but that’s just me.

  • There was a similar lightpost behind my house in Shaw when I moved into it a little over seven years ago. My real estate agent told me that all I would need to do would be to contact the DC government to have the post moved at no expense. Honestly, it seemed hard to believe that the city would just come and move the lightpost for me just because I would ask them to do so, and it turned out to be misinformation. I was going to have to pay an architect to do a survey…yes, an architect…submit the survey for approval, and then pay a contractor to move the post if I felt it was in the way of my parking area. I decided to save my money and not to do anything about it and to just maneuver my Mini Cooper around the post. In my case, I had very good, unexpected luck. About a year and half after giving up on having the post moved, a truck passing through the alley hit it, bending it to the ground such that it had to be removed. When the city replaced the post, they moved it to the side all on their own so now I have no post blocking the way and paid nothing for it to be moved. And for anyone who is thinking that “a truck…hit the post” means that I had anything to do with it, that’s just not the case. It was total blind luck! So either you hope for a truck to come barreling through your alley and knock it down or you change out your fence and get a smaller car.

  • Hey Len…can I get my wrench and pick axe back?

  • I’m siding with the city, solely based on Chrystina’s spelling of the name Christina.

  • They should move it – no questions asked. We are trying to get the city more citizen friendly and keeping a pole in wrong location doesn’t help anyone.

  • I am siding with the city. We can hardly afford to drop 5g just to move a light pole b/c someone does not like where it is. If the city did this for everyone then they would go broke just moving fire hydrants, light poles, and any other obstacle that 1 person finds inconvenient. I will say however if you are willing to front the 5g then they should be willing to cover the cost to replace the pole if needed. Good luck.

  • The obvious solution is a sliding gate, right?

    It can’t cost that much. You’re essentially just mounting a couple runners on the stationary fence, and two long horizontal ‘bars’ on the sliding fence (longer than the sliding fence, to carry the weight.) You could even get fancy and install a motorized gate.

    That, or you ask your neighbor if they mind you making your gate swing onto their “property”/area of the alley. You’d just have to screw the hinge onto the outside part of the gate, and at the far right, so that the door can swing 180 degrees, past the support beam/pole thing.

    A swing gate either blocks the alley when you’re trying to pull in, or hits the parked car when you’re trying to leave. (side note: you could still do a swing gate, as long as you’ve got the turning radius to reverse into your yard — doubtful.)

    No idea what you street situation is, but I would keep your little yard. If you have the will power to ignore the grudge w/ the city & pepco and change your life… maybe a scooter or smartcar? If you guys are parking two cars, it might not be a bad idea — backyard parked transport for zipping around the city. Regular car available on the street for when you need to move a lot of stuff, sick of the little thing, etc.

  • It’s not that we don’t simply “like where it is,” it’s that we can’t fully use our yard. It’s a large yard with enough space for both grass and parking for 2 cars. The light pole pre-dates the previous owners and was installed during a long period when the home was vacant . The city just came along and installed it while no one was living there to protest.

    A problem with converting the gate into a sliding gate is that we have a smaller pedestrian gate to the left of the larger gate. The tracks for the sliding gate would then permanently close it. Still it is a better option. Thanks ReGate, we hadn’t considered that option.

    Hopefully that plow driver is still employed by the city and he visits us this winter…

  • Don’t hold your breath, alleys never get plowed.

  • I’m sure if they lived in Georgetown, or anywhere in Ward 2 for that matter then the city would be moving the pole in order to “protect property values” or some such excuse, but because they are in ward 6, the city thinks they can be ignored.

  • Assuming the light post is placed legally, and you as the complainant in this matter would have to prove otherwise by way of a survey, I am with the majority of the folks here. It is a silly location for a lamp post, for sure, although I bet it lights up your property nicely, scaring off the Cretans that prowl our streets at night, but if it is legally placed, then it simply isn’t the City’s problem. And as a taxpayer, as much as I feel for you, the City cannot simply go around moving things just to be nice. So far as I can tell from your photo, you could easily, and at a relatively low cost rework that entire section of fence to make things work better.

    Is this perchance your first home? I am about two years into owning my first home and the first year or so was spent with a similar mentality. I was convinced everything was someone else’s fault and many times it was, but most importantly, at the end of the day, irrespective of what others had done, the responsibility for my home and my property fell to me. There are exceptions of course, like a snow plow slamming into your fence. And indeed, if this is illegally placed, it is the City’s responsibility, but you’re going to need proof. I’d start by requesting your plat from the City. Also, you should have had a survey done when you purchased your home, a copy of which should be in your closing documents. This is typically insufficient for building purposes, but it will give you an idea as to where your property line is. Also, you can totally contact your council member for this, but I have had more luck working with Mayor’s constituent service’s person for our ward. Then again, Joe Martin is a rock star, so results may vary in your ward.

  • I wonder, is there some sort of acidic substance that can be discreetly applied to the base of this light pole, in order to hasten its deterioration? If it rusts through and falls over sooner than later, then you can suggest that its replacement be positioned more conveniently.

    Or there are undoubtedly some kids down the block who would happily plow into it with a stolen car or quietly unbolt it and carry it off in the middle of the night for $500. Which is considerably less than what the District wants to charge you for what is essentially the same service.

  • Simple, just cut the gate in half vertically and install hinges in the middle where you cut it. Then you can open the gate at the new hinges first, fold it in half, then open it at the orginal hinges, avoiding the offending pole.

    *Disclaimer: this would probably be ugly and not actually work.

  • mischa, a sliding gate would work. not sure why you would be opposed to that. who cares about the pedestrian gate. if you sacrifice the pedestrian gate, there is clearly enough room on the left side to maneuver a midsize car through there. if you’re handy you could build this yourself for $200 or less in materials. good luck trying to get that pole down, it took me over a year to convince dc to chop down a large aging tree in my alley that was dropping large limbs onto our roofs and yards every time a storm came. you may win your battle with the city, but why sit around waiting and whining about having no parking when you can make a relatively quick fix to accommodate your car until a better solution can be worked out

  • I agree with the city. You bought the house– should have asked for $$ from the seller to remedy the problem you knew about. This is not a hidden problem discovered after the fact. Suck it up and pay for it or live with it– stop asking for our tax dollars to remedy a “problem” you assumed.

  • Go to the Home Depot on RI Ave, pick up some laborers and encourage them to knock it down. By encourage, I mean, tape a few $20’s at the top of the light, on your way down smear cooking oil on the light pole. They’ll get creative and I think you’ll both come out ahead.

    It seems to me, the light was erroneously placed at installation. As for the city spending $5k to move it, they shouldn’t have paid $5k for an improperly installed light post to begin with. If PEPCO ran the electrical to that location, someone else installed the light where the electrical source was. I would not pay them to correct their own mistake.

    Another option, flash the trash truck driver, maybe he can take it out. Or, I bet he’ll lose control of his truck for a small fee for him and his com padres.

  • I really don’t get this. Is that actually a picture of your back yard? Where are the cars supposed to be parked anyway? You sure aren’t fitting one through that gate. If you’re considering changing it for parking, the pole should not prevent you from doing this, being right in the middle is perfect.

    If you want the whole rear of the yard to open so you can pull cars in, just have bi-fold gates. There are hinges on the edge, then each half splits in the middle with hinges again. They should bifold inwards for security, but they will not take space away from parking because you have two hinged points (the bifold and the edge) so you can swing it out slightly to bend the middle hinge when opening, giving you enough room to clear the pole.

    I’ve seen bifold gates done when there isn’t enough room in the alley for whataver reason to open a full 9′ wide gate all the way, they would be perfect for this situation too.

  • Just looked a little closer… there really is plenty of room to park, a standard parking spot is 9 ft wide, by my count you have at least 8 feet on the right. The trick is to back into your spot.

    Last option (I know the huggers are going to hate this) encourage that tree to fall into it… but only if you offset the loss by planting 10 new trees in the city.

  • What SG said. In fact I can’t even believe I’m reading this. Why on earth should my taxes go towards moving a perfectly good light pole that was there when you bought the house. Absolutely NOT the citys responsibility. Deal with it. I can think of a lot of better uses for the citys money than helping you on such a selfish endevour to increase your homes value and your own ease of parking. It benifeits the city in no way whatsoever.

  • While were on the subject, maybe readers can provide a solution for my problem. I have a pole at the end of my yard in the alley. Fortunately it’s near the corner of my yard and I have no issues open/closing the gate or parking.

    This pole supplies cable and telephone for houses on the alley, including mine. I have 5 or 6 cable/telephone wires hanging across the length of my yard to my neighbors house. The city owns the alley and I *think* I own my yard (I’ve heard you don’t actually own your yard in the city); if I own my yard, then how high off the ground do I own?? These wires slope down about 10 ft off the ground near my house. I have a raised deck so the wires are within 6 ft from the deck. If I own the space off the ground, couldn’t I just cut them??

    Comcast was at the pole a few months ago and I asked for their advice. Fortunately a few more houses in the alley requested cable service and the pole can’t support more wire. They will have to add another pole in the alley which will alleviate some of the lines. However, it won’t solve my issue of the neighbor’s wires on my property.

  • Regarding @Dirty’s comment, I didn’t even thnk THAT would be a concern (e.g. parking with a pole between the spots) I figured you were having a problem with gate building.

    If the concern is actually parking in a spot having a divider between the two spaces, umm, seriously? Have you ever been in a parking lot or garage where you have to park directly between two cars? Many 2-car garages actually have two separate doors. This really shouldn’t be a concern. Your car is surprisingly maneuverable.

    There is a solution to this problem other than moving the light pole…

  • @Line guy… you could cut them, but they would probably just reappear in the same place when they came to fix them. If you were around I am sure you could tell the cable guy to do something different but you probably wouldn’t be so lucky to be around whenever he came.

    Honestly, this is one of those situations where it is probably easiest to resolve on your own. Cut the damn wire, re-route it somewhere that’s not objectionable, and hook it back up again. Crimping cable connectors is pretty easy.

  • Line dude – Presumably it’s cable and phone lines, can you install a hook on the pole so you can make the lines taut, either higher up the pole or on the back side of it? As Jamie said, the issue is length, so if you can reduce the slack it will increase the height.

  • I heard your local city council person can be bought off for a measly $1500. $5k vs $1.5k…just saying

    I sympathize with you. For all the “why should my money pay for…blah blah blah” remember, no one in this city even APPROACHES paying their fair share. We have a structural deficit. Thank you for caring enough about your property to try to improve the value of it, unlike all the bum 4-years-and-out renters in this city and the MD/VA slumlords holding onto deteriorating properties.

  • lordscarlet

    I’m on the fence here. I don’t really think the city should pay to move it, but I definitely agree that if a new pole is needed the homeowner should not have to pay for it. It’s an unfortunate situation.

    Unfortunately the due diligence, as mentioned, should have been performed before the sale. You can’t just assume that the city is going to take care of something like this.

  • lordscarlet

    @Dirty and @Jamie –

    I think the problem is that we’re not seeing the other side of the fence. From the description and the picture, I think perhaps there are some building/tree obstructions that make the angle awkward.

  • @lordscarlet – if that is the case then it seems like the logistical issues with their lot have to do with a lot more than the lightpole. But I’m not seeing this in anything they wrote here.

    They are saying they could park two cars there side by side if the lightpole wasn’t there. I just don’t get why the lightpole would prevent them from doing that, if you build a gate that can open around it as I described, and certainly you should be able to back int a lot even in a very narrow alley and be able to get around a pole in the center of your lot.

    I just don’t think they’re being very creative.

  • Yeah, sorry, but I have to side with the City. If the post is on city Property, it is unfortunate for you that it’s not close to you and your neighbor’s property line, but there might have been a reason for not putting it there in the past.

    The easisiet thing to do is just redo your back fence. To say you should have unobstructed access to the alley when tons of people in the city have no access to an alley at all is not a winning argument.

    I have sympathy for you, but these old houses always have some wrinkles in them. Asking your neighbors as City tax payers to pay for it is not fair…

  • I don’t get this either. Where are they supposed to park the cars…
    As much as I hate to admit it – I side with the City on this as well. Home owners should have done their due dilligence…no way should teh city pay to move this pole. There are better uses for that money – like rat control!

  • The City should pay for the new pole only if a new pole is needed now (or in the near future). If it can last for years and years in it’s current location and the only reason to buy a new on is this one will fall apart if moved, then you’ll have to pay it.

    Let’s recognize that the city is on Dire fiscal shape just like every local government – so asking them to shoulder this unnecessary cost is really not fair to everyone else – especially when important City services are being cut and City workers & teachers are loosing their jobs.

  • Wow, such misanthropy here toward the home-owners (and in general, I love a good misanthrope). The CITY erected this light post in a stupid location – big surprise. The city’s placement of the light is preventing a good thing: getting one or two cars off of DC streets. Why was this light placed here in the first place? Doesn’t the District have guidelines on where to place new light poles?
    Some of you people are acting like the District knows best: “Well, it was there before you got here, so it’s your own fault. Neener neener, screw you!”

  • I cannot see any reason why the city should move this for you. You can’t fully use your yard? No, you can’t fully use your yard the way you want to. Big difference. I also don’t see why it matters that the city installed the pole while the house was vacant. Maybe if they had put it there when it was clear that this backyard was being used for parking, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The light pole is annoying, sure, but this city really has better things to be spending $5k or $8k on. Honestly, I find it fairly disgusting that this is getting so much press and sympathy, all so you can avoid parking on the street. The city owes you nothing here.

  • Jamie,

    That is actually our back yard. We wanted to replace the back fence and maybe install a carport /w a garage door, but we can’t do that unless the pole is removed. The lot is large enough for 2 cars. The light pole more than doubles the cost of improving the backyard. Like Ro said, we don’t want to pay to fix the city’s mistake, let alone buy the city a new light pole.

  • Do you think the government is going to hire new people to move the pole? They are going to use DPW/DDOT employees, who are on the payroll already. It’s not like your “tax dollars” are directly moving the poll, it’s using a city department to accomplish a task to resolve a problem they created (once again). The DPW/DDOT employees are getting paid no matter what the task is. Should this be a priority, no, should it be remedied, yes. Charging $5k isn’t about cost, it’s to try to dissuade the homeowner from holding the city accountable.

    DC trash-men get paid for a whole day if they finish their work in 6 hours, why not have less trash-men working 8 hour days? That is wasting your tax dollars. Paying DC police overtime to monitor speed cameras is wasting your tax dollars. Paying human traffic directors to enforce don’t block the box on K Street, when the traffic lights could be re-timed for nothing is wasting your tax dollars.

  • Misha:

    Did you read my suggestions? Why do you need to remove the lightpost in order to replace the back fence and/or install a light post? You are very fortunate that there’s enough room on either side to get a car around. If there is more to the logistics than you have explained, then please enlighten me, but I really don’t see why a post in the middle of the yard, with enough room on either side to back a car around, prevents you from making your improvements and using the yard as you want.

  • Sorry – “and/or install a carport” not lightpost

  • Wait… why did you build the fence door there, im sure the light was there previously. Simply move the fence door.

  • These people really get around online. This is like the 3rd time I’ve read about this same light pole, ha

  • switch the left side of the fence and the gate door. probably will cost you under 200 bucks and take you one saturday to do. project done.

  • Dirty: If it was just one case like this – yeah the city employees get paid for a days work. But it isn’t. What happens is each year DPW or DDOT budget for what they want to do and then if it doesn’t get done because of misc. otherthings, it takes more staff time and contractor time. At the end of the year, they see that they needed more staff to get the work done and ask for more $$$ for the next year.

    Wether the city moves this one post or not will not effect the budget, but if they have a policy of doing “extra” work like this for probably hundreds of little things – that has a cost and needs to be budgeted.

  • sorry johnnyreb. But Im affraid you are plain wrong and probably know the people in this dispute im guessing. This light pole likely went up decades ago and as you can see from the picture the property isnt and probably never was set up for parking. Back then there was likely street parking in spades and the city has no obligation to place lights in a manor that people can park in their backyards anyway. That is not some sort or right of urban landowners. Also you dont know what kind of code issues there were back then regarding the length of wires between poles etc. And its likely the city notified the homeowner when the pole went up in the first place. I live in mount pleasent and in several narrow alleys the phone poles prevent homeowners from parking in their yards. But they knew it when they bought the place and they paid less for a house with no parking as a result.

  • @Jamie,

    Thank you for the suggestion about the bi-fold gate. I was unaware of them for fences. Sort of like folding closet doors, but bigger.

    The reason we can’t park now, is the gate prevents the door from opening past about about 11 o’clock. You can’t see it in the picture, but our neighbors on the right have a brick wall (actually the remains of a garage?) that borders their property and it goes right up to the alley property line, across from them is that garage that also goes right up to the alley property line. Between the both of them there is so little space in the alley that we are unable to either back in or forward into the space from the right. We spent a very unhappy evening discovering this. Since the gate cant open fully we can’t come in from the left either. The light pole sits between our fence and the alley, and I think it would also block us from the left even if we had a sliding barn type door on the fence. The light pole is far enough out from the fence that we can’t turn the car. If the pole was at the property line, like it should be then we would have enough space to actually turn in the thin alley, though we might have to move our fence in a bit. With the light pole there it doesn’t matter where the fence is.

    I might take the gate off the hinges this weekend and try just to be certain that we can’t make it in from the left side either. I’m pretty sure we can’t.

    also @dirty and @JohnnyReb thank you for understanding.

  • I have a similar problem. there is a fire hydrant in front of my house that prevents me from getting a sweet parking space right out in front of my house. Im working with the city to get it moved to the end of the block.

  • Jay’O – at the same time, once they get the money they spend the money. There is no incentive to control costs for fear of getting a smaller budget. The incentive is to spend everything and ask for more next year. If logic prevailed in government, you would get a budgeted amount of money, be given incentive to work within your budget and any excess would be “reserved for future obligations” within your department.

    The current fiscal problems in all municipal government is the result of “spend everything” government. If the additional revenue raised from increasing real estate taxes and transfer taxes from the most recent expansion, were reserved and not spent, we would not be in a position today of having to raise taxes because of decreasing revenue from property and transfer taxes.

    If the government collects more, it spends more, if it collects less, it raises taxes.

    In this particular case, moving a light pole 8 feet, should cost next to nothing, but time. Remove 8×2 foot of alley, trench alley, extend (or reduce) electrical source (not sure what the electric line costs), fill in trench, pour concrete ($5), re-brick alley with the bricks that were already there. Re-install existing light (or new light). The light will need to be replaced eventually, if it’s more energy efficient, it reduces utility costs, the payback period begins.

  • “they paid less for a house with no parking as a result.”

    This is really something that’s important to note in this conversation. Anything that existed at the time you bought your house is exactly that: pre-existing. Anything negative will negatively affect the value of your home in some way. Anything that makes your house less desirable, be it a run-down house nextdoor, or a light pole, or a streetlight in front of your bedroom window, or a decrepit alley, will make your house less desirable – and consequently less expensive.

    The price you paid for that house is, in some way, affected by that light pole as well as everything else around it. There should be no expectation that you can just get rid of that negative thing for free. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but it was there when you bought the house, it does not violate any laws, and you paid less for your house because of it.

    I have suggested a few ways to get around it, I haven’t seen a good explanation as to why you can’t do this. I think you just would rather it wasn’t there, even though you could live with it. That would be nice, but since you almost certainly paid less for your house because the pole was there, that would be getting something for free, at the expense of the taxpayers.

  • “The reason we can’t park now, is the gate prevents the door from opening past about about 11 o’clock.”

    Really don’t get this. How is the pole preventing you from parking now? There’s a fence that’s preventing you from parking now. You really can’t fit a car through that little gate. The fence needs to come down either way.

    “Between the both of them there is so little space in the alley that we are unable to either back in or forward into the space from the right.”

    So come in from the left??

    I think you need to post some pictures in the alley for me to understand this.

    I assume there is enough room between the light post and the other side of the alley for cars to drive through the alley. I mean, it’s not right in the middle of the alley is it?

    Given that, I am having a hard time imagining a situation that would prevent you from backing a car into your lot from either side (assuming the fence was gone).

    I have seen some extraordinarily tight parking spots in this city. From the way you’ve described it, your situation seems to be in the category of “not perfect but workable.”

    Unless you are driving a suburban, this should be no problem. And if you are driving a suburban then… umm… really?

  • this amounts to little more then trying to get the city to boost your home value gratis. Adding two parking spaces will bump the value of your home handsomely. Especially when others likely passed on the house you bought due to the fact they saw parking to be an issue. So my advice is to stop whining about it and pony up the costs. In the end this is your pet project and has nothing to do with the city at all. You should be happy they are even willing to do the work if you pay for it. Their answer very well could have. and probably should have been that the pole is just fine where it is and will not be moved

  • “that would be getting something for free, at the expense of the taxpayers”

    I wonder how you feel about public housing and welfare.

  • Dirty, wow. That’s really funny. If you really can’t difference between money spent on social programs for people living below the poverty line, and money spent making parking more convenient for an individual, then we have nothing to discuss.

  • Actually it’s trying to get he city to fix the city’s mistake. Why should it matter when the mistake was made? Once some one moves out then its no longer the city’s fault. So if there was a leaky water main under the alley that flooded their property from time to time, it would be OK because they knew about it before they bought the house? To hell with holding the city responsible for it’s mistakes?

  • Jamie- the reason the owner is not accepting any of the ways you’ve mentioned to get a car in their yard is clearly because it isn’t in her interests to do so. You see. the fact that this story is on this blog and has appeared elsewhere is because they are pleading their case to the public. trying to sway public opinion so the city just bites the bullet and moves the lamp post to avoid public scrutiny. The problem is their plan seems to have backfired. as most agree there is no reason for the city to pay for this. Its not as if the lamp post went after you moved in. ruining your plans to put a carport there. It. Was. There. When. You. Bought. It.

  • “Actually it’s trying to get he city to fix the city’s mistake”

    Find a rule that says lightposts must be placed on the property line, and I’ll agree with you.

    You know absolutely nothing about the rules regarding placement of ligthposts or the history of this one. How do you know there wasn’t a tree at what might be a better spot whenever this thing was installed? How do you know that the homeowner at the time didn’t actually ASK them to put it there for some reason, possibly security, that may not be clear decades later?

    I see no mistake that requires correction at city expense for the convenience of a new homeowner.

  • Jason. Jason. Buddy. How was it ever a mistake? As was mentioned in a previous comment the city has no responsibility to assure residents cars, past, or future, easy access to their backards. When this lamp post went in the yard was not set up for parking. The city was not wrong or mistaken in placing the light there. There is no rule they have to be on the property line. so it wasnt a mistake. it just goes to show you how autocentric our society is when people cant wrap their minds around this. My alley has at least 4 parking spaces blocked by lamp posts and or telephone poles. So I ask you all. If they go ahead and pick up the tab for these people. Can you imagine for a minute the flood of calls they will get to move literally hundreds of telephone poles and lamp posts all accross this city?.

  • The light pole should not have been placed there in the first place. Had someone purchased the house, and then the city came along to install the light pole then, you’d better believe the homeowner would have a fit and bring suit for ingress and egress rights. The fact that no one brought suit before should not matter.

    If that light pole is on the homeowner’s property, despite it being open and obvious, then the city is trespassing. There’s been a “taking” under the 5th amendment without just compensation. I seriously doubt eminent domain applies here (the light pole could be somewhere else in the alley) and the requirements for adverse possession are very high and probably not satisfied. In such a case, the city should pay to move the light pole. That’s what property law is people. Your neighbor built a fence 5ft onto your property, then you discover the error via a survey. Assuming the fence does not satisfy adverse possession requirements, the neighbor has to move the fence. He’s been trespassing on your property all along.

  • Chrystina,
    Rent a U-Haul, put it on your Amex and load up on insurance and then pick up a $5 sofa at a used furniture store and make like you are doing a deliver and then bang the crap out of the pole trying to back up. Then let the insurance company deal with paying to move it. Or get to know your garbage man and tell him about your problem, then give him a nice Christmas bonus and I sure you’ll get a nice banged up pole for New Years and by February you’ll be parking in your yard.

  • Seems it would be cheaper and easier to move the gate to one side or the other – rather than tearing up concrete to rewire the light.

  • “The light pole should not have been placed there in the first place.”

    You keep saying this, yet you haven’t given any reason why. Until you point to a rule governing placement of lightpoles, everything you say is empty.

    “Had someone purchase the house, and then the city came along…”

    Umm, obviously that happened at some point, unless the light pole went up before the house did. Since electricity wasn’t really around in 1910 or so that seems pretty unlikely.

    See, @anon, you don’t know anything about the rules or history, yet you keep making proclamations that some law has been violated. What law?

    It seems pretty clear the lightpost is not on their property. IN fact, in many cases, structures such as garages and porches actually are built on city property, which I found out when trying to build a deck on my garage in Mt. Pleasant years ago. My garage extended 2 feet onto city property. Thank god they didn’t make me fix that, as you are suggesting the city fix this pole.

  • anon 11:09 meet anon 11:01. There is abosultely no reson this is a mistake. Obviously the city would not have done this as things are today. And if they had the homeowners would be within their rights to ask them to place it to the side. But the city has no obligation to go around moving every lamp and pole that blocks someones backyard. And I have news for you. there will only be more cases like this as neighborhoods gentrify. You have a lot of old home owners who dont have cars or dont mind parking on the street. And the new homeowners will all be looking to add parking.
    Also If the city picks up the tab on this they will be setting a precident. future home buyers will think. “oh no biggy that this pole is here blocking my parking, the city will move it for me”. When they should be thinking “this house doesn’t have parking. Ill look for a house that does”

  • I think you should pay to have it moved as a business investment. I think if you pay to have it moved, rent the new parking space to someone else, you could depreciate the cost of moving the pole against your taxable income from renting the new parking space out. After a few years, it will have paid for itself.

  • i don’t believe dc laws mandate that the right of way to the alley must be the same width as the property. i think its only about 4 feet.

    anyway, if you can get the car to fit, a rollup style garage door might be a solution.
    a lot of people use this solution.

  • I think a good way for the city to nip these peoples attempt to sway public opinion in the bud would be as follows. Do a tally of how much it would cost to move every light pole and telephone pole that blocks someones parking access. Then ask the tax payers if they would rather pay the MILLIONS it would cost to do so. Or instead build a rollercoaster on top of the convention center. I vote for the roller coaster

  • Jaime – i was just giving you a little jab, but if you were as concerned about the fraud in those social programs as you are about moving the light, maybe the gov’t would work to eliminate the fraud. There is little incentive to reduce the fraud.

    As for a homeowner getting the city to increase its property value, wouldn’t that lead to increased property taxes, a potential increase in future transfer taxes. Oh no, not something that would make sense. But you aren’t going to park on the street, where you might leave your car so we can ticket you on street cleaning days.

  • So many angry Anonymouses, and a Jamie! I don’t know the homeowners, nor do I even care for the H Street area. Why must the light post remain where it is, forever and ever Amen? Because the city placed it there years ago (well after the advent of electricity and the horseless carriage), it must remain in that spot indefinitely? So what if someone’s alley in Mt. Pleasant, developed before cars, is too narrow or compact to allow parking. We are living in the present, and people now have cars. Alleys are now meant to allow for parking behind houses, along with trash pick-up.

    I bet some of you Anonymouses are the first to compliment a GDoN house that has been gutted and stripped of its original trim and floorplan (“we live differently now! We need light and open entertaining areas!”), yet you think that this alley off of H Street should remain frozen in time… Sheesh!

  • Dirty- Bottom line is you are looking at this as a singular case. Where, hell, even if the city has no obligation to move it (and they don’t) they should just be sports and do it anyway. But what the city realizes that you dont. Is that if they do it for these people. (who are brats in my honest opinion) They have to essentially do a citywide millions of dollars overhaul. Establishing a new SOP all together that says backyard parking is a god given right and that the city has to undo any and all infrastructure that has blocked access in the citys 200 year history. and in short. Homey don’t play that. so to the brats. shut up and put up.

  • Johnnyreb. Nobody here is saying it cant or shouldn’t be moved. just that its not the citys problem and shouldnt be on our dime. This is a homeowner problem only. as the light works just fine. the point about the narrow alleys in mtp was not about car access to the alley but that as a result the telephone poles are very close to the houses and also prevent a lot of cars from getting in their backyards from the alley. if they werent there or if the alleys were wider they could manuever them in. Should the city bury all the phne lines in alleys like this so the private residents can park easier?

  • We shouldn’t be crucified for simply requesting the city move a light pole that’s in a stupid location. Any homeowner would be trying the same thing. It never hurts to ask. I simply wanted to know if anyone else had this problem and how they resolved it. I only knew of the online request form. We were fully aware of the problem when we bought the house, and realize we might end up paying 100% of the costs (though I personally don’t think we should have to pay for a brand new light pole). I guess it comes down to a boundary survey and property law. But I do want to thank people for their suggestions (from rollup garage doors to renting a U-Haul). We’re simply trying to improve our home and the neighborhood.

  • Christina-

    You’re not being crucified. You opted to take your case to a public forum. Unfortunately, at least here, you seem to have lost. The overwhelming opinion here is that your request is not supported and improper.

    How, may I ask, does moving the light pole improve the neighborhood? Your property yes, sure, but the neighborhood?

  • Actually [email protected]:47 is an Ass.

  • I don’t think there’s any rule that says light posts can only be placed on property lines. Just move the gate to one side or the other.

  • I meant that as a general statement. We try to clean up the surrounding streets and alley. But it would increase our property values, which in turn, increase the neighbors/neighborhood. Regardless, public support, or lack thereof, won’t solve the issue. I was hoping someone knew of some arcane property law or other forum besides the online request form. I guess people just pay off their garbage men or ram a U-Haul into the pole.

  • I hope my posting is not being taken as “crucified.” Yes, everyone in your shoes would probably try to get the city to pay for it.

    The answer that you have received, both from the city and in the forum of public opinion, is that that’s probably not going to happen, and the opinion of many is that it’s not even reasonable that the city should pay. Even if it was considered “reasonable” you still would probably have no recourse but to pay for it yourself.

    I still believe, based on the picture and the discussion, that there are alternatives to moving the pole that would still enable you to park if money is a great concern.

    If moving the pole makes a big difference in terms of convenience then spend the money. It will probably come back when you sell the house.

  • @Chrystna most people don’t pay people off to destroy things for their convenience, most people suck it up and pay for it.

    Some friends of mine need to move a telephone pole so they can park in their back yard. They have a smart car. Their back yard is only large enough to accomodate a very small car and nobody’s ever thought of parking there before. One of the things they liked about the smart car is that they would be able to reconfigure things so they could park in their back yard. I don’t think they ever had any expectation that the city would pay for this, and since it’s an actual utility pole it will probably cost them more than you for this job. This is no different than your situation, really: they want to use the yard for a purpose that it wasn’t previously used for and they need to make an expensive alteration to do so.

  • @Chrystina, if you’re in Old City 1 (which I think you are, no?) arcane property law is more likely to be against you than with you. (See: people all over Capitol Hill getting ticketed for parking in their driveways as an example.)

  • I vote roller coaster!

  • while its reasonable to expect the homeowner to shell out cash for MOVING the light pole, its is wholly and undeniably unreasonable for them to be expected to shell out cash for a NEW pole. that’s crazy people.

  • @Anonymous

    Why? Can’t you imagine something that is perfectly serviceable as it is, but cannot be moved? Obviously you’ve never been involved in a home improvement project.

    The pole, most likely, is perfectly fine where it is for 20 more years but be in bad enough shape that it can’t be moved/rewired safely. So why should the city pay for replacing something that really doesn’t need replacing yet.

  • im sure the premium for a parking space in that area is at least 7k (a conservative estimate). So consider you likely paid at least 14k less for this house than you would have if it had come with 2 car parking access. If you are adding two spaces you will get a great return on the 5k investment to have it moved. Given thats the case its the least you can do to repay the city for replacing a perfectly good light pole.

  • Chrystina –

    You are the only homeowner bothered by a light pole that, from everything I know of DC property law, has every right to be where it is. You were offered the opportunity to move it at your cost, an offer that you are not necessarily entitled to, yet your sense of entitlement runs on. Because you knew about the pole being there before closing, you should have through your due diligence discovered if it was possible to move and at what cost. Then, the burden is on you to take that possibility and any following costs into account when negotiating the final price for your house. From what you’ve offered, that does not appear to have happened, and that is your fault.

    Now, because of frustration brought on by your lack of action, your sense of entitlement is driving you to rationalize that the city, Pepco, or whoever should foot some of the bill for this. Unfortunately, the only party who has failed here is you.


  • First of all, I don’t really believe the slippery slope argument here. I don’t really think there are mass amounts of poles around the city that need to be moved.

    If Mischa takes the gate off and still can’t get in, then the pole needs to be moved. I favor the city moving the pole, or at the very least, paying for the replaced pole. Personally, $5-8k for moving a light pole seems a bit ridiculous. And, if the pole needs replaced anyway, why should they have to pay for a new pole? Also, if it needs to be replaced, why can’t the city just move it a few feet? They’d already be using the manpower and time, and the cost wouldn’t be that much more.

    Whether they are actually *able* to get it moved is a whole other story. Maybe the solutions for the gates (sliding, folding) are the best option, if they work. At our place, the landlord has put in a garage door (just the door) and it rolls up into itself. I don’t know how much that would cost, but it could be a great option. Not only is there a barrier, but it might even open up the possibility for 2 cars to be parked.

  • Wouldn’t it be much cheaper and easier to move your wooden ‘gate’ to either left or right side?

  • Silence Dogood?

    How do you know they failed before closing to negotiate a lower price and what sense of entitlement are you talking about? All they are asking is for advice for dealing with the city, and other people’s experiences in similar situations. Are you talking about their sense of entitlement to the full use of their property or perhaps their sense entitlement of getting the city to remove it’s property from their land?

  • Jason –

    If they had taken steps to account for this, then she would not complaining about the cost because that would have been accounted for either by the seller paying to cure the situation, through cash, or, most likely, by a price discount so she could do so.

    That might not have been completely evident from the initial post, but she has shared that subsequently.

  • For all the anti’s, while I can tell you don’t like these people, your logic is extremely skewed. Not liking someone and the city “being broke” is not a good reason not to fix an obvious problem. While a nominal fee should be required of a homewoner ($100’s not thousands) just so people aren’t willy nilly requesting services, requiring the homeowner to pay in full is ridiculous.

    Do I have to pay for my lead line replacement to my house because the city was stupid enough to put in lead lines and too lazy to remove them? The city and dc wasa don’t want to pay to replace the lines and my broke a$$ neighbors don’t want their water bills increased $1 even though it might prevent 10000 kids from growing up stupid and violent from lead poisoning. It was a preexisting condition, but it’s wasa’s line. The lines in my house are all copper. So why should I have to pay wasa to upgrade them before my kid is born?

    Is the lady who’s house burned down screwed because the city and WASA can’t keep sufficient water pressure to the hoses? Yes, should she have to pay to have water pump placed on her street? F no.

    The stamp tax these people paid alone should cover the relocation of the light. Why should the other neighbors on the street benefit from not having a light behind their house, when you do.

    Go through your neighborhood and take pictures where the lights are/not blocking access. If you can find a majority of lights not blocking access, then you find a lawyer. The city will find fighting you in court to be more expensive than moving the light. It’s the path of least resistance.

  • Jason – Chrystina herself even says above that she’s not sure if the pole is on their property. Again, seems like something that should have been sorted out ahead of time. (My guess – again assuming this is Old City 1 – is that it is not on her property, so the fact that the city is even allowing them to move it at their own expense is surprising to me)

  • Thank you Elliot, Jason and Ragged Dog. That is exactly the type of advice we were looking for. Time to take a field trip through the alleys of DC.

  • Ragged Dog –

    Wait, are you arguing that the city should “fix” something that’s not objectively broken? Chrystina was given the right to fix something — probably something on city property — at her own expense that’s an annoyance, not a danger. Having a light pole that’s in a bothersome place is not the equivalent to having insufficient water pressure to put out a housefire.

    I understand some of your frustrations, but your use of hyperbole here is uncalled for. She is not in any danger, except the danger of having to deal with the reality that she’s going to have to pay for some kind of fix to be able to park her cars in her yard, be that moving the pole, moving her gate, or something else.

  • WOW! Jamie is a real Do you have a miserable life or something? I really never understand people with such hatred.

  • kck –

    How is stating that someone should pay to deal with their own problem instead of shifting the duty to the taxpayers of DC a characteristic that makes him/her a pr*ck?

    I really never understand people with such a sense of entitlement to think otherwise.

  • The first question you have to answer is whether the pole has a right to be there or not. For th pole to be there, the city has to have acquired an easement or compensated a past owner of the house for the rights to that square foot of ground. This being DC, there’s a chance that the city didn’t do either, but if the pole has been there long enough, then it seems like the past owner waived compensation rights for you.

    Have you considered tapping it to subsidize your electric bills? Or hooking a clothesline to it?

  • Do you always defend di

  • And speaking of “crucified,” the pole could form the basis for a bitchin’ Easter display.

  • @Silence Dogood If you read the original poster’s comments you would see that they are not stating that “someone should pay to deal with their own problem” They are trying to get advice for getting the city to fix a problem that the city caused, just like in Ragged Dog’s examples. Because you seem to believe the city never makes mistakes, and the passing of time would justify any mistake (which of course the city does not make). What Jamie seems to believe is that they should just “lump it” and deal with it and be happy that the city has not taken more of their property.

  • Silence Do- the nature of government is citizen or societal problems being shifted from the citizen to the taxpayer. Look at our justice system. Government is supposed to help all equally. Why is this light there in the first place? Safety, security, sanity… when the government decided it was going to install it, it made it their problem. The homeowner has every right to lobby for its relocation. It’s not entitlement, they paid transfer taxes, they pay real estate taxes, presumably income taxes, sales taxes, etc… It’s not free, those that do not pay taxes and demand service are the entitled ones you speak of.

  • I refuse to write another comment until either of the following occurs:

    1) the weeds are pulled and the rear of this yard is landscaped and made more presentable and suitable for a follow up PoP post.

    2) we break 200 comments on this post.

    Seriously, there’s more than likely a utility easement back there, and I suspect this fence was erected beyond its set back requirements on the property’s land survey which the owner may well have in their closing documents.

    Now, c’mon let’s go for 200 !

  • Jason –

    I’m not saying that the city doesn’t make mistakes. What I’m saying is that this is not a problem for the city to pay to fix. The pole is reasonably placed (in that it’s not dangerous), Chrystina was aware of it when they bought the house, and Chrystina did not bargain for concessions from the seller to account for the costs she would incur to have it moved. The city, though it has no requirement to do so, is offering to let her move it at her expense, which seems pretty reasonable considering there is no obligation. In fact, the city was not acting unreasonably because the light pole does not disturb the backyard — it makes it difficult to turn that yard into parking space. So, no — that’s not a mistake in placing it there. It’s not like the city placed the light pole there knowing that Chrystina was in the process of converting the space, though even then I don’t think there is any legal obligation for them to put it somewhere else if they don’t decide to do so.

    If you read her later posts, she very much is trying to get the city (or Pepco) to pay for some/all of the movement. With regard to Ragged Dog, the examples used in that post were for hyperbole. Lead pipes poisoning kids or poor water pressure allowing houses to burn down are not the same as a light pole that makes it hard to turn a yard into parking places.

    Finally, Jamie telling her to “lump it” and deal with the reality that the city isn’t going to pay for the movement doesn’t make Jamie a pr*ck. It makes Jamie a realist.

  • Dirty –

    Then, should we simply pay 100% of our income in taxes and let the government deal with all of life’s challenges on our behalf?

  • I think if everyone paid the same taxes, everyone would be equally involved in the political process, but since we don’t all pay at least some income tax, class warfare has poisoned the political landscape. This particular life challenge involves the placement of a government light and therefore by default must involve the government. I clearly am not an advocate for more government, but now that we have more government, we should hold it accountable and not tolerate idiotic placement of lights in an alley. Government does try to deal with all of life’s challenges already, and in doing so, creates more problems. Public housing and crime is a perfect example.

  • Dirty –

    The government is involved. They have agreed to allow Chrystina to move the light, which by all measures seems to be properly (if not conveniently) placed on land where they have the right to place or authorize the placement light poles. That’s a concession to Chrystina.

    As for the cost, that should be placed on Chrystina, who is the only one impacted more than tangentially by its current placement and is also the only one who looks to benefit more than tangentially from its movement.

    General statements about the political process are not needed here. Chrystina does not seem to be underrepresented because she was successful in obtaining that permission. Besides, she’s a newcomer to the H St. corridor, which stereotypically leads one to believe that she’s not exactly part of a discrete and insular minority.

  • You are under the assumption that the light was correctly placed/installed, I am assuming it was not. As for cost, government incurs and forces taxpayers to incur costs all the time for things they are not impacted by directly, why should the government be held to a different standard than the taxpayer in this particular case? Do the majority of Americans fall under ADA? Does every building have to comply with ADA?

  • Dirty –

    What leads you to assume that it was not? Were she not changing the use of her yard from yard to parking, what leads you to believe that the light pole was improperly placed? If she was only going to use her yard as a yard, what is the problem?

    It seems to me that she is just a transplant into the neighborhood that wants to change the traditional use of her backyard to boost her property value for when she inevitably flips the house when the area becomes trendier. I’m guessing it’s not new construction, so it seems to me that previous homeowners who wanted to use the yard as a yard like the rest of the neighborhood traditionally has without any issue.

    So, if she wasn’t trying to fundamentally change the use of that property, the light would not be a problem as it has seemingly not been before Chrystina showed up.

  • The tree adjacent to the light in the picture, the fact that the majority of all other alley lights I’ve ever seen are on property lines, and this picture showing lights on property lines in other places around H St, NE

    Why marginalize her with the use of transplant and flipper? What was there first the yard or the light? The city created the problem by placing the light in an alley in the middle of the property.

  • How much do you think your value will increase if you put in the carport you’re planning? If it is more than the cost of the work than I don’t see a problem with you paying for it. It’s like any other home improvement project that a homeowner takes on.

  • Jamie’s a pr1ck because he’s an unpleasant person, not because he’s a realist.

  • Wasn’t there a bill before the council recently to reduce light pollution? Let’s just pass that! Knock down all the light poles and hire homeless guys to stand outside with flashlights instead, then GIVE US A ROLLER COASTER!

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Please stop personal attacks. Attack the comment not the person. Thanks.

  • Dirty –

    You’re asking the wrong question. Whose rights came first? The city’s for the alley or the property owner’s to its use?

    In most places, the answer is that the property owner cedes an easement to the city and his/her neighbors for use of their slice of the alley. In DC, it doesn’t work that way, particularly in the portion of the city covered by the L’efant Plan. It’s possible, though unlikely, that she’s an exception, but in that case there would have been an easement shown when she reviewed title.

    In DC, the city can just do a lot more things relative to “public space” than most cities can, thanks to this key difference within the Old City. You can wring your hands over “should” all you’d like, but the fact of the matter is that there is no reason the city must do anything here.

    I’m not marginalizing her at all. I’m well in favor of those who want to gentrify. However, there’s a price of admission to change the way you use the property that has been used otherwise for years. This is no different than getting an easement to change a curb and sidewalk to put in a driveway in most other places. That’s not the city’s job, either.

    None of this even begins to address the topic that a previous owner might have lobbied to have the light put there specifically, say, to shine onto their yard so it was usable at night. No one knows the history of the light, so pontificating on placement of lights in alleys generally is immaterial. The issue at hand is what the city’s duty with respect to moving the light from its current placement is or isn’t.

  • “None of this even begins to address the topic that a previous owner might have lobbied to have the light put there specifically, say, to shine onto their yard so it was usable at night.”

    So installation for personal gain would be okay, but relocation for personal gain is not?

  • Sure, a request for specific placement is fine provided that they did so within the rules and regulation of the city. But, that’s not really what I was pointing out — my point was that there’s no way to know if it was the city or a previous homeowner that decided to put the light there, only a knowledge of where it is now. However, placing a light in point A over point B doesn’t really cost anything else. Moving an existing light to a new location has a cost that is not otherwise incurred.

    So, it’s not really a question of one being better or worse than the other. Instead, it’s a matter of one having a neutral cost among the two options and the other having a cost only in one case.

  • Wow,

    123 comments over an unfortunately placed light pole.

  • blester01

    We have the same issue in our backyard on Randolph. The light pole is in the dead center of our backyard so we cannot put in a parking spot presently. Maybe we can team up to get the problem resolved for both of us. We were led to believe when we bought our place it is a Pepco issue, and that it should have been installed on the property line in the first place.

    Maybe you guys are correct that a previous owner lobbied to have it sit in the center of the lot, but I think that is a stretch. Since when does a public utility listen to customers?

  • @blester01 Never, but even if it did you would just have to “lump it” to quote Jason.

  • Talk to Tommy Wells – that man’s staff can work miracles.

  • @ Line Guy, I believe that both Verizon and Comcast are required to remove unused lines and to move used lines to an appropriate height. If you don’t get anywhere with those two, try your council member.

  • I also think the Homeowners should do a workaround solution rather than pressure the city (through all form of media! I hope one of you is a PR person, or you should be!…but I also hope you never do this again b/c its a little much and really comes off at priviliged whining). Do a roll-up garage, they’re all over the city, its no big deal. You can’t have everything exactly the way you think is best when you live in a crowded city that has to prioritize projects. DC was stupid for putting the pole there (though I haen’t seen pictures of the alley, so maybe there was a reason why they put it there—or maybe there was a reason back whenever it was they put it there), but its been there for a while and you have to wait out the cycle.

    Also, you may have better photos around, but I am staring at this photo and can’t for the life of me figure out how you would get a car in that yard (light pole or not) with that fence. How does that fence open? Obviously it can’t be through that person-sized door in the middle. Is that a hinge all the way on the right? If so, it looks like the fence would swing open and hit that brick structure (which also appears to be either on your property or on common ground / DC land in the alley).

  • I know this thread is likely done. But on my walk home last night I made it a point to travel some alleys. I counted 5 backyards with blocked parking access. 3 telephone poles and 2 lamp posts. And this was in a 2 block alley walk in woodley park. Consider that a parking space in woodley park likely adds 30k to the price of a house. then consider the city sets a precedent that they will move inconvenient lamp posts and utilities at owners request. Or as some other unrealistic commenter suggested a small few hundred dollar fee. Would not every single homeowner with this problem be putting in for the same request knowing they are adding thousands to the value of their home? At the very least nobody would sell their house without doing. Flippers would be looking for houses with the problem knowing the city will be taking on a project pro bono that will add thousands to their investment. etc etc. The city would be inundated. Its a huge undertaking that the city has no obligation to perform.

  • The only comment here that has resembled a constructive idea came very early in the thread where it was suggested to claim ingress/egress rights.

    As a property owner, you have the right of ingress/egress from your property to a public right of way. That basically means that the city can’t build walls completely surrounding your property (an extreme example, but you get the gist). Whether this right also implies the right to vehicular ingress/egress is something a land-use attornety could help you with. Presumably, you can walk out your front door onto a public street, and that might be where the city ends it’s reasoning. However, if the lack of vehicular ingress/egress to the alley is imposing an undue hardship on you that is preventing your peaceful enjoyment of your property, then the city may in fact be responsible for fixing it. I don’t know, I’m not an attorney, but this case may not be so cut and dry if you can prove an undue hardship because of your lack of vehicular ingress/egress. Failing that, though, I think the argument falls back on what other people have said about due dilligence prior to buying the place.

    Maybe you should pony up a few bucks first to talk to a land use attorney about the ingress/egress issue. It might save you a headache later, and will certainly be better advice than you get on an blog thread.

  • Chrystina: Welcome to the neighborhood. I hope you like this areas as much as I do. Having said that, I’m sorry that I can’t support your quest to get the City to pay for what amounts to a private benefit for you.

    First of all, it seems that you found the proper agency and contact person to get your question answered. Since you did not like the answer, you looked for ways to do an end-run around the system. You shouldn’t be surprised that you were smacked down. Contrary to what some people have said here, that’s the way a well-run government should work in a democracy. Nobody should get special treatment just because they know somebody, are a celebrity, or get a lot of publicity. The fact that you did not like the answer doesn’t make it a wrong answer.

    There has been no evidence that the light was “incorrectly” located, or that it is on your property. Even if the light was not placed in an ideal location, there could be a very good reason why the pole is there. A sewer line runs behind my house, and that would probably affect siting. Even if there is no good reason why it is exactly there, that does not obligate the City to move it. What if it were on the property line and you wanted it moved to where it is now? Should all of us as City taxpayers be obliged to pay for your whim?

    Contrary to what others have said here, the City does not have a staff of people that do this kind of work. They hire contractors that have to be paid for each job they do. Since this change benefits only you, it does not seem unreasonable to ask that you pay it. The increase in your property value for adding two off-street parking spaces is considerably more than $7,000. Also, there are likely alternatives, such as reconfiguring or changing your fence, as others have pointed out.

    Finally, I am sure you are smart enough not to actually try tampering with the light yourself. Although the US Attorney’s office would probably not prosecute you, the arrest procedure would be unpleasant and the City would likely sue you for the cost to replace the light – in the same place.

  • Despite a stunning 133+ comments here on this post, something not written about yet is the responsible and proper use of a utility easement to begin with.

    Something to think about as well with whether the fence was also erected responsibly and proper with a permit and boundary survey with restricting set backs.

  • so many people divided, but no one knows the correct answer. it depends whether that pole is on city property or not. no point discussing it any further.

  • @Larchie – The right to access attack is useless. In addition to a court case and attorney costing more than the cost of relocating the light, the only thing a court could give you is an access easement. An access easement provides owners of landlocked property reasonable access to their property over a prior owner’s land. The lot in this case is not landlocked, there is reasonable access even with the streetlight, and other conditions (such as previous common ownership of parcels) necessary to create a constructive easement are not met in this case.

  • There is not reasonable access as they are unable to park their car. How is not being able to park your car on your land reasonable access?

  • @Anonymous 12:44 and 2:26

    This issue has nothing to do with a utility easement. A utility easement is permission you grant to a utility to allow them to put their facilities on your property (pipes, wires, etc.) and allows them reasonable access to your property to maintain them and read meters. If you refuse to grant them an easement, you do not get utility service.

    The City does not intentionally put street lights on private property. The City does not need an easement to put up a light on its own property.

  • Why doesn’t she just get a little car?

    I drive an Accord that corners like the freaking Titanic, but I’ve rented / borrowed little Mini Coopers, Scion xA’s, Volvo C30s and smart cars before, and all of them could make turns in one go that would be a 7-point process to do in my big Honda. I personally choose to *own* a big car because I like being able to move lots of people and stuff, but if I had to choose between parking the big car I liked more on the street or a little car I liked less in my own private, reserved off street space, I’d be buying a little car tomorrow!

    And why does she have to have a gate at all? Why not just have the parking pad area open to the alley, and install a separate fence in front of it for the yard area, if there is enough yard left at that point.

    I think the problem here is that this couple has only really seen parking done in one particular way in similar properties, and just isn’t getting creative enough. And posting an address to be able to see the alley in googlemap satellite mode would be helpful!

  • If you buy a house that has a light pole blocking the end of the property and then expect the government/utilities to change it… Sure, it might not be the best placement but if they have a legal right (easement, etc.) to put it there then you should be paying for any removal and be thankful that they are nice enough to do it at all. I’d be happy if the government offices next to my home moved so I could have a nice window instead of a wall but unfortunately…

  • You might actually be able to get the city to move it, since the light pole looks like it is in violation of the the DC DOT’s own Design & Engineering guidelines.

    “All lighting in residential areas shall be installed to minimize light shining
    on or negatively affecting the neighboring residents. ”

    Having a light pole in the middle of your property seems to be fairly negatively affecting you.

    Good luck! You will most likely need to litigate.

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