Dear PoP – What Can Be Done About Overhanging Branches

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“Dear PoP,

Do you know if there is anything that can be done regarding overhanging branches from a private yard? I’m thinking specifically of the large overgrown tree on the corner of 11th and Columbia Rd, NW which interferes with the bus stop, as well as pedestrian traffic, especially in bad weather. Since it’s private property, is there anything the city, or neighbors can do?”

This is an interesting question. I believe if the branches overhang a neighbors property the neighbor is allowed to trim back the branches from their property line. But this is different because it seems the branches are overhanging public property. I wonder if WMATA would be in charge of trimming it back if it interferes with the bus stop? Could the city trim it back or have the owner trim it back?

Any suggestions?

24 Comment

  • Walk up to the door, knock, find out who the owner/manager is, and ask them to trim the tree. Am I missing something here?

    • +1…but rest assured the preferred method of attack is to spend 5 days blogging about it, followed up by a dozen emails and calls to a variety of city departments spread over a week or two so that the tax payer can spend a couple grand in lost time and services paying a couple guys to come out here and trim a branch back.

      Didn’t you get the memo? Taking the initiative and doing something for ones self, confronting an issue head on is so pre 2000.

  • I believe it is (or should be) the homeowner’s responsibility to keep landscaping trimmed. Code ususally requires 7′ clear height over sidewalks for pedestrians.

    Call 311 and ask them if it’s a public works issue. That’s what that number is for – city services.

  • I had a tree that overhanged a neighbor’s yard. He threatened to sue me unless I took it down. I looked into the law and found out that if my tree had branches over his yard he had the right to trim them as long as the tree was not mortally wounded in the process. If my trees branches fell off into his property he was responsible for cleanup and not me. If my tree fell on his yard it was his problem and not mine. I know this review is oversimplified but you get the picture.

    So if these branches are overhanging then trim away. If they are overhanging on a public ROW then you may need the city’s permission to do the work. I would say ask the owner of the tree to do it or you can trim it in the cover of darkness. I would even trim my street trees in the day although it was illegal to do this. But the neighbors were thankful and I got a lot of thanks from them.

    • I too had a very large tree that overhung a neighbor who wanted to do a landscaping scheme that needed more sun. He and I split the cost of tree trimming – he paid for the overhang part and I paid for general tree maintenance (which needed to be done). It was a win-win. A lot of this stuff would be solved if neighbors would talk to each other civilly and not yell, assume the worst, threaten to sue, etc.

      • +1 I did the same. we’re both happier that the tree was taken care of.

        to even bring up a lawsuit before talking to the owner is ridiculous.

  • Reminds me that I need to cut back some branches overhanging a sidewalk to help some of my taller neighbors.

  • That tree is a face attacker!

  • Ortho. Weed-B-Gone.

  • Are you people that lazy that you can’t walk on the grass and need concrete under your feet?

    • Seriously John? You think being lazy is the issue here? So the people that leave their empty trash cans in the middle of the sidewalk are fine too, it’s just that us lazy people can’t walk around them? And the people that don’t pick up after their pets are okay, we’re just to lazy to walk around that as well? The issue isn’t being lazy, it’s taking care of your property and having some common courtesy and sense.

    • Tell that to people with walkers and wheel-chairs. The obliviousness is astounding.

  • Walk up to the tree and snapp off the offending branches and drop them over into the owners yard…

  • Please do not use any herbicide. Seriously PoP, if you need to borrow loppers and trim it back yourself, get a hold of me. I will probably go to help you.

    I would first ask the home owner if he can trim it and if not, volunteer to do it yourself. Putting it into 311 will take so long, probably another growth season.

  • I use that bus stop everyday and don’t feel like the tree prevents me from getting to the stop. The tree is a tangle of flowers (they look like roses) and blackberries. It would be a shame to be out of freshly picked blackberries just because someone doesn’t want to walk a few extra inches to avoid it.

  • POP – seriously, you are a blogger. You should have relationships at this point with DCRA and other city agencies so that you can place a single call and find out the answers to these types of questions. Then you can post those answers ON YOUR BLOG and provide a service to your readers rather than just have a series of uninformed musings from the general population.

    You could do it on your cell phone while you are walking around town taking pictures of gardens of the day.

    • Why don’t you do it yourself, if you care so much? It would be much more constructive than telling other people what to do. Your sense of entitlement is misdirected at the least.

    • As long as it took you too write this entry, you could have called… which I just did and DCRA is going to handle it.

      Larchie is correct about the code so the city will trim it back if the owner doesn’t get wind of this.

      Besides, all this, “knock on the door” stuff is just silly. Why do you think this is even in a blog. Because the owner either doesn’t care or thinks its not a problem.

  • Fail…

    Those aren’t the only two possible reasons. David above stated this was a good reminder to trim his trees overhanging the sidewalk. Point is, people lose track of items, don’t notice things when they live there everyday etc. Not everyone is purposely trying to poke you self obsessed, entitled hipsters in the eye and make your lives unbearably difficult by having the temerity to have let their tree grow beyond their property line.

    Knocking on the door is silly huh? Being an adult and confronting your problems is silly huh? Well, you answered your own question of \why this is even in a blog\…because people like yourself are too delicate, self obsessed and obviously socially inept and unable to simply knock on someones door, introduce themselves and ask them nicely to trim their bushes.

    • You missed my first post on this silly matter…

      “Walk up to the tree and snapp off the offending branches and drop them over into the owners yard…”

      Nothing delicate about me. And I am sure if a complete stranger comes to your door and says, I am at the bus-stop (not your neighbor) will you, blah, blah, blah…

      SILLY and dangerous.


      • Hahaha…hold on while I laugh for a second. You think politely knocking on someones door is silly and dangerous, but a complete stranger breaking off branches on someones tree, and throwing them in their yard isn’t?

        Dear lord…you don’t really function well in public do you?

        Take a guess at which one of those two actions is going to incite anger?

        I can’t say with complete 100% assurances how someone would react to someone politely asking them to trim their trees, but I can guarantee you with 100% certainity that “your way” is going to result in a dangerous confrontation between you and the homeowner. So go ahead, be my guest. I will laugh tomorrow when I read in the paper that “blogger frankie james got the piss beaten out of him by an irate homeowner who watched him break his tree”.

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