Dear PoP – Non-snow Sidewalk of Shame nominee

“Dear PoP,

The bushes on this portion of 17th street between Florida and V St NW hang over approximately 2/3 of what is otherwise a nice, wide sidewalk. This leaves only a very narrow passing lane that gets difficult in the mornings with dog-owners and commuters often getting tangled. I can’t remember them ever being pruned back. The owners must be obligated to keep the sidewalk clear, right? Do you or your readers know anything about this home or what recourse is available?”

Yup the business/home owner is responsible for keeping it clear. I believe fines are given after a warning. Anyone know for sure? Anyone deal with a similar situation?

29 Comment

  • Could you call Urban Forestry and ask them to cut the junipers? They are trees, right?

  • Borrow a neighbor’s hedge clippers and have at it. While my bet is that the homeowner is legally responsible, it’s not even worth the time. This is a situation that screams for self-help.

  • I think the first step is a nice note in the mailbox. “Love the greenery, but it’s getting hard to pass. Please prune. Thanks, Joe down the block.”

    In related news, am I wrong to be annoyed by neighbors who plant in the treebox? I have to step over/on their plantings while I’m rassling my toddler in and out of the carseat on the passenger side. Wouldn’t be it be better just to maintain grass in that space?

    • NO… stop whinning. Flowers are good.

    • There was a post around these parts about urban forestry and it was there that I learned planting in tree boxes is bad for the trees

      • Yep – flowers in tree boxes is actually bad for the trees (
        Flowers steal nutrients from young trees and because the flowers need more water than the trees – it hurts them.

        • we have a garden in our treebox…which we water and fertilize regularly. We also got our treebox tree professionally fertilized by an arborist and it’s doing great. So it’s not all bad. You have to provide extra water and nutrients if you garden next to the tree, but I figure it’s not so different from our yard, where our dogwood tree (also fertilized) is surrounded by flowers as well.

          • Ok, so how do you feel about people walking in your garden while trying to get into/ out of parked cars? I wish I didn’t have to, but parking is tight enough on my block that I can’t just pull up/ back 5 feet to avoid opening the passenger doors onto a planted stretch of treebox.

          • We have an area with rocks (not planted) on the side next to the cars so you can get by…this is usually where we park our own car so if it gets overgrown we’re also affected. The tree box has a border of wood timbers, so people don’t usually walk through it, and the part in full sun has roses so dogs don’t go into it either. Plus the roses totally shade out the ground so there are no weeds to deal with.

            My husband and I are total plant lovers so probably go a bit overboard with the flowers, but so far no one has complained about it 🙂

        • So do weeds.
          If I leave the treebox in front of my house alone, and maybe just turn the hose on it after I’m done with my own yard 1st, is weeds will grow in the box. Grass, lambs quarters, and a bunch of stuff I can’t identify. And dog poop. That shows up on a regular basis, and I seriously do not want to pick up anyone elses poop.
          So what emotional reason would I have to pick up errant poop, pull weeds, and bother going to the Home Despot to spend my own money to buy mulch? Being able to put a few of my own plants in the same box. If I have a few odd flowers on the edges of a box with a small tree then I’m willing to clean it out and maintain it. Boxes with older trees are pointless to maintain with flowers. The tree chokes the box with roots, at that point decorate with big rocks.

    • Emmaleigh504

      It doesn’t annoy me when people plant in the tree box, but I also don’t try too hard to step around the plants if I need to get to my car from that side. I like the flowers, plants, etc, but I am a human and my needs come first. That being said, if I can avoid the tree box altogether, I do.

  • Yes, I pass by that spot on a daily basis with my dog and he often sneaks under the overgrowth looking for god knows what. You have my vote: trim that bush!

  • This happened up at 16th and Oak on the West side of 16th a few summers back. The growth was to the point of dangerous – and someone posted a sign on the corner (and hopefully after asking the homeowner to take care of it) noting that by x date if they weren’t cut back they would be fined. They were cut back very quickly, and all is well on the corner again.

  • I think this is a case where I would support vigilante pruning!

  • When I moved into my house the dirt from the front yard had migrated across half the sidewalk and the previous owner has just planted it. I was actually shocked (and my neighbors incredibly grateful) to find and reclaim the sidewalk. It not only made me legal, but actually improved the curb appeal of my house.

    Those bushes are fugly – get rid of them.

  • I joined twitter solely so that I could tweet a similiar situation to DCRA (although is was all weeds/overgrowth). they had someone out within 96 hours to clean up the sidewalk. No idea if the owner was contacted or cited or anything, but DCRA seemed to take care of it quickly.

  • There is a bush like that on the corner 22nd and Decatur in Dupont. You almost have to duck under the bush because it hangs over most of the sidewalk. I was never really annoyed by it until reading this post.

  • Bushes that big were popular in the 1970’s but they should really trim it back. Not so much in vogue these days to have a big bush in your front yard.

    (although some people still prefer maintaining a big bush)

  • I find it annoying to run on the sidewalk and then encounter tree limbs at face level. That’s almost worse than the intruding bushes — with the trees whose limbs grow out over the sidewalk, you think you have sidewalk to run on, until you get there and find out it was a lie.

  • At least the landscaping on that side of that block of 17th is maintained. If you want to see a real sidewalk of shame, look across the street, where the police dept. has turned the grassy space next to their building into a parking lot for officers’ personal SUVs (mostly from MD, I might add), making a huge muddy mess out of the grass that was there. I makes it a generally hostile environment for pedestrians. Additionally, I recall that all of that grass was new sod either last spring or the spring before. So much for having nice things…

    • I believe that impromptu parking area is the result of construction on the adjacent parking garage/roof lot. I didn’t notice them parking on the grass until several months ago. Hopefully they’ll fix it up when they’re able to park in the lot again.

  • That’s nothing a gallon of properly ‘spilled’ round-up couldn’t fix.

  • Those shrubs are too big to be pruned enough to clear the sidewalk. Their only option at this point is to remove them completely and plant something of an appropriate size.

  • There are lot houses like this in Capitol Hill. How are people in wheelchairs supposed to get down the sidewalk if bushes are covering 80% or more?

  • I walk by this everyday too – it is annoying. My dog plays hide and find to see what is underneath it. Seriously, it is across from a police station…. the cops can’t see it and say it’s a hazard?

    @DavidT RE: The cops and parking:
    the police and parkign is due to the construction in their parking garage. Once that is completed, the police will not be allowed to park on this grass space (as they were forbidden to in the past) and their is $$ in the construction budget to redo the land and re-grass.

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