“DPW Notice of Violation” Unfairly Issued For Trash in Flowerboxes

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

A reader sent the following letter was sent Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans. I’m wondering if this has happened to anyone else? Did you receive a fine? Were you able to contest it? How did they know it was your trash? I’m also wondering if you agree with the letter writer that this is merely a way for the government to raise money? Or do you think it’s just a symptom of dysfunctional bureaucracy? Or is this legit?

I received a notice of violation from the DC DPW yesterday (03/23/11) with a Date of Service of 02/15/11. DPW has cited me for leaving the garbage by my flowerbox that they were scheduled to pick up that day. I would like to speak with someone regarding this issue, however, the notice states that I only have 14 days after the “Date of Service” to contest this citation, which would have been Feb 27th. A neighbor of mine had a similar experience as he too was presented with a notice past the grace period. In both cases, DPW held the notice until the grace period had expired before delivering it. My neighbor’s case is even more frustrating as it was someone else’s trash that was left in his flower box. Both of these instances make it very clear that DPW is treating these notices more as a source of revenue than a betterment for the city.

A few questions to consider:
– How does DPW identify/confirm that the trash is in fact the “Respondent’s”?
– How are DC residents supposed to defend themselves if DPW holds these notices beyond the grace period to contest them before delivering them?
– Why would a DC resident be held liable for trash that DPW was scheduled to pick up?
– If DPW is concerned with the cleanliness of DC’s flower boxes, why is it that the majority of them on my block are in deplorable condition (minus my own which I renovated with my own money)?
– Are we (DC citizens) responsible for ALL trash that ends up in our flower boxes? If so, where is this stated in DC law?
– I would also ask, why wouldn’t DPW remove the trash and then charge the owner rather than leaving it behind in hopes of collecting more fines due to either the negligence, or in mine and my neighbor’s case “not knowing it was a violation”?

I understand that the city’s budget is in bad shape and this might be a way to assist DC in recovering some of its budget; but as a longtime resident of DC, a homeowner, and taxpayer, I sometimes wonder what message DC tries to send to its law abiding citizens.

30 Comment

  • ah

    Yes you can contest it and you can also contest that it was not properly served. Call the Dpw number on the NOV to discuss. If you have to, appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which is a low key court that seems to be highly familiar with all of DC’s ridiculous efforts to fine it’s citizens.

    Anyway, I once received an NOV for leaving “construction debris” out. I had called for bulk pickup and left out a packing crate for pickup. Evidently someone thought it shouldn’t have been put out. I sent a short letter explaining things and never heard again. Perhaps I will though once Mary Chen gets the city to go after 40 y.o. fines.

  • Don’t expect any of this to get better now that the city council and mayorship are in such incapable hands.

  • This is like 10000x less legit than the speeding cameras which people were able to contest and strike down quite successfully across the country (to where they will still issue fines, but no points can be allotted). I have some very annoying neighbors who continually dump their junk in the alley but conveniently do it away from their property.

    I think this is a perfect example of something to protest. What the hell can they do – put a lein on your property??

    Considering we live in one of the strongest economies in the country, have the most expensive parking in the country AND have one of the most corrupt government leaders in power – I think we need to say enough is enough!

    OK..I think I need to go to the gym now.

  • Regarding the ticket: contest it. Dates on the envelopes should support your complaint.

    To one of your questions:

    – Are we (DC citizens) responsible for ALL trash that ends up in our flower boxes? If so, where is this stated in DC law?

    I have not had this issue yet (fingers crossed) but isn’t this like the snow removal idea – your responsibility. Even in your own words you call it “our flower boxes.”

    Regardless of who’s trash it is, why wouldn’t you want to clean up the flower box out front? Be a good citizen.

    Most evenings after work, I clean the sidewalk and curb of trash in front of my place.

    It takes about 5 minutes.

    • All very good points and thank you for doing your part in cleaning up in your neck of the woods!! Just wanted to mention that the “snow law” was never passed into law in DC, hence the reason I asked if this flower box “law” is on the books. The reason I suppose I called the box mine is because I regularly pour money into it each year after I renovating it … not the city. What used to be a dumping ground for liquor bottles, dime and chip bags, etc. is now a nicely manicured flower box.
      I take no issue with being cited as there was trash in the flower box, however, I had scheduled it for pick up with DPW and it was all neatly stacked for said pick up. Plus, the trash was gone the day after the citation.
      Wouldn’t it make more sense to cite the “respondent” and then have the trash taken away as the individual writing the citation works for DPW? I guess that is just too reasonable for the city to comprehend … hence my other question as to why this is clearly being used as a fund raiser for the city rather than a littering deterrent. Thanks for all the comments guys … I’m going to try and contest this … still hoping to hear from our Ward 2 rep.

      • I hear you loud and clear. It is sad and frustrating to say the least. We can only hope Woodsy the Owl will come back to us one day. Maybe if he had saggy pants it would help.

        I understand the snow law was never passed, that is why I said – “snow removal idea.”

        Good luck.

      • ah

        What would make even *more* sense is if DPW either recognized you had bulk pickup scheduled or allowed you to tell them that and immediately have the ticket canceled.

        But the DPW inspector may not have the truck right there–perhaps they called it in and the truck showed the next day to get your trash.

  • And on a similar DPW gripe…how can I cite them for not street cleaning on the day they say they are supposed to street clean!

    • Ha! I work from home and my office window faces the street. I have only seen the street cleaners TWICE in two years… But tickets are still issued on those Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

  • We were ticketed for street litter that blew off the sidwalk and underneath our car in the driveway. Apparently it became visible to the ticket writer when we left the premises in the car. This is a constant problem, since we have the only driveway on this particular block of 13th Street and it sucks up all the litter off the street, especially in the winter when there is no street sweeping. We are contesting the ticket.

    At the same time, our next door neighbor was ticketed because of a futon mattress we had left at the curb for bulk trash pickup. The pickup was scheduled three times, but the city failed to collect it each time. Instead, they wrote the ticket.

    • I had a similar bulk trash problem. Ticket was issued, I protested, they came back and said that the ticket was valid. I was tired of fighting it, so I went ahead and mailed the check in – and a year later they still haven’t cashed that check, but the status on the ticket is “paid”.

  • How do you think the city is paying for Kwame Brown’s SUVs?

  • houseintherear

    Really? Wow that’s crazy. So how is it that my neighbors have had an old tv and a vacuum cleaner in front of their house for over a month?

    • ah

      It’s that way because you didn’t call 311 or DPW either to report it or request a bulk pickup on their behalf.

  • This is scary. Sounds like one day I could be at work, someone could dump their mattress on my terrace, then I’d come home to a mattress AND a ticket. People are always dumping in the alley. Two doors down is a group house and whenever someone moves out they leave their aged computer monitors on the terrace.

  • I say hooray for the city. It’s about time they get tough on homeowners who let the tree box in front of their own property get filled with weeds, trash, and neglect. I’ve had to beg some of these homeowners to water the new trees planted and you’d think they would want a mature tree to thrive in front of their million dollar rowhome. These tree boxes are a reflection of the property and of the neighborhood in general. It’s not too difficult to clean and mulch these in. Let it fill up with weeds and it will attract trash. Keep it mulched and free of weeds and others will respect it. It’s not that difficult folks.

    • ah

      My understanding that the tree space and flower boxes between the sidewalk and the street are the city’s responsibility. The “public parking” between the sidewalk and your property line is your responsibility to keep up.

      • The city is responsible for the tree box…correct. They will remove a dead tree or stump and will plant a new tree in this space and mulch in the box. After that, a good citizen would keep this box clean, free of weeds, and would water the tree during dry spells to keep it alive. This “ain’t my responsibility” attitude doesn’t foster good communities. It’s not that difficult to care for the tree box in front of your home and treat it like it were your own yard.

        • ah

          I wasn’t suggesting not caring for it, just that you can’t be issued a violation for failing to take care of it.

          Putting aside benefits to the community, I take care of that space because I’d rather the area in front of my house look good than bad.

        • You sound like a real winner…

  • My sidewalk is always covered in filth…and none of it is mine. People that park on my street to go to the PanAm empty trash out of their cars, and the “youth” that hang out in front of a few houses on my block throw their food wrappers/ chicken wings/ beer bottles/ chinese take-out containers/ etc. all over the place and if I ever get ticketed for it I might just lose my shit.

    Also, I have to call 311 at least every other week to ‘remind’ them to sweep my street too…

  • Officer, I cannot tell a lie. I put that envelope under that garbage.

  • Where was this picture taken? I asked because I’m interested in the fallout shelter sign!

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