Dear PoP – My Neighbor’s Adult Son Killed a Tree, What Do I Do Now?

“Dear PoP,

I’ve got a bit of a neighbor dilemma, and am hoping your readers should shed some light on the situation.

I live next to two elderly ladies — we have a cordial relationship that I would like to maintain. Their son (let’s call him Sam) visits every couple of weeks and tends to things around the house. We also have a good relationship. Last year when the city went around and planted trees, a tree was placed in the tree box in front of their house. A few weeks later, I noticed the top of the tree had been cut off (effectively killing it.) Another one of my neighbors (no longer lives on the block) mentioned Sam had killed the tree. I was perhaps a bit peeved, but no big deal I suppose.

Now this year roles around and the city once again plants a tree in the tree box in front of my neighbors’ house. Yesterday I am in my back yard gardening and Sam mentions that he plans on killing off the tree. He notes that he generally hates trees and is convinced that the tree will eventually damage the water intake pipes to the house. I uneasily suggest that he should not do this. But. admittedly, I don’t press him. Today I am leaving for work and find he has once again decapitated a city planted tree (see picture attached.)

What should I do? Should I do anything? Who would technically enforce this type of violation? I have had disappointing experiences with the DC Department of Forestry in the past, so I’m not sure they would be of any help. I’m not sure talking to him will do much good, if he is convinced that this tree was going to be ruinous for his future inheritance. Also, if I do ‘tattle’ I am certain he will know it is me. Is it worth it to kill this relationship over a tree?”

It’s very rare that I’m speechless after receiving an email – but I am stone cold speechless. I am genuinely eager to see what others think because quite frankly I’m unable to give helpful advice that is not skewed by the emotions I have after seeing the above photo. For those who give advice – obviously there is an emotional reaction – but try to keep in mind that the reader needs to maintain neighborly relations. Keeping that in mind – what would you do in this situation?

131 Comment

  • This is the funniest post I have ever seen on PoP. Seriously.

    And it uses the Lebron James “What should I do” technique.

    • this sounds made up.

    • I know this is D.C. but let’s all take a deep breath and remind ourselves that tree’s are not sentient beings and “killed” or “decapitated” should be replaced with “cutting down.”

      • well, they are (or in this case, were) alive, so I think “killed” is fair. As for what I’d do, if it’s on his property I’d do nothing, and if it’s on city property I’d call Casey Trees and ask them which DC agency should handle it, and call them.

        • You can report the cutting down of the tree. Call UFA – if you actually catch him doing it (as in photos) it would be even better.

          Cutting down trees carries a fine of 5-10K

          He is damaging Public Space – he is not entitled to do it whether there is a water pipe or not. He could potentially explain that to UFA but unless he has proof he should leave public space alone.

          • Just reposting my earlier comment higher up so people can get the facts on the law right:
            Ok, here’s the DC Code provision:
            § 22-3310. Destroying trees or protections thereof on public grounds.
            “It shall be unlawful for any person willfully to top, cut down, remove, girdle, break, wound, destroy, or in any manner injure any vine, bush, shrub, or tree not owned by that person, or any of the boxes, stakes or any other protection thereof, under a penalty not to exceed, for each and every such offense:
            (1) In the case of any tree 55 inches or greater in circumference when measured at a height of four and one half feet, $15,000 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both; or
            (2) For vines, bushes, shrubs, and smaller trees, $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.”
            DC ST § 22-3310

    • Yeah, this is so ridiculous it has to be made up. Or, the guy’s an idiot.

      When someone tells you they’re going to commit a crime, and you believe his intentions are real, you call 911 and report it to the police. You don’t wait ’til the deed’s done and send a photo to a blog to figure out what to do.

      Now that the crime has occurred, call 911 and report a destruction of property, and provide the police with as much detail as you can.

      I’m amazed that people can make it so far in life without being able to make simple, common sense decisions on their own.

      • Hard to imagine why the 911 system is overwhelmed with calls. I think this certainly qualifies as a non-emergency situation. In fact, Casey Trees would probably be able to direct you to the proper offices and individuals better than 911 or 311.

      • The tree is not the poster’s. He/she is just hoping to enjoy it. The only criminal complainant in this case is the District and they have to care enough to do something about it.

  • You might want to point out to this guy that if a tree on public property interferes with his water or sewer line on public property, he won’t be responsible for paying to fix it. Or that trees increase property value. Although since this guy sounds like he’s not likely to be persuaded by reason, you might want to report him for destroying city property.

    • ah

      There’s a specific criminal offense for harming trees on public property.

      Of course, it’s probably one of those things the cops have to see. I doubt they’re going to try to push charges based on a neighbor saying some kid said he was going to kill the tree, even though based on that most of us would convict.

      • No, I think they will enforce is the neighbor is willing to actually state on the record “My neighbor’s son told me that he was planning on killing the tree, as he had done the year before.” Without that, they might not have enough to go on, but with that, they could.

        Would I do it personally? Absolutely. I don’t want a dead stub sitting in front of my house for a year. You can always ask the police about anonymity. Probably you will be identified as the person who called though.

        At least talk to the old ladies next door over the next year and get them on your side (i.e. – the tree is good for the property and won’t hurt the pipes and if it does they won’t be responsible, etc). Then when that time comes around, have the same conversation with the son and let him know that he can actually get in trouble for doing it and shouldn’t for the reasons you already told the grannys. I feel like that is fair warning. Then report him if he does it.

  • Report Him thats right report him he is on the verge of some mental condition that might end with him hating his neighbors and kill them too that is city property and he has no rights to kill trees just punishment is what he deserves

  • Casey Trees is the organization that usually plants the trees. Trees aren’t always cheap and this is a clear act of vandalism, as well as stupidity and entitlement. He doesn’t even live there.

    I wonder if contacting Casey Trees might be a good place to start. They have contact information on their website. Who knows, maybe a visit from a couple guys with skinny legs in cargo shorts, orange vests and Merrells might scare him straight.

  • While “Sam’s” actions may seem a little extreme, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a second and assume he doesn’t, at his core, hate trees. If he’s aware of a break in his sewer line that’s on his property (and must therefore be repaired at his expense), it makes absolutely no sense to plant a tree in close proximity that will invariably grow roots into the break and cause a costly repair. What’s amazing is that there’s no reasoning with the tree nazis. Their “directive” is to plant trees in all open spaces in the District and they carry out this mission with reckless abandon and without regard for logic or reason. In my experience, the more you oppose the planting, the more resolute they become in making sure a tree gets planted. Don’t worry, “Sam” might have won this year’s battle, but he will lose the war. In fact, I’m convinced that if the District replaced its 4,000 police officers with this battle-hardened squad of tree nazis, there would be no crime to speak of.

    • This is the dumbest thing anyone’s ever said about city-owned trees since the last time this “debate” came up and people defended the assholes at Haydees for destroying a city-owned to expand their outdoor seating.

      “Sam” isn’t an engineer. He hasn’t been underground and found a compromised water line. He’s a deranged lunatic who’s also a criminal. You should give him no benefit of the doubt. If you’d bothered to read the letter, you’d have realized it’s not his property, anyway.

      This is a no-brainer. The fact of the matter is he had no right to remove either tree and his actions are lowering your property value. Turn his ass in and let him pay the fine. Do it every single year until this fuckwad is too broke to afford a new saw.

  • This is very hard to answer as we can’t ascertain his mental abilities. Is he mentally challenged?

    1. Actually, I would want the tree, but is he right at all? I mean. I’m terrible sounding here, but I would find out a little bit more about tree root damage in a conversation with him — partly out of polite neighborliness, and out of curiousity.

    2. Thank him for that info.

    3. Go find out about it and then come back to him. Thank him again and tell him the good news, and how you disagree.

    Then after that a whole different set of steps!

    • Or, you could simply inform him he’s wrong, not do the unnecessary research, and report him since it’s not his place to determine any of this. Unless this deranged nut case can show you records from an engineering firm assessing his imagined tree-root damage, you have no reason to defer to neighborly politeness. The guy’s not the neighbor. What’s more, if he wants any polite consideration, he should have come to the neighbors with a petition, shared his concerns about root damage, and petitioned the city not to plant a tree in that space.

      But he forfeited any right to cordiality when he cut down the first tree. By cutting down the second, he’s confirmed his asshole status and lack of worth to be treated like a civilized member of society.

      • And also I can’t ascertain if you’re mentally challenged. Have you ever dealt with people differently when you realized they were mentally challenged?

      • You may possibly be the meanest, most absurd person whose posts I’ve read on this site. I am truly impressed – so much so that I’ve responded, which I’ve never done before.

  • Talk to Sam. Ignorance is the biggest evil. If he is convinced that trees will damage his water pipes, get him in tough with the Water Dept. or the Forestry Department, maybe hadn him a couple of books on Urban Forestry, take him to the library, do something!

    If you see an ignorant person, your duty should be to help them if you know any better. Staying quiet will not do anything.

    • you should also ask yourself if you yourself might be ignorant. maybe sam has dealt with the water or forestry folks before and knows its a big headache for his folks and he’s just doing what causes the least headaches for everyone. talk with him. then you’ll know.

      • 11th – do you REALLY think Sam has dealt with forestry and WASA?

        If Sam is truly concerned he can get WASA to change what’s most likely a rotted out sewer line (most all original cast iron ones corrode beyond belief after 100+ years) for free from his property line to the street.

        • “original cast iron”. where in the city are there original cast iron sewer pipes that are over 100 years old? i thought they were all lead, and all removed.

          • ah

            No-those are the supply lines for fresh water. And there are still plenty of lead lines left.

            Sewer pipes are cast iron in most places, and often haven’t been replaced.

          • ah,
            right, thanks. makes sense.
            do sewer lines leave the property in the front of the house? everywhere i’ve lived in the older parts of the city, they leave in the back, and therefore wouldn’t be near treebox.

            where are lead lines still left? is there a map anywhere? the city pulled out my lead lines almost 8 years ago.

          • Mine definitely goes from house to street. There’s a four-inch vent cap in my front garden patch. I can hear the toilet flushing through it if I’m outside.

            I’d be interested in learning whether my lead supply pipes have been replaced.

          • In some cases, they’re terra cotta. Ours is going to go one of these days and we keep hoping that when it does, it goes on the city side of our property.

          • lou,
            dc has clay sewer lines in some places? where?

          • Anonymous said, “where are lead lines still left? is there a map anywhere? the city pulled out my lead lines almost 8 years ago.”

            The lead pipe to the house I just bought in Petworth is still there. And according to the information provided byt DC Water & Sewer it has yet to be completed or scheduled. I’m responsible for the private portion of the pipe, so I’m going to wait until the city replaces the public section to have it done. Thank god for brita!

            Here’s the link to the planned and completed lead pipe replacement program.


    • Um, disagree. Don’t make this a personal issue. Report him either to Casey trees or the police. Clearly there are rules that apply to this situation; let the proper authorities enforce them.

      While MtP has good intentions, I think Sam has made his feelings pretty clear. I would assume he would not have any interest in a book on Urban Forestry, nor would he contact anyone you might recommend at the Water or Forestry Department. He may feel patronized or defensive and take umbrage.

  • Authorities from DC forestry or Casey Trees investigating a clearly intentionally (twice) damaged tree would logically knock on the doors of the houses nearby, asking if anyone knows anything or saw anything etc. it wouldn’t have to get linked back to you. Especially if they are made aware beforehand of the issue the neighbor has with concern about his pipes.

    They might even have informational brochures already available to leaflet all the houses nearby, explaining the program, benefits of trees and answering some FAQs.

  • i’d talk to him next time he comes by? isn’t that the obvious answer? maybe there’s actually been damage in the past to his moms’ (from a literal reading of the OP) underground water pipes. i’ve planted trees in different places and the roots can in fact cause problems if not properly placed. given the general sentiment re: DC’s ability to handle public services, there conceivably may have been a problem in the past and Sam’s handling of it might not be too crazy in the grand scheme of things. i’d just ask him what’s up with cutting off the top of the tree.

    this isn’t that hard. really. if he gives you something crazy, well, welcome to the world of crazy neighbors world-wide. i’ve had guard dogs attack me after they fell off of a neighbor’s 12 foot spiked walls in rio de janeiro and a drunken dude call the police on me for playing touch football in the street in rockville (i was a kid). talk with them.

    • by all that i just mean try talking to him again. losing a tree sucks. losing a good relationship with your neighbors sucks more. not an ideal situation, but talking with folks and figuring out (if possible) their motivations is step one regardless.

      • I’m not sure whether the origina; poster TRULY has a good relationship with the neighbor or whether she’s scared of the repurcussions of calling him out on this one. I would be nice but steadfast, but then again, it’s different if the neighbors are not sensible people.

  • I would just talk to him too. Unless of course he is holding a saw/pruning shears.

  • I would just like to thank the Commentariat for your feedback. I should clarify that I do have a number of ideas myself (the first of which is to approach ‘Sam’ and just talk to him), however, I thought it was an interesting situation that could use additional input.

    My other idea was to go out tonight and spray paint in big red letters ‘SILVICIDE IS MURDER’ on their front lawn.

    Just to give you an idea of where I am going with this.

    • “Silvicide is Murder”. So all right. I would spray it on a huge wooden board however, not on their lawn.

      Ok, so what I see is different here. Two of the questions (of many) underlying this problem is to stand for trees, or to get along with the neighbor — that is to forego the relationship with the neighbor or not? It might not be both, and are you okay with that?

      From this, I think you want to speak for the trees. If you want to speak for trees, do it. You’re going to be balls out. Love the trees. Dress up as a Lorax. Hug the trees. Decorate them with ribbons or bottles. Go for it.

      And you might ruin the relationship with the neighbor, but if that’s what you need to do for the trees, then do it and do it with PANACHE!

    • stage a funeral for the tree.
      and double park his car in when you do.

    • I’d like to point out that if the nice old neighbor ladies are anything like the sweet old lady who lives next door to me, then they have absolutely no control over what their son/nephew does around the house, and probably aren’t even aware that he’s done this.

      Taking out your aggressions on their front lawn – or in any way disturbing their property is misplaced rage. Sam is the enemy, not these ladies… unless of course they knew the whole and also hate trees. Even if that were true, I disagree with the ‘vandalism in response to vandalism’ approach.

  • Also I find it slightly hilarious, and also slightly aggravating, the he just left the top of the tree lying there. Really? This seems like CSI lesson #1.

  • Why do DC continue to plant trees? Trees grow big and fall down on people’s homes or property during horrific storms. I can understand planting trees in the country, but not a city like DC, NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, etc.

    • Vinnie – really??

      THere are SO many types that don’t grow huge – that’s what they mainly plant in residential tree boxes. THey also help with the canopy and do in fact reduce cooling bills in the summer (despite their size). Trick is planting the right tree for the right space!

    • vinnie,
      it’s about time you got yourself together up look up some information on the benefits of trees.

        • @Anon; my grammar is fine. I didn’t realize, this is an English class. It’s just a blog! Every year during these horrific storms, trees fall down on power lines or homes. I guess, planting trees is a white thing?

  • It’s immature, I know this…but that you called him Sam, I read that whole story with a picture of Sean Penn in my head.

  • Be nice to the guy. If your pipes had been damaged by a tree before, you might feel the same way, too. Show him a little love.

  • makes the neighborhood safer…less places for hoodlums to hide now. thank him why don’t you.

  • i’d either talk to him about the benefits of trees or let it slide.
    i wouldn’t call the city,or chastise him about his tree hatred.
    since it’s his family’s tree box, his family is responsible for it and if he doesn’t want one there, just let it go.

    • No, it’s not his family’s tree box, any more than that’s his family’s sidewalk, or his family’s street. It’s the bloody tree box–public space. And it doesn’t matter what his insane reasoning might be. That’s your tax money and mine being wasted two years in a row. Report him.

      • i don’t mean he has the deed to his treebox. i mean by tradition. here in dc people take care of the treebox in front of their house. we don’t OWN them, but we take ownership of them regardless, because we have to deal with them. we have to water the tree and plants in the treebox, we have to shovel our sidewalks. it’s great you live by the book, but if he doesn’t want a tree there you really think it’s worth a fight?

        • I really hate asphalt. So I plan to dig up the street in front of my house and replace it with a koi pond.

        • And if he wants to plant flowers around the tree, or simply leave it naked, he is free to do so. “Tradition” does not dictate what the law is. “Traditions” like that are usually based on the “live and let live” social contract. Sam has broken that social contract by completely misusing and destroying property that’s not his.

          • Actually, by law people TAKE CARE OF their treebox (you know,that box where the TREE goes). They don’t, by tradition or otherwise, get to destroy anything the city puts there.

            Yes, it is worth a fight. Perhaps you prefer a “traditional” Mogadishu-like environment, but civilization requires people to act with more than self-interest. It’s called rule of law.

  • Start planting progressively larger tress every time he cuts one down. Finish up with a fake tree with a core of solid iron.

    Film his increasing rage and become the next YouTube Superstar!

  • I have a giant oak tree in the tree box in front of my house. It is too big for the tree box and destroys the sidewalk. The city won’t brick our sidewalks like all the others in the neighborhood because the tree will make the bricks uneven which will be a walking hazard. The tree drops acorns all over the place which I have to spend a great deal of time picking out of the yard or I end up with tiny oak trees all over my garden and the acorns choke any plants I try to grow.

    Our pipes have become clogged several times. The city WILL pay for the clogs up to a certain point (ie on “public land”), but believe me, if the tree causes clogs under the porch they will not pay for it. I’ve spent thousands of dollars (which I really don’t have) in plumbing costs and eventually had to dig a six foot deep hole in my front yard and unclog the pipes.

    I like having a tree up there, though I really wish a it was something smaller, less destructive, and less “acorny,” but to say the very least, I understand Sam’s feelings on this matter. If this were my land and my tree, it would not be there anymore.

  • Emmaleigh504

    If Same and presumably the ladies don’t want a tree there, perhaps there is a way to let the city know not to wasted time, money, and trees by replanting them.

    I love trees, but I think it is perfectly fine to have a few tree boxes sans trees.

  • I’d really like to park closer to my house, but there’s this really inconvenient no parking sign. I keep taking it down, but the city keeps putting it right back up. I really wish they would quit wasting their time since it’s obvious I don’t want to sign there.

    • By DC tradition, you can park there all you want–especially if you also follow the DC tradition of registering your car in Maryland to avoid DC registration fees and titling taxes.

  • this post is especially entertaining to me for some reason.

  • drive-by /shaw

  • I would talk to the two old ladies that you are on good terms with. Express your concern and dismay…and tell them your preference that the tree be left alone. If they are as good of neighbors as you are than they will tell “Sam” to cool off.

    ALSO make sure that when these ladies pass away, Sam doesn’t move in and invite all of his loud friends over at all hours to drink on the porch from 8 AM to 11 PM every day. just sayin…

  • Casey Trees does not deal with trees within the public right away. They’re a non-profit that plants trees predominately on private property. Any issues such as these should be sent to the Urban Forestry Administration.

  • Ok, here’s the DC Code provision:
    § 22-3310. Destroying trees or protections thereof on public grounds.
    “It shall be unlawful for any person willfully to top, cut down, remove, girdle, break, wound, destroy, or in any manner injure any vine, bush, shrub, or tree not owned by that person, or any of the boxes, stakes or any other protection thereof, under a penalty not to exceed, for each and every such offense:
    (1) In the case of any tree 55 inches or greater in circumference when measured at a height of four and one half feet, $15,000 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both; or
    (2) For vines, bushes, shrubs, and smaller trees, $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.”
    DC ST § 22-3310

    • Wow, that’s great.

      Maybe someone should send him a copy of that. Or maybe a sign could be posted. I’m a little proud of this law — have to admit. It reminds me of Iceland — where it’s a $1000+ if you chop down any tree as they have almost none.

      I could tolerate having no tree, but I’m also glad this law exists, and so if it were me I’d be cool. But I’m not you neighbor… I really like a funeral procession for a tree though. Really.

  • There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees…

  • this happens on my street too. The Neighbors cut down or pull up the trees because they don’t want bird to crap on their cars. I chalk it up to “see, this is why we can;t have nice things”

    • Really? Damn, people really need to get a grip. A bit extreme, no?

    • I actually park under trees with the most birds whenever possible. I say, “bring on the bird shit!” Seriously, who cares if a bird craps on your car???

      My car is covered in scratches, dirt, crap, mud, muck you name it. Plus, the interior is full of ground-in cheetos, spilled milk, dog hair, dust, empty wrappers of who-knows-what, random sticky spots, whatever. And you know what? I could care less because it is a CAR. My apartment is spotless, but as long as the car gets me to where it goes, I don’t care if my son urinates all over it. I roll the windows down if I need to (and believe me I need to in my car).

      This is like when people flip out if you tap their bumper while parallel parking. That’s what it’s for!

      Further, having a crapped-up car makes it less likely someone will steal it. And, if you own a car as long as you should (mine turns 10 this year and 60K+ miles, and I had my previous for 22 years, 175K+ miles), who cares about the resale value.

  • I’ve heard that kids abusing forestry is a tell-tale sign that they’ll likely end up a serial killer.

    I’d move.

  • I think you call the city and say the tree got killed. Ask if they can bring a replacement.

    This way, Sam gets to kill two (three?) trees, and Kleenex gets more business from you and most of the other commenters.

    No, but seriously, maybe a $5,000 fine would change his mind. You could set up a video camera?

  • He criminally destroyed city property and wasted tax payer dollars. Prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

  • I live in this hood, and recognize this spot as 431 Quincy St NW. If memory serves, this is in fact the second straight year that the menace of 431 has destroyed a newly planted tree. Following last year’s vandalism the city actually refused to replant the site until the local ANC commissioner intervened, claiming the neighborhood wanted the tree and would care for it. So much for his assurances. I am going to call the city and request they follow up with the neighbors on this block. Based on the blog posting, they would not even know where this occurred. So dear poster, I will take the fall and contact the city for you!

  • Replant, position a motion activated video camera on it, and when he does it again, post the video of the act on the PoP flikr feed!

  • this post and the ensuing comments are the exact reason i LOVE this blog!

    something about it is so comforting

  • I suggest you act like a normal person and try to be reasonable with Sam, instead of fighting crazy with crazy. I can’t tell how many of these suggestions are tongue-in-cheek, but please do not have a funeral for the tree. Do not graffiti the old ladies’ property. Do not go bat-shit crazy on Sam and call him an ignorant asshole fuckwad, as the commenters here have. Do not get into histrionics and tell Sam that “a serious crime has been committed” and he belongs in jail.

    Simply put, you should deal with this like an adult. Mention it to the ladies and other neighbors. Try to convince Sam that trees are not evil, and tell him you’d really prefer to have the tree there. Suggest that maybe one of you call 311 and request to have the tree replanted. If he resists, only then should you mention that you were doing some research and found out that these trees/boxes are technically city property, so he could potentially get in trouble for this.

    If he won’t budge, I suggest you call DDOT anonymously and report the damaged tree and ask for them to replant. If they do, the ball’s in Sam’s court; if he cuts it down again, he will do so with the full knowledge that it’s illegal and against your wishes. At that point he is the one who “kills your relationship,” and you don’t have to be the bad guy. If he doesn’t cut down the replanted tree, everyone’s happy.

  • Why not replace the tree with a shrub that proivides a needed bit of green in the city but respects Sam’s concern about his pipes?

  • Time to grab the pitchforks and rally the mob! Looks like Sam is facing $5k and/or 30 days in the slammer!

  • Seriously, we had a “serial tree trimmer” on my street a few years ago. He lopped off the tops of all the trees on our street and one in our yard (of a small condo building). I wonder if it is the same person.

    • I think your neighbor’s son appeared as a side plot in the Denzel Washington movie Devil with Blue Dress.

  • best option ( other than the fake funeral) is to have casey tress come out and talk to the guy.
    if if still wants trees eradicated from the face of the earth after that, its’ better to leave well enough alone. the law need not be involved.

  • It’s definitely wrong and illegal to cut down street trees on D.C. streets without a permit.

    @Yep You are correct. If we’re talking about public street trees, this isn’t really Casey Trees’ area. We deal primarily with helping to plant trees on private property. We also have educational programs aimed at teaching members of the community to take care of their trees, including the street tree in front of your home. We have no enforcement power, whether street trees or trees on private property, as we are a non-profit organization. Your best bet is contacting the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) by calling 311 and making a report of the tree damage. Document the most complete and accurate information you have about the tree issue. The only way the city government will be able to get involved is to have full documentation of the problem, and they do have enforcement capabilities.

    @Lester You mentioned that we “usually plant the trees.” While it is true that we have planted over 10,000 trees in the city, most of them are on private property. All of the planted street trees are cared for by the UFA and by members of the community. Individuals or organizations who sponsor a community tree planting sign an agreement to water and care for these trees for at least two years. We have neither the staff members nor the geographic reach to care for or otherwise be responsible for all of the street trees in the city.

    Also: we don’t have any investigators on staff, orange-vested or otherwise. Our tree planting crew is busy year-round planting, watering and pruning trees so they wouldn’t have any time to address concerns like this. Again, your best bet for reporting tree problems is the Urban Forestry Administration. We’ll be happy to answer questions about trees and urban forestry and you can certainly take part in our programs to plant trees on your own property, volunteer with us or learn more about trees in the city.

  • Anytime someone from the suburbs is pondering why it is, exactly, that it’s more expensive to manage a city (or a school district, or a workforce) with a history of poverty and poor education….just send them the link to this story.

    • No, it’s because in the suburbs people pay HOAs to handle this sort of nonsense.

      • not all of the suburbs have hoa’s.

      • Is the difference between our dysfunction and, say, McLean’s that we have DDOT’s Urban Forestry department handling this nonsense, and McLean’s got an HOA?

        The suburb I grew up in sucked, but it didn’t have an HOA, and for all their faults, most of the men were like Mike Meyers’ “Middle-Age Man”. There weren’t mass numbers of folks aggressively contributing to the shittiness of the shared environment.

  • If trees could scream do you think we would be so cavalier as to cutting them down? Maybe if they screamed all the time for no good reason.”

    -Jack Handey

  • Goodness gracious I’m clutching my pearls. He BRUTALLY MURDERED that tree!

  • Maybe it was an accident?

    Someone should just duct tape the top back onto the tree just to make a point.

  • Sweet! I’m getting my saw out now… there are a few trees that block my view of the monument, and then I am gonna move those no parking signs in front of my place, and then I am gonna paint my gutter orange to signify no parking.. then I am going to make my alley one way.

    I love this city.

  • When is the candlelight vigil?

  • Hmmm. I actually applied for a tree for our rowhouse with Casey Trees. I wanted a big beautiful tree planted in our front yard.

    My neighbor’s dad is a contractor, and he said that we couldn’t have a tree because the roots would mess with the sewer pipes (that were running underneath our front lawn).

    Now I wanted a big beautiful tree, but I don’t want one at the expense of clogged up toilets.

    I can totally see where this guy was coming from.

    Seriously, if the choice is to let the tree destroy your property, with your recourse an incompetent DC government to “fix” the issue or to just chop down the damned tree yourself… I would be the first to get out an ax.

    • tree roots don’t generally extend down to the depth where your water and/or sewer lines should be. You might want to check with an tree expert rather than a “contractor” on how trees interact with other subterranean elements before deciding against that big, beautiful tree.

  • As for sewer and plumbing lines – supply lines in the city are either lead, copper, or plastic, and are generally unaffected by tree roots. The roots cannot penetrate them, but they can be ripped up if the tree is uprooted during a storm. The sewer lines from your home to the city sewer main can discharge from the front or rear of the home. Sewer lines are either cast iron, terra cotta, or plastic. Typically in older homes they are cast iron until the exit the building line and then convert to terra cotta in your yard. Tree roots can infiltrate at the joints in cast iron and terra cotta. Since sewer lines are not subjected to the water pressure of supply lines, the joints between the sections of pipe can have breaks and gaps and the lines will still function. These gaps allow roots to infiltrate. As the roots continue to grow in the sewer lines they create essentially a mesh of fine roots that catch paper and solids in the pipe causing a blockage necessitating your sewer line to be rodded out. Since the sewer line is a ready source of water for the tree it is inevitable the roots will grow back and block the line again. This will be constant maintenance issue for you. There are a few options; one is to replace the sewer line with plastic. Two is to dig up a section of the sewer line in the yard and install an easily accessible clean-out to allow quick and easy access to the line for rodding (this is required in new construction). Third, there are some root kill additives that can be poured down the toilet in your home that foam up inside the sewer and claim to kill the roots, again this would be a maintenance item, but even a $20 bottle every few months is way cheaper than a $200 power rod expense. Finally, you can move.

    If you want a tree in your yard plant one. There are trees species that don’t grow too tall and there are tree species whose roots don’t grow too deep. If trees were unworkable in this environment, every home in the city with a tree would be knee deep in sewage.

    I have replaced many clogged sewer lines. The bottle of root kill is the cheapest and easiest, but it requires diligence.

  • If you have a good relatonship with your neighbors, it’s best to mind your business. I have some Central American neighbors that live in an overcrowded apartment. Their living habits are different from mine because I am a very clean and neat person. I only speak to them and smile in passing because I don’t want to complain on them to the landlord. I have to stay here and the landlord lives in his million dollar home in Annapolis, Maryland.

  • are you scared of said neighbor’s son? it sounds like it. report the murderer and own it.

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