Sidewalks of Shame Vol. 27


“Dear PoPville,

I’m wondering what the rules are for sidewalk snow removal for businesses. I have noticed that the Wendy’s and the 7-11 on Georgia ave in Petworth don’t clear their stretches of sidewalk when it snows. The construction site at Shepherd is bad too.

I was walking from Quincy up to the Yes tonight and the sidewalks were awful in front of those places.

Each place is on the corner so the uncleared stretch is really long. I walk with my baby in a carrier so slipping is scary, but at least I can take a detour, it would be impossible with a wheelchair or cane.

I would think that the businesses are responsible for the sidewalk. I would love to know who should be shoveling.”

I believe the businesses are responsible for shoveling, sadly, it is rarely/difficult to enforce.


And below is another one from a reader:

“Another terrible sidewalk situation. The public squares downtown are just covered in ice from the last few days of melt/re-freeze. I had to help an older lady with a cane from falling this morning. The sidewalks of McPherson and Franklin Squares are practically impassable and flat-out dangerous.

Do you know if the Park service does any sort of snow removal or ice mitigation?”


49 Comment

  • Who is responsible for clearing the sidewalks of a closed charter school? We have one that takes up an entire block and gets a lot of foot traffic because it’s en route to a metro station. The sidewalks around it have been really bad but I don’t know who’s supposed to be shoveling it.

    • Nobody does. Same reason why the stretch of 8th St alongside the former Hine Jr. High was a deathtrap every time it snows. Thank goodness all of the immediate neighbors have spent the last four years fighting tooth and nail from that block from getting redeveloped into something useful rather than it becoming a derelict vacant property.

      • That’s exactly what I was referring to, actually. 🙂 For what it’s worth, I’m an immediate neighbor and have been in support of the Hine getting redeveloped ASAP.

  • gotryit

    Seems like the city could have inspectors go by and note properties that haven’t had their sidewalks cleared, then farm out the cleaning to private companies. Clear the sidewalks and support small businesses. Fine the property owner the cost of inspecting and cleaning so the city doesn’t lose money on it.

  • Why is this obligation “difficult to enforce”? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    • Straightforward, and profitable. One inspector would pay for himself for the day with a single fine. He issues 15-20 fines in a day… seems like a no-brainer.

    • justinbc

      Probably because there’s a lot of arbitrary interpretation involved. Oh and the fact they would only have a job for 3 months out of the year.

      • There’s an easy solution for that, just give the job to a guy who is mowing grass for the city in the summertime!

      • or give DC parking enforcement officers the authority to ticket for uncleared sidewalks. They can take a photo of the sidewalk and if the owner wants to challenge it, there’s a photo to prove the infraction.

        • Genius. And the parking enforcers will do it, too, because they don’t like icy sidewalks any more than the rest of us, and they spend more time on them!

        • justinbc

          Considering they can’t even get that part right for cars I wouldn’t go so far as to anoint them with any further powers. I received a parking ticket in the mail (I don’t even own a car) and the photo clearly has a different license plate number than what’s printed on the ticket. Be careful what you wish for…

          • figby

            Ha — nice. I had my license suspended in DC over a broken taillight. I don’t have a car, either. City services are so bad here, let’s not think up more work for them to do.

    • Also probably difficult to enforce because properties are often owned by people who don’t live there, who have hidden their identity, etc. Perhaps the fine could be slapped onto the tax bills, but then there’d be whining about lack of due process to contest the fine, etc. For the amount of snow that DC normally gets, it’s probably not worth the bother and complication to set up a fine system for unshoveled sidewalks.

  • The worst are the gas stations that shovel enough to let cars in but neglect the sidewalk. The two stations on Florida Ave at North Capitol are guilty of this.

  • I have two follow-up questions and comments. First, I would really like to know what rules govern national park property, such as a traffic circle or the parks mentioned above. Following the most recent storm, Logan Circle was an icy deathtrap for several days because the sidewalks were not shoveled and remained untreated. Second, what are the rules for a sidewalk that is adjacent to a housing cooperative or public housing development? The sidewalk that runs N/S on the West side of First Street NW between Florida Ave and Q Street has not received any attention and is treacherous. Both cases have been reported to 311, but I’m wondering if that was barking up the wrong tree.

    • I live on Logan Circle and am also frustrated by the lack of snow/ice removal on NPS land. It is literally an ice rink in Logan Circle every time it snows, and people walking through just pack the snow down and make it even more slippery. I actually sent an email to NPS to complain this weekend and of course have received no response yet. The phone number on their website for the regional office for the National Capital Area is disconnected, which is even more frustrating.

  • I’ve also wondered about WMATA’s obligation to clear bus stops–at least some sort of small path between the sidewalk and the street. I’ve had to help multiple elderly riders and mothers with strollers climb over the giant snow piles left behind by snow plows to get on and off the bus. Even the pretty major bus stops I use are pretty inaccessible.

  • South side of U St between 17th and 18th is brutal. Sheer ice for half a block on Saturday night.

  • Add AutoZone on H Street NE to that list. Last week they had their parking lot plowed but the sidewalk along H from 12th to 13th as well as between Linden and H was a sheet of ice. People were walking in the street and it was very difficult for X2 passengers to get on and off the bus at the stop there. Lots of other H Street establishments were pretty bad about shoveling too.

    • The Autozone has a ton of untreated sidewalk space, it’s ridiculous. The stretch from 12th to 13th or 14th has a bunch of patches just like it as well, including in front of the dance studio. Some of the stretches are in front of unoccupied properties but SOMEBODY owns those buildings, right? Would DCRA be the office to enforce this clean up?

    • It’s AutoZone, not WalkerZone! 😉

  • The churches in Brookland are the worst. I guess Jesus loves broken hips?

  • 1417 Belmont St NW, a vacant lot behind the new Capital View on 14th apartment, is a disaster… full of trash/weeds/vermin, and is now even more dangerous with the un-shoveled snow. I’ve tried looking up the owner but it seems to be a Trust, hard to find contact info. Any ideas what I should do? I was thinking maybe my ANC rep could help but haven’t tried contacting him yet.

  • Just passing along information I saw elsewhere: Apparently, while there is a requirement that people remove the snow, there is no legislation allowing tickets/fines for not doing so; rather, the city would have to actually do the removal then sue the owner for the cost (as someone above suggested).

    § 9-605. Failure of owner or occupant to remove — Removal by Mayor

    In the event of the failure of any person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate to remove or cause to be removed such snow or ice from the said sidewalks, or to make the same reasonably safe for travel, or cause the same to be made reasonably safe for travel, as hereinbefore provided, it shall be the duty of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, as soon as practicable after the expiration of the time herein provided for the removal thereof, or for the making of the said sidewalks reasonably safe for travel, to cause the snow and ice in front of such building or lot of land to be removed or to cause the same to be made reasonably safe, as hereinbefore directed to be done by such person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of such building or lot of land, and the amount of the expense of such removal or such work of making the said sidewalks reasonably safe for travel, shall in each instance be ascertained and certified by the said Mayor to the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia.

    • tonyr

      “it shall be the duty of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, as soon as practicable after the expiration of the time herein provided for the removal thereof” –

      Wow, so Vince is supposed to get out there with a shovel? That’s a sure fire vote winner.

  • Lincoln Park sidewalks are completely untouched! Lots of thick ice as of this morning.

    The Park Service will “close” Lincoln Park for the shutdown but won’t treat the sidewalks.

  • I’d like to add whoever lives in the corner house on 33rd & Q in Georgetown who had time to shovel out his/her driveway and front steps but not the sidewalks. Good job, asshat.

  • Too bad there’s no ticketing…we could put the DC Parking Enforcement team on it.

  • The park service treats it’s DC properties like any other national park, and refuses to adapt to living in an urban environment. Since they’re not making tourist money off of Dupont Circle or Haines Point, or their other parks here, their lazy answer is to close them for bad weather. The NPS completely disregards the idea that millions of people live in the area and thousands use their properties for commuting and recreation every day.

    • I did see NPS staff clearing a path through Washington Circle on Friday when I walked to work, but that’s definitely the exception, not the rule, for their properties.

  • I would like to publicly shame the many residents of the south side of the 400-700 blocks of Randolph St NW, who as of Sunday evening had not yet seen it fit to do anything about the snow/ice that had fallen on Thursday. Entire portions of that block are sheets of ice. Yes there are some elderly residents, but there are plenty of able bodied residents as well. And I know you were not out of town because I could see some of you in your living rooms!

    –your neighbor to the north, who also lives on the not-sunny south side of his block. A block where the neighbors ensured there was not a smidgen of ice to be had–including in front of vacant properties and those inhabited by elderly women by Friday afternoon.

    • And I want to publicly shame the entire south side of the 900 block of T street NW! WTH? I almost broke my butt this morning walking my dog. You all ignored the last big snow and have ignored it once again with our storm last week. A little salt would go a long way since NO ONE shoveled and it’s an icy mess now. You realize you have a man who uses a guide dog on your block – shame on you all!!! And I know you’re all home too since I see movement in the windows when I’m walking by.

  • I called out the sidewalks of a DCPS-run school near Union Station Friday on twitter. And the DCPS, to their credit, took care of the offending sidewalks before I had to traverse them back home that night. (I compared the school’s side walks, which are never cleared, to those of the SEC, whose sidewalks are always pristine.)

    So, for what it’s worth, DCPS is responsive!

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    It is not difficult to enforce. In Minneapolis, the city gives out tickets to anyone who hasn’t shoveled their sidewalk within 8 hours of a snowfall. I’m surprised the city hasn’t jumped on this potential source of revenue.

  • To all of my neighbours on MacArthur, you rock. Thanks for cleaning your sidewalks. To everyone on the lower stretch of Foxhall (Between MacArthur and Reservoir), you all suck. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your non-shoveling armpits.

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