“All I want is for my trash to be collected, to be able to maintain better security of my back yard, AND I want my beautiful new bike back.”


“Dear PoPville,

I live in a rowhome in 16th St Heights, in where the alley is so narrow that it is barely wide enough for a vehicle. That means that the only way for DPW to access your trash bin is for you to open your gate, and push the bin right up to the alley way. Within the past year, the trash collectors have wizzed by on a number of occasions, driving through the alley and never picking up any trash. When I called repeatedly for a special collection, they say that I MUST put the can in the alley way. Been there, done that. What happens is that the private trash collecters (that service the retail/apartments down the road) barrel over the cans left in the alley for special collection, leaving them debilitated and full of trash. Trash is strewn all over, and the cycle of trying to remove the trash and debilitated bins removed continues. I call the DC service center to report dumping and to request special collections. Nothing happens. I then get multiple fines for “dumping,” and in most cases was never actually alerted to these alleged notices that I received. The DC service center conveniently loses my call records (although I have been keeping my own). I keep fighting these fines on the grounds that they can’t fine me when they don’t do their job or properly notify me. This has escalated to the courts and they have put the onus back on DPW’s, and they continue to allow the same problems to fester (meanwhile I’m still uncertain whether I will be held responsible for hundreds of dollars in fines).

Recently DPW has stopped collecting my trash, but seem to take the neighbors. Retaliation? This week, while my gate was left open to allow them to try to collect my bin (without it running the risk of being barreled over by another truck), someone snuck in to my backyard, broke into my shed and stole my brand new $900 bike, that was securely locked to a bike rack and probably removed with a lock pick or bolt cutters. The police responded to my call to report the theft and were extremely helpful, and suggested that DPW should be to blame for consistently leaving me vulnerable….ehm!

My attempts to resolve the trash collection issue have not been resolved. I have contacted Muriel Bowser’s office but still no resolve. And because I must leave my gate open to allow for collection, I was at greater vulnerability to theft. Or perhaps targeted, since the trash people seem to apparently have some disdain for me now… Does anyone have a recommendation for a competant and responsive human being in DPW to resolve this?

All I want is for my trash to be collected, to be able to maintain better security of my back yard, AND I want my beautiful new bike back. It’s truly distinctive and I’ve attached a picture of it. So if anyone sees someone riding it around DC, it’s likely that they stole it. Please let the cops know because you don’t want your property to be next.”

40 Comment

  • Truly sorry this happened. Hope you recover your bicycle.

    • Wow – lucky break for the poster if it is that bike! Kudos and good karma to you!

      • Thanks for being on the lookout! This was my bike that was stolen and unfortunately the one on CL is not the one. Mine is **brand** new. Cops said there was a rash of bicycle thefts (people breakind into other garages in the neighborhod), within hours of my bike being stolen. Apparently someone had some video footage, so hopefully they will be able to ID the thiefs and catch them. If this is the same perpetrator, they will be prosecuted for burglary and hopefully it will be a felony, because as I understand the property value will likely be over $5000 (assuming it’s the same person/operation).

        • In reality you were robbed when you paid $900 for a ~$350 bike…. the DC bike market sucks. You can get a bike filled to the brim with modern complicated tech for $1000 without a problem in the suburbs, but come into the city and the bike shops want the same money for a piece of machined metal. There is no reason that a simple bike with tech from over 50 years ago that is incredibly simple to produce should cost the same. What really cracks me up is when they charge $1000 for fixies. It’s not like these things are custom fitted or fabricated for you….

          • come on, dude. lady just wants her bike back, not a lecture about how she overpaid for it.

          • Mr. Anon3 – the bike that someone found on Craigslist shown was a completely different make and model, and was very used. No comparison. I happened to extensively research the price and purchased it online (and on sale). I know that I got the best price possible for what was a very good quality bike that I planned to have for quite a while. So please reserve your judgement. Thank you.

  • gotryit

    Wow, that sucks. Maybe add surveillance cameras to document what’s going on? It could add to the court case.

  • The process is pretty clear. Your trashcans have to be “in” the alley for DPW to empty them. Leaving your gate open so they can walk into your back parking / yard area isn’t enough.

    It sounds like your trash wasn’t getting picked up initially because you hadn’t actually put it out for collection, thinking instead that the trash collectors should go searching for it in your back yard.

    It sounds like your actual problem is with the private collectors servicing the retail at the end of your alley. Have you called them?

    • It sounds like the OP is putting the trashcans right up against the boundary of the alley. It doesn’t seem like (s)he is expecting any searching to happen—as I understand it, the distinction is just sliding the can 1 to 2 feet into the alley, which is apparently not possible due to the private collection jerks.

      • The impression I had was that the OP didn’t want to put the trash cans actually in the alley — even right up against his/her fence — because the private trash truck kept zooming through the alley and knocking into people’s cans.
        It sounds like the alley is a tight squeeze even with people’s cans right up against their fences.

  • If the alley isn’t wide enough for the trash truck to get through unless the bins are INSIDE people’s gates, then it sounds like DPW needs to switch the trash pickup from alley-side pickup to curbside pickup, and you should ask them to consider this. (Maybe get some neighbors to sign a petition, so that you can show them there’s consensus among the neighbors?)
    If the alley IS wide enough for the trash truck and for bins lined up against the fences on either side, then the problem is more with the private trash-collection company that barrels through the alleys and runs people’s bins over. Do you know which company it is? Call their HQ and complain.

    • this may be why code requires 12′ from the alley center line to any fence/building. Certainly old structures are grandfathered in, but all new fences/shed/garages, etc, should be back from the alley so that there is plenty of room for trucks/cans/etc to coexist.

  • Retaliation? Sounds more like paranoia. I live in a row house in 16th St Heights with an alleyway which is barely wide enough for a car and too narrow for a garbage truck. Do you know that the sanitation department does? They back their truck as far as they can in the alley, then they wheel the supercans to the truck and back. The worst thing that has ever happened in three years is when a can was left on its side – once – although that could just as easily been the wind.

  • Sorry for the troubles. An expensive suggestion but maybe bring your rear fence in 2 ft, or provide a cutout of the fence into your backyard for 2 feet to keep your rear yard more secure.

    Also, I recommend a camera for your back yard, I’ve known people that once their backyard is burglarized, the offenders keep coming back knowing you may have new goodies to poach, e.g. a replacement bike.

    • There’s a house on the even-numbered side of Warder Street between Princeton Place and Quebec Place that has a rear fence with a nifty little cutout/niche for the trash cans.

  • Our alley in Petworth/ Park View is too narrow for a trash truck. Our pick-up is in the front. Most of my neighbors wheel the cans through the alley and out to the street every week. Some neighbors just keep the cans in their front yard so they have less distance to travel. Perhaps you should get together with the neighbors to petition for street-side trash collection on your block?

    • Unfortunately the recycle goes out in the front on the same day. I guess both the trash and recycle could be removed from the front, but I would imagine they would have to change days, since they usually come at the same time (when they do come!) Rebuilding the fences would be a mess, and a problem is that I would have to keep it locked all of the time because if my bin were available to others, they would dump everything in it in a heartbeat. I still have dumping problems without it! Managing that access would be a real pain…

      • We have the same situation. Our trash/recycling are both collected on Tuesdays, and the 2nd day for trash is Friday. Everyone on our block brings everything out front. Some leave their cans there year-round (behind bushes, trellises, etc.), some wheel them back and forth each time. Not the best arrangement, but not sure what else we could do. (I do like the little nook cut-out in the fence idea.)

  • This sucks. Would it be possible for you to move your fence back a few feet — so your cans could be put visibly next to the alley and you could also have a locked gate protecting your property? The other option that someone suggested– having curbside pick up — would save money, but might be more of a hassle long term, re: moving and storing your cans. How are your neighbors handling the issue?

  • I have noticed this issue with a few other houses with very narrow alley ways… I think a larger problem is that residents build fences and gates all the way to the edge of their property to maximize backyard/parking space without considering issues such as placing their garbage bins out for collection.

    You may want to examine your back yard and consider moving your gate onto your property slightly to leave a proper space for your garbage bins. That way your garbage is somewhere it will be picked up and your backyard is secure.

    It won’t help with getting your bike back, but it is a solution. Also, take it upon yourself to rectify the issue as a homeowner instead of trying to convince the city that it’s their problem.

  • This is but one example of how city services and particularly agency responsiveness have declined under Gray. Now that he’s a lame duck we have no reason to expect improvement anytime soon; and with a Mayor Bowser looking more and more likely, we all might as well get used to the mediocrity and low expectations.

  • that sucks. sorry that happened. DPW also randomly stopped collecting my trash (but infuriatingly not my neighbors — they are so fickle) from my alleyway. after 3 weeks of no trash collection, I started walking my trash around a block and a half and leave it out in front with another group of bins. it’s not a great solution, and i feel bad carting my trash around to my neighbors’ but i drop off right before collection time, and pick them up and roll them all the way back to my alley, open my gate, and store them inside right as soon as i get home.

  • Trash collection is currently horrible all over the city. I get trash strewn all over my alley on trash day, broken bottles from hipster house parties, construction debris, and collection people obviously block my parking space out of contempt for their job. I blame the outgoing Gray administration because they simply don’t care any more. They have let city services decline dramatically, rat abatement is nonexistent as rats are currently everywhere and bigger than squirrels in petworth. It’s a total shame and DC Gov should feel terrible about it.

    • Well, assuming your complaints are true, city services aren’t supposed to deal with construction debris, or broken bottles strewn around from hipster parties. If your bagged trash in super cans isn’t being picked up, that’s another issue. As for the Gray administration, city services have been quite decent overall — but the people voted, and clearly wanted change.

      • Yes, city services are responsible for alley sweeping, recycling, and trash disposal. Construction debris should result in fines for construction sites, and the alleyways should be swept at least once a month to pick up screws and alley overflow. There are dumpsters full of bottles that don’t fully get emptied into trucks and they break in the alleyway, then the collection people don’t clean up after themselves. I have lived here long enough to know about the roles of the city and what I pay taxes for, thank you. none of this was a problem through prior terms for DC mayors.

        • ” and the alleyways should be swept at least once a month to pick up screws and alley overflow”
          Is this your opinion of what ought to be done or are you saying that this is the city’s policy?

  • So I just closed on a home in the Park View area about 10 days ago. I haven’t moved in yet, but now I am worried about trash service based on these comments. There are four DISGUSTING trash cans in the alley way at the end of our yard. I put in a request to have them removed, but should I assume that won’t happen? So what should I do? I need them to take those away and get new ones.

    • If the previous occupants asked for the new ones to be returned (after they were delivered earlier this year), you might be stuck buying new ones.
      Some neighbors of mine have filled up one of their recycling bins with all sorts of mixed trash. The recycling people haven’t emptied it, because (obviously) it’s not recycling. But the trash people haven’t emptied it either, probably because it’s not bagged. (They lift the bags out of the cans, rather than putting the cans onto the thing that lifts and dumps them into the truck.) I guess I will need to report those neighbors for yet another sanitation violation…

      • I am fine buying new ones because the current ones are infested with god knows what and have tons of flies in/around them. I guess I could empty them into the nearby dumpster and hose them out/sanitize them, but it’d be nice to replace them.

        • you should probably just rinse them out and not worry much beyond that. all sorts of people are going to put all sorts of things in your garbage cans, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. pretty soon your new cans could look just like your old cans….

          • If you have a fence at the back and if you wheel your trash bins out to the alley only on trash day, the odds of random people dumping stuff in your bins will be considerably lower.

          • We do have a fenced in backyard so plan on keeping them in there when it’s not trash day.

        • I’d order new ones from 311. They’re pretty good about delivering new ones fast, but horrible about taking away the old ones. I once waited until I saw the trash people and ran out to ask them to take away our old ones. (I’ve also moved a mattress someone dumped on our property against a public street trashcan when 311 didn’t show up after four calls. It got picked up within a day.)

  • This is pretty ridiculous that the city can’t resolve this but here’s a couple of other ideas. Leave your cans permanently in the alley with your gate locked. Next time the cans are knocked over, call or go online and request an alley cleaning. Maybe they’ll figure out there’s a problem with repeated requests.

  • Maybe you could coordinate with your neighbors and everyone put the trash cans on the same side of the alley. This would save some space…

  • If you don’t want terrible city services and theft then move to CLARENDON because this is how it works in DC.

  • http://www.popville.com/2014/09/sweet-city-ride-the-sportsman/

    The bike in the background from yesterday’s post in Capitol Hill is very similar, but not totally the same.

  • Very familiar stories here. We are so fed up with the garbage situation, the blatant disregard or even an attempt to try from neighbors, the rats, and the lack of response from DPW and Bowser’s office (no surprise there), we are considering selling our home. If we’d known this ONE aspect of living here, we never would have bought this house.

  • Kevin Twine from DPW posts on the various listservs and seems like a good contact for troubleshooting problems with trash pickup. Whenever people post problems on the lists, he’s very responsive. Google his name and DC DPW and you’ll get an email address

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