“Citation Received for “Failure to Maintain Abutting Public Space”


“Dear PoPville-

On Monday evening, I arrived home from work to find the attached document on my front door. I’ve lived in DC for 14 years and I’ve been a Columbia Heights Resident since 2008 and I’ve never seen or heard of anyone getting a citation like this.

My roommates and I were doing some spring cleaning and placed the lamp outside last week, along with some other household items that we no longer wanted, in hopes that someone less fortunate would be able to make use of our wares. We have done this in the past multiple times, and we are always sure to take anything unclaimed back for trash removal. (Coincidentally, Tuesday is our trash night, so I was planning on bringing the lamp inside Monday evening, ensuring that it was removed with Tuesday’s trash removal.)

As I’m sure you are aware, this is common practice in the neighborhood. I’ve seen lots of great free stuff available curbside, as well as terrible curbside eyesores curbside for weeks at a time.

While I admit we placed the lamp curbside for a few days, I do not think we should be fined $75 for it. Had we received a warning, we would have immediately removed the lamp. The inspector who generated the citation took the pictures on 4/15, reinspected the property on 4/17 and returned on 4/20 to deliver the citation. This seems like a huge waste of resources. Had we been notified on 4/15, we would have gladly complied with removing the lamp from the curbside and saved the inspector (and the city) the time and effort from returning 2 more times to our property. We are good neighbors and we live on a beautiful block; we want nothing to do with degradation of our street scape.

Can you tell me, has anyone else in the PoPville community seen this? Is this a new regulation? Is this an old regulation that is gaining momentum in enforcement? If so, perhaps the city should do some PR to inform the residents that this is no longer an acceptable practice. We want what’s best for our neighborhood and our city and this doesn’t seem like the best approach to addressing a common practice. We do not want to pay this fine and wonder if anyone can give us any advice to assist us in abatement of the fine.”

113 Comment

  • With a decrease in revenue from speed cameras, they need to make up the shortfall somewhere…

  • I feel your pain, but c’mon: don’t leave trash on the curb for several days and be surprised that you get fined for it! Generally accepted neighborhood practice or not. If you want it gone in a day post to freecycle or the free section of craigslist. There are literally armies of apparent hoarders in the area that will pick up anything with minimal value.

      • +1. Agree. Don’t leave trash on the curb. It’s a huge problem in this area. Take it to the Transfer Station or make other arrangements.

    • +1

      Gotta agree with above. I’ve put stuff out on the sidewalk before, but if I put it out on a Saturday evening and it’s still there Saturday evening, I take it in. I’d say rule of thumb should be no more than 24 hours. More than that, and you’re just adding to the liter.

      • I’d go further– nothing stays out overnight. If it’s not gone in one morning-to-evening day, it’ll just get trashed by roving n’er-do-wells after nightfall.

        • I agree with you wdc.

          The more I thought about it after I posted my comment, the more I thought that nothing should stay out overnight.

    • If I were a neighbor and saw you leaving your “junk” out in public space for days on end, I would applaud the citation.

    • I 311-d you. Don’t leave litter out. Thanks

    • +1. This is what Community Forklift is for!

    • Agreed. Either put it out day of or before trash removal, or use freecycle. Can’t really complain, in my book.

      • I’m perfectly content dolling out tax dollars to support this. Think about it for a minute, even if your intentions were pure, if everyone did exactly as you did, we’d have alleys, sidewalks and other common areas just stock piled with crap.

  • I’ve had neighbors leave a lot of junk outside on the curb that they are trying to “donate” to someone “less fortunate” and it makes the neighborhood look terrible because it’s pretty much just piles of trash on the street corner. It’s possible one of your neighbors disagrees with your method of disposal and reported you to 311? One person’s waste of resources could be another’s attempt at keeping their block beautiful.

  • Quick tip for next time: just put the free stuff in front of someone else’s house

    • Sure, let your neighbor pay the ticket. ๐Ÿ™‚ But seriously, when my next door neighbor left some furniture on the curb in front on his house last year, the DPW inspector had the citation (with photo evidence) mailed to my address. I filed an appeal and asked for a hearing with O.A.H. Six months later when I went to the hearing and showed photos of my house that proved the inspector’s photo evidence was wrong, the inspector quickly told the judge he wished to withdraw the case. So I saved the $75 fine at a cost of $25 (for certified mail) and one day off work.

  • How do they know you did it? I mean obviously you did b/c you admitted it, but someone could throw stuff in front of my house? Though, I wish they would actually do this in my neighborhood (maybe they do?) because people leave mattresses (worst offenders!), dresser drawers, nightstands, and other random things on the sidewalks for weeks at a time!

    • If something gets dumped adjacent to your property file a 311 or SeeClickFix request for Public Dumping. The city is usually pretty good about getting around to those requests in my experience. And if they try to fine you you have a record of reporting it. We live near a bus stop with a public trash can, and people assume they can dump any large item and the twice weekly collection will get it. Well, they only empty the trash can, so I find myself reporting dressers, yard debris, etc. all the time. It’s almost always gone within the week.

      • Yeah, there seems to be widespread misunderstanding (and/or widespread disregard) of what’s eligible for regular trash collection. People frequently leave bulk items (mattresses, furniture, CRT TVs) in my alley without arranging for bulk pickup. And then I’m stuck having to report the items to 311, because apparently if I don’t, no one else does. It’s really frustrating.

        • How do you arrange for bulk pickup? Is there an extra cost associated?

          • Bulk pickup is free as long as you’re eligible for regular D.C. residential trash collection. (If you’re in an apartment/condo building with four or more units, you’re not eligible; consult your building management.)
            You can schedule bulk pickup by going to 311.dc.gov, calling 311, or using the 311 app. All the info on what’s eligible: http://dpw.dc.gov/node/418402

    • Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’ll talk to a neighbor who might say it’s yours (as if the neighbor is an authoritative source….) But it is your responsibility to maintain certain public spaces around your house, so I don’t think they actually have to prove that you put it there, just that you didn’t remove it.

    • If someone leaves stuff in front of your house, you’re responsible for getting rid of it. (This applies to litter, too, not just larger items.) You can report dumped bulk items to 311, but make sure to clarify that someone else dumped them on your property so that DPW doesn’t give you a fine.

      • I am not talking about specifically in front of my property. No one has done that and if they did I’d just remove it myself (unless it was a mattress!). I am talking about just walking around the hood and noticing it in front of other houses. I did call 311 recently because someone left a HUGE construction grade dumpster in our alley!

        • Yeah… it’s probably a good idea for you to report the dumped items to 311, as it sounds like the houses they’re in front of aren’t going to bother to do so (and probably generated the items themselves).

  • I wish I could start ticketing the parking enforcement people.

  • Too many people leave too much junk furniture out. We’ve had more than a few couches and mattresses dumped on our corner. Bulk trash will eventually come get it but not immediately.

  • Given how often boxes of “free stuff” get strewn around and end up as more litter, I am not sorry to see that some enforcement is happening. I hope that there are lots more citations issued for failure to maintain abutting public space.
    I generally take things to Martha’s Table, or Goodwill, instead of leaving them outside.
    Yes, a warning would have been nice. Them’s the breaks, though. Ignorance of the law and all that.

  • After the massive bedbug problems many apartment buildings experienced last year, at least one apartment manager that I know of is begging people not to pick up furniture curbside and bring it indoors. So maybe the stuff really is sitting outside longer.

  • I obviously don’t know this for sure, but my sense is that this type of citation usually occurs in response to a complaint, not from roving city inspectors looking for things to punish. In other words: someone complained about the junk you left sitting out. So you can blame the city if you want, but I’d say there’s a good chance that they were just responding to the request of one (or more) of your neighbors.

  • I was cited $75 for leaving my trash can in the alley at the wrong time. I denied and requested a live hearing. I showed up to the hearing, DPW didn’t and the case was dismissed. Apparently DPW rarely shows so I suggest you do the same if you want to avoid the fine. Good luck!

    • You suggest he go to the hearing and lie like you? Nice…I can tell you are of high integrity. How about he just pay the fine and not do it again? Shhessh- unbelievable. It’s like lying is nothing for you. Glad you are not my neighbor.

  • Are you sure the lamp was yours and not your neighbors (wink wink)? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • This is illegal dumping and something I fight constantly around my condo complex. If you want to rid yourself of something, you have many options: Craigslist, Freecycle, drive it to the Ft. Totten Transfer Station, call for bulk waste pick-up but never just leave something on your curb. It is improper trash disposal, it is an eyesore and your neighbors will not appreciate it.

    If you have something show up on your curb (my favorite was an old-school overhead transparency projector – gave the customer service agent and myself a great laugh), call to report it and have it removed.

  • I’m probably alone on this, but it find it annoying when people leave their junk on the sidewalk, put a “free” label and expect others to pick up their trash for them. 99/100 times, the stuff is garbage, please just put it in the trash.

    • I have a problem with this attitude that if you don’t want it, it becomes trash. Lots of stuff we don’t want/ need anymore has plenty of use left it in. It shouldn’t be thrown away. Where do you think it goes?? I wish when people were indulging in retail therapy, they would give some thought to what happens when they’re tired of their purchases.
      Of course, leaving stuff outside “for free” is not good either. Take your stuff to goodwill or other charity. It’s the responsible thing to do.

      • Most free stuff left at the curb is trash. I did find a great All-Clad pan in a pile of stuff at a group house once, though.

      • “Lots of stuff we donโ€™t want/ need anymore has plenty of use left” — Agreed with this, but some people aren’t very good at distinguishing between “items I don’t want that someone else might want” and “items I don’t want that NOBODY wants.”

        • That’s ok. Goodwill and other resale orgs hire people to sort through donations. They have the capability to deal with stuff that is no longer useful for what you used it for, but still not landfill material. Ratty clothes get turned into industrial rags; electronics get taken apart (another paying job) and recycled appropriately.

      • Accountering

        It goes into a landfill. There is plenty of space in Virginia for this crap to go. With that said, I do try and reuse stuff when possible.

        • That was nice thing about living in NoVA; whatever we left outside was gone immediately. Broken box spring? Cracked coffee mug? Rug that the puppy peed on so many times you could smell it from another floor of the house? Someone always found a reason to take it right away.

      • Give it away online, call the Salvation Army, whatever. I’m not saying it that ALL of it belongs in the trash. However, putting it on the curb is no better than just throwing it away. From my perspective, people that do this are lazy and inconsiderate.

  • We leave stuff out on the street all the time, but do a few things to make sure it doesn’t become a nuisance.
    – leave it out on weekends when the weather is nice to maximize chances someone will take it
    – don’t put it in a box (that just attracts more trash)
    – leave a little at a time (say, 6-10 books at once on our retaining wall)
    – if it’s not gone within 24 hours, no one wants it – throw it in the trash

    However, lots of people on our street still leave random crap (like old pasta jars) out until they get broken and rained on, and that’s annoying.

    • +10000

      I actually really like the fact that people leave out their items over the weekend on the hill, and for the most part it seems like people follows these rules.

  • Most likely one of your neighbors complained, which is why the inspector took the time to do this. I doubt they were randomly looking for offenders. Honestly, I HATE this practice and wish they would ticket more. Too often, just as you said, people “get busy” and don’t bring their crap in off the street. Or, they simply move on and leave it there for someone else to deal with. Its a nuisance – particularly if it rains. Seriously – there is a guy on our street in Petworth who put out a TV stand three weeks ago. There it sits disintegrating along the curb. I know he still lives there because I see lights go on and off and the trash cans move in and out. But for some reason he is determined someone is going to want to take this crap.

    I’m sorry this is a case where you can’t make exceptions for the “responsible” people because it becomes unmanageable. At the end of the day it’s your stuff and your responsibility to make sure it is disposed of properly.

  • i thought the unspoken rules of “free stuff” were to put it out on a nice day at a time when people are passing by and then bring it in/throw it out/put it on CL.

    • If the rules are unspoken, is it really surprising that not everyone seems to know what they are?

      • it’s just using common sense….like no one wants the lamp that was out during the Monday night thunderstorms; but if you put it out on a sunny Saturday it would be gone.

        • Not everyone has common sense. Not everyone agrees on what is common sense. Not everyone knows the unspoken rules.

          • Not everyone gets citations for failure to maintain abutting public space ๐Ÿ™‚

          • In the absence of common sense and knowledge of unspoken rules, people should follow the written rules… which are on the dc.gov website.

          • “In the absence of common sense and knowledge of unspoken rules…”
            i.e. always.

    • This is not new, my tenant received this when the dumped stuffs while moving 3 years ago. This usually happens when a neighbor complain.

  • I Dont Get It

    This why I leave the small items at the corner next to the public trash can. Large items DC bulk pick up along with a post to Craigslist.

  • We got one of these in January! However, it was for before we closed on our house, so we were able to get it dismissed because we weren’t the owers at the time. In the Inspector Notes it said, “worker hostile when asked to remove bags of trash mixed within leaves in black trash bags on the abutting public space to include shingles from roof also on the abutting public space not propertly contained.”
    I’m not sure exactly what happened since it got dismissed, but the previous owner got a violation for $75 for being rude!?!? It never even said if they ended up removing the trash or not. Nuts.

  • Put a sign on it that says “free” and you should be in good shape. Just kidding. I’ve actually done this from time to time for short periods. If it doesn’t get picked up on a weekend afternoon, it’s time to bring it back inside and find another solution.

  • SouthwestDC

    I just got one of those for having cardboard out for recycling pickup three days early. What the inspector didn’t know is that it was out on recycling day, but DPW missed it, so I called 311 and was waiting for them to come back and get them. I sent in an explanation but haven’t heard back yet.
    The funny thing is, if I didn’t “maintain abutting parking space” I never would have seen the notice. I was picking up litter on the sidewalk and that’s where I found it.

    • SouthwestDC

      Also, I’m impressed that you received the citation 5 days after the incident. Mine was for something that happened in early February!

    • Was the cardboard in a recycling bin? If not, that could be why you got the citation.

      • SouthwestDC

        It was too big for the recycling bin, as I recall. And the citation explicitly stated “Recycling put out three days early” so I think that’s what they were concerned about.

      • epric002

        you’re supposed to bundle the cardboard, which means it often doesn’t fit in the recycling bin.

        • SouthwestDC

          Yeah, mine was bundled. I even broke it up into two bundles for separate weeks so it wouldn’t be overwhelming to the DPW guys.

        • Are you sure about that? I thought everything was supposed to go in the bin.

          • SouthwestDC

            I honestly don’t know, but I’m sure my bin was already full with other recyclables when I put it out. I guess after the cardboard was missed I could have spent a few hours cutting it into tiny pieces to put in the then-empty bin (there was a LOT of it), but that didn’t occur to me.
            Anyway, it doesn’t sound like that’s what the issue was.

          • Not to belabor the point, but if they took the recyclables *in* the bin but not the cardboard *outside* the bin (is that what you’re saying?), it sounds like that might be precisely what the issue was.

          • SouthwestDC

            That could have been part of the series of events that led to the citation being issued, but that’s not the reason stated on the citation.
            Anyway, I’ve seen neighbors put cardboard out separately and it gets picked up when it’s supposed to. I think DPW just overlooked it, or didn’t have room for it, or didn’t want to deal with it at that time.

        • So what are you supposed to do if it doesn’t fit? This seems like a catch 22.

          • I break or tear down all cardboard into pieces that fit in my bin. I’ve never heard of this ‘bundling’ requirement – I’d like to know a source for that information.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I don’t know if it’s on their website and don’t care enough to look it up, but I recall having seen the bundling requirement on a flyer mailed to my (presumably all) DC households several years ago about how household recycling works generally – I’m thinking this was somewhere around 2006. Not sure how somebody who came here between then and now is supposed to find out, though…

          • The DPW website says at http://dpw.dc.gov/node/418912 that cardboard boxes are supposed to be collapsed, but it doesn’t say anything about needing to bundle cardboard.

  • C’mon, you left trash on the sidewalk for 3 days? Just pay the fine.

    If you want to give to the less fortunate there are many local charities to which you can donate goods (if my experience at Martha’s Table is any evidence they are the recipient of a lot of utterly useless crap so surely a lamp wouldn’t be out of place). Many will even come pick up your stuff.

    But no, you can’t leave unwanted trash on the side of the road for multiple days and then be confused or affronted when fined for doing so. It’s un-neighborly behavior.

    I’m sure if it had been left out for just an afternoon this would not have happened–so if you want to continue this practice perhaps you will monitor your stuff and take it back in if it is unwanted.

    • I have never ever, in my 5 years of living in DC, had a charity offer to come out and pick up any kind of donation.

      • SouthwestDC

        Purple Heart does it, although it takes a few tries usually.

      • I haven’t either, but that’s because I always drop my stuff off. I do get solicitations in the mail from charities that include bags in which I can leave stuff for them to pick up. Regardless, they do exist and if you can’t find one it’s not an excuse to just put stuff outside indefinitely.

      • I live in far NE (Riggs Park/Michigan Park area) and get postcards and bags in the mail from charities at least once a week that want to come pick up junk from my house. Green Drop, Vietnam Vets, Purple Heart just to name a few.

  • The inspector took a picture on Wednesday, came back on Friday, and delivered the citation Monday. Your junk was outside for five days, at least, and it rained at least once in the interim. You’re seriously saying that you really thought someone was going to still take it? BS. You should have brought it inside it thrown it away after a day or two – you deserved the citation.

  • OP, please. It poured down rain over the weekend! Stop the cop-out act and pay the fine.

    Agreed with CrazyCatLady, above that If you want to rid yourself of something, you have many options – dumping is dumping and no one appreciates things left out more than 24 hours.

  • I moved into North Columbia Heights from Mt. Pleasant a few months ago. We had some valuable building materials and furniture that we wanted to donate to Community Forklift shortly after moving in. They told us to leave our donation on the curb for pickup since their truck could not navigate the back alley, so we set them out at around 9PM. By 10AM the next morning, we had a ticket for $75, even though the items were clearly marked with “Donation to Community Forklift” signs. And get this: In the photos that DCRA mailed to us with our ticket, the ‘For Donation’ signs were clearly visible! Quite the welcome to the ‘hood.

    • I get why people don’t want junk on the street. But c’mon, knock on the door or read some signs before you go crying to DCRA please!

  • I think if after one night the lamp was still there you should have called it a day. I don’t agree with the citation but can see why they did it.

    • Allison

      “I think if after one night the lamp was still there you should have called it a day.” — because the lamp was providing light? *badum sheeeeeeeeeesh!* It’s a joke. Har har. *sigh*

  • Ah, spring time…when people decide to leave beat up love seats, old mattresses, and other stuff they are too lazy to properly dispose of on a curb and assume someone wants it during high moving season.

  • You are lucky it was just a $75 ticket. I have received several of these tickets and usually they are $175. The worst part is that it was my tenants leaving their stuff out for the trash but I end up with the ticket.

    And welcome Fairmont Street neighbor!!! The inspector on this block is ruthless.

    • The same thing happened to us. The inspector even admitted they were wrong in issuing us a citation and would cancel it. Our appeal was denied and we have to go to court on May 5 to explain the ineptitude of their inspectors.

  • Accountering

    Call the inspector. Apologize, explain the above, and ask him to help. He can help you get it waived if he wants too.

  • Question – many commenters are referring to this as dumping, but the citation seems to have more to do with not maintaining the front yard (which is technically public space in most of DC).
    Which makes me wonder, can I get them to cite my neighbor who never EVER mows his lawn?

    • The “public space” that’s not being maintained here is the sidewalk/treebox area, and is the province of DPW.
      For neighbors who don’t mow their lawns: Report them to DCRA (which, annoyingly, doesn’t seem to be possible via the 311 website). There are seasonal grass-cutting rules that kick in soon (May 1).

      • That said… Last summer I had a really frustrating time getting DCRA to be responsive about this. I even established a Twitter account for the sole reason of tweeting to DCRA, because it didn’t seem like my e-mails were getting anywhere and I hate doing this kind of thing by phone because then there’s no automatic record.

        • See my comment below. I know these DCRA services used to be under the 311 umbrella (because I’ve requested them via 311 in the past), and it strikes me that DCRA pulled them from the 311 options because they wanted less accountability. Tweeting DCRA usually works really well, though. I’ve done that in the past when a 311 call didn’t cut it.

      • you mention the tree boxes. I was under the impression that in the fall, tree boxes is where you put raked leaves. Being a responsible and considerate neighbor, I raked our stoop and piece of sidewalk, gathered the leaves, and placed them in a trash bag in the box. It took the city weeks if not months to get it. I thought this was just something the city did during the leafy season, but maybe I was supposed to call it in?

        • SouthwestDC

          There are two two-week periods in the fall that you’re supposed to have the leaves out, depending on your ward number. You should get a notice or you can check online.

        • Dzzz — DPW told me (when I complained about bagged leaves not being taken) that they don’t collect bagged leaves at the same time they “vacuum” up the loose leaves.
          So that might account for some of the delay… but unless you put the bag out after BOTH rounds of leaf collection (I think they do one in November and another in December, or something like that), it should’ve been taken within a few weeks.

  • I think the $75 is completely fair. I do like the custom of leaving certain items (furniture/housewares) out for a short period of time, say a few hours, on the street for people to pick up. Both times I have left old items out (TV and sofa) they were gone within the hour. After college many of my friends furnished their apartments this way on a ramen budget. I still retain a lamp I found on the street several years ago. This being said its an eyesore, your lawn is not a dumpyard. If you leave it out more than a day its likely to get wet from the dew or in this time of year a random shower and then certainly noone will want it.

  • Man, I’m actually jealous of whoever reported you. Those public space inspectors are quick. It took me weeks of arguing with DCRA to get them to force a neighbor who had tossed an entire houseful of unwanted furniture into their front lawn to clean it up. And when “cleaning it up” turned out to mean putting it in the basement for a week and then dumping it back on the front lawn, I was called a nuisance for reporting it, even though they did eventually do something because the yard FINALLY got cleaned up after 10 weeks total (from dumping to actual cleaning).

    Also, I’m 100% down with “do it on trash day or limit it to 12-24 hours.” If something is still on the curb after *6* hours, chances are no one wants it.

  • Honestly, please use Freecycle or Craigslist to get rid of free stuff. Or put it out for one day (not overnight) with a sign, but leaving stuff out for a few days is annoying.

  • We live near a public trash can where people dump stuff ALL OF THE TIME. The city workers who collect this trash actually THROW it into our yard if they don’t want to take it, over or through the gate. While we haven’t witnessed them doing it, our neighbor who works an overnight shift witnessed it happen twice before he told us. Otherwise, we would’ve continued to assume it was some jerk(s) just walking by. Is there anyone we can contact about this who would care? It sometimes looks like construction materials dumped at the end of the day while someone was leaving the city, or someone who dumped a bunch of stuff while moving, etc. I’d rather the city just remove the trash can all together if the employees aren’t willing to take it but instead make it OUR problem. We put it right back out there, but then A) it looks like WE are dumping, and B) there’s a chance it would end up right in our yard again. Put it in our own trash, you say? Well, some of it would require special requests to be collected and it’s just not right in the first place. It just fries me when I come home to see a new pile or item at the trash can and know that it’s going to end up in our yard regardless of whether or not I alert 311. Help? Some of the stuff is heavy too.It’s really annoying.

    • Report the issue to your Councilmember, and ask him/her to ask DPW to remove the public trash can.
      A friend of mine who lives by a bus stop successfully requested a public trash can from DPW… only to find that it seemed to attract dumping. I believe she was able to get DPW to remove it.

  • We got fined for our neighbors trash cans – he put them in the street in front of our house and left them there for several days. In the picture that came along with the citation you can clearly see that our trashcans were in our yard. I called the inspector and pointed out her error which she readily agreed was an error on her part. She promised to cancel the citation. We sent in an appeal with pictures anyway and received a notice last week that our appeal was denied. So now we have to take 1/2 the day off work to go to court and explain yet again that those weren’t our trashcans in the picture.

    I would bet my right arm that they expect us to just pay the fine and not show up in court. This is not the way to to create revenue DC!

    • If this happens again… move the neighbors’ trash cans so they’re in front of HIS house. He’s to blame for having put them in front of your house in the first place… but, unless you were out of town, why didn’t you move them?

  • Trash —> rat sanctuary.

    It looks disgusting and lazy. Pay someone to haul it away.

  • I received a ticket like that in error before. The city was fining one of my neighbors for leaving trash out in the alleyway and put my address on there by mistake. I thinks it’s hypocritical of the city to fine you for that without providing warnings. When you try to do a trash pickup it takes then forever to get around to picking up the trash but when they want it clean they want it clean right now!

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