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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Portland institutes "leaf removal fee" -- $30 a year

We just received a notice in the mail from the City of Portland informing us that they're going to charge us $30 this year for leaf removal on the public street in front of our house. The flyer says nothing about it being optional, and it's being imposed on neighborhood "residents" instead of property owners, thus circumventing Measure 5 and 50 property tax limitations. Signed, Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams:

More manipulation from Mayor Creepy. This is supposed to get us to say, "We'd rather you just discontinue picking up the leaves." Instead, of course, we say, "We need to get this doped-up clown out of office soon."

The "fee" apparently is going to apply regardless of whether there are any trees in front of your place, and regardless of whether you'd rather sweep up the gutter yourself. Just for living here.

Let the protests, lawsuits, and petition drives begin! Anybody for a "Hell no, we won't pay" protest movement? And since every "resident" is liable, are they going to come after the two-year-olds if they refuse to pay their share?

The collective nervous breakdown of Portland continues.

Comments (51)

About two dollars per second for the sweeper to drive along the street.

Yeah, $7,000 an hour sounds fair. (sigh)

If it's on residents, what are they going to do if you don't pay? It'd be like refusing to show ID when getting a traffic ticket.

God, this town is precious $30M to Gerding-Edlen for a bldg, $10M to Paulson for a stadium. Then they have the balls to bump water 30% in two years and charge for leaf removal.

"getting a traffic ticket"

Meant jaywalking ticket.

When I was a kid I received some stamps in the mail that I never ordered. My parents didn't pay the invoice or any of the demand letters that followed. Since we didn't order them we weren't legally obligated to pay for the stamps.

Since this isn't a tax I think the same principal applies here. I didn't ask the City to collect any leaves in front of my property and besides there aren't any trees along my 25 feet of frontage.

There wasn't anything in the mailer how they intend to collect the $30 but I don't intend to pay this extortion.

Looking at PortlandOnline.com, the Citys' official website, there is no map or defined 'leaf districts'. Leaf districts,as far as I can tell, are designated by the City, and you would only know if you are in one by receiving a dunning notice.
So the opportunity exists to enhance revenue by expanding borders. Lets turn downtown into a leaf district..hey, they have those little 'friends of trees approved' trees on the planting strips. Lets make housboat owners subject also.. leaves float down the Willamette, dont they?
Oh my gosh..I'm turning into another grump on bojack.org.
My bad.

They rarely ask the people's permission when they give away tax dollars to private interests (VOE, PGE Park, The Armory remodel, Tryon Hippie Commune, OHSU Tram, and the Williams/Dame condomania blight.

They never ask the people's permission for the many fee increases (parking meter/parking tickets, biz permits, DMV/Sellwood Bridge fees, franchise fees/surchages, water/sewer rates, Tri-Met fares).

When they do ask for our permission -- VIA NEW TAXING AUTHORITIES and bond measures -- WE MUST VOTE NO.

This is the only chance you will get to weigh in on the rising cost of living in the City of Portland.

As we keep saying, if they'd stop wasting money on streetcars, condos, bioswales, and bike boulevards, there'd be plenty of money to sweep the leaves.

Uh, NO!!!! The city of Portland OWNS the parking strip on which trees are planted. If they're gonna charge us $30 to do this, fine, let's gather all the leaves from every single tree on our properties and DUMP them in the street. You know, a protest ala Boston Tea Party.

The city has admitted in the past that it's less expensive to sweep leaves than to clean clogged storm sewers. Threatening to discontinue leaf pickup thus seems pretty disingenuous, and once this is widely known, it makes the whole scheme to charge a fee and not call it a tax, pretty shaky.

This one really pisses me off. We get so little service from the very high local taxes we pay. I'm going to rake every last friggin leaf, green tomato and tree branch to the curb. Then, I'm going to self deduct the expense saved from me not putting my leaves in the green bin and yard bags, reducing my bill to negative numbers. Finally, I'll calm down and tell myself the next mayor of Portland will bring more common sense and less creepiness to the post.

Next up: *Egg Management Fee*

For 18 years, I've paid for leaf bags that I've responsibly filled, their removal as yard debris, and now I'm expected to also pay for their absence in front of my house? Wait until the city sees my piled-up leaves the next time it comes a-calling. Anyone want to buy some leaf bags?

The city of Portland OWNS the parking strip on which trees are planted.

Actually, that's not true. The property owner "owns" the land all the way out to the middle of the street. If the public right-of-way is ever abandoned (and it happens -- streets are closed in Portland all the time), the property owner gets back the right to use it.

The original plan was to put the leaf charge on your now-all-encompassing water bill.

Here's a neat little game to play: Call the mayor's office and ask if your water will be turned off if you don't pay the leaf charge.

I will send a $5 bill to the first person who gets a definitive answer.

Are the folks in the Pearl in the leaf management district? What about the park blocks?
Can Sam pay his fees? Will he?

These all seem to be eastside neighborhoods. Are the westside neighborhoods that got free leaf pickup still going to get free pickup?

For once I think I am happy that the CoP likes to not provide services to my little part of the city. They have never picked up leaves here and they never will. I wonder if they will up the fees at the leaf deposit center at Gabriel Park or if they just won't have it.

30 bucks to pick up leaves seems crazy.

On the other hand, services are not free. The majority of residents (at least in my neighborhood and myself included) do not rake, bag and clean up leaves. Again, capitalism is great, eh -- if you don't like having services, move to a place that doesn't offer services. Anyone remember that story from a few weeks ago about the guy who did not pay for voluntary fire protection and then was surprised when the fire department did not provide fire protection?

Like another commenter noted, its cheaper to pick up the leaves on the street than (assumedly) repair the damage to the fancy new sewer system installed. And, its true that individuals respond terribly to long-term incentives ... offer the choice to pay $30 per year now for leaf clean up or to pay $500 in ten years for sewer repairs, and putting it off will win.

Mark my words, the same people who complain about the CoP's lack of responsibility in taking care of its sewer system when it needs major repairs in ten years will be some of the same folks who complained about this fee.

"The property owner "owns" the land all the way out to the middle of the street."

In addition, the property owner is responsible for maintainance (e.g. why you get charged for a sidewalk repair) and you've dedicated this land to the city.

This has gotta be one of those case law things that evolve over time because no one says no.

How about this, the "leaf district" gets its own urban renewal district and they use TIFs to pay for this?

And the passive voice was used. " . . . fees have been implemented." They just happened, no one did it.


We get to pay this fee on East side of the river in Boise, Overlook and University Park. I am sure about any other NoPo neighborhoods. I seem to remember it had something to do with the number and age of the trees.
I think we should bag our leaves and dump them at city hall.

I live in the St Johns/Pier Park area... as far as I know, we haven't recieved any of this crap (yet).

I hope the 389,000 property owners in Portland that are upset about this will just deposit their leaves on the east side of city hall. It has easy access and a nice space to unload your trunks, station wagons, and trucks. I'll be doing it if I'm ever charged. With my one lane, potholed, no curb, never repaired street, I don't think CoP even knows I exist.

I can only guess where Chris Coyle's IP address resolves to.

The City of Portland holds legal title to the acreage comprising the public streets: i.e. the City OWNS the land. Streets are never "abandoned" (whatever that means). They may be "vacated" by a legal process, and the adjacent property owners must then each purchase (from the City) their adjacent half of the right-of-way, which they then legally own (and will pay property taxes upon). "Adverse possession" does not apply; no matter how long the city ignores its right-of-way and a property owner uses it, it does not become the property of the user.
Property owners are required by law (ordinance?) to maintain the public sidewalks and parking strips, even though they don't OWN them. They are also legally liable for injuries due to negligence upon them. This is a well-established process cities all over the country use to ensure & pay for maintainence of sidewalks and parking strips.
Call City of Portland Right-Of-Way Acquisition 503-823-5185 for more info.

The Portland electorate is so slow any local government protest movement in stump town is like trying to get a fire going using wet logs, more likely to flame out than warm. Look at what happen after Mayor Adams admits he lied to get elected (even before his election you had to be dubious of this guy who hired private detectives to shake out the skeltons on Do Shono his challenger). Most Portlanders just yawned and ignored the two recall efforts.

I am not sure the odds don't favor the re-election of Mayor Adams if cityhall can continue to avoid its financial day of reckoning. With the likes of Kulongoski, Kitzhaber, and Blumenhauer throwing lavish subsidies to this cityhall; it may be a decade or more before this cityhall has a day of financial reckoning. At that time, all the small time crooks now running cityhall very likely will have retired to charming lives, or lobbying gigs.

I am hearing a new movie about New Jersey corruption (Sopranos... something or rather) is worth viewing.

A sweeping tax across our city!

Is this a sign that bankruptcy may loom unless we pay up more and more?
What next? I’m sure he has a list ready.

We have a problem here, a Mayor who has not only himself, but all of us it appears in financial trouble.

Or, does he just need some extra cash for the pet projects to continue?

This may call for a Portland Clean Sweep campaign.

See what is going on in LA and the LA Clean Sweep Campaign.

. . The vision that drives the city's policies should be clear enough now: Sell the city for any price they can get from developers, Chinese green energy companies, investment bankers and tycoons and profiteers of any story -- no matter how much it costs in subsidies and giveaways of the public's money. .

. . That's insane. How can you make money giving away tax dollars without getting a significant piece of the profits if and when they come. . .

. .Hundreds of people have joined the LA Clean Sweep campaign to bring people together from all parts of the city to help them get elected. . . .
There's nothing but bad news coming out of City Hall. This is the moment when real change is possible. .

And to think I just put all the leaves and yard debris in my yard in the can to have it picked up....

I am going home and dump the whole thing in the street in front of my house....

Since I am now paying for them to sweep what I used to put in the bin they can have it all....


This calls for another layer of Portland city government. Bring on the Portland Leaf Removal Commission. Lots of neighborhood 'input' sessions, studies, consulting contracts to let, more studies, press events featuring Creepy, Fish and Amanda holding rakes, etc.


"The property owner 'owns' the land all the way out to the middle of the street."

That's wrong, Jack, and Pagan is mostly right. (I'm a private sector land use consultant.)

Your property ends at the end of your front yard. The sidewalk, planting strip, and street are all owned by the City. You have no ownership rights over the sidewalk and planting strip in front of your property, but you are responsible for maintaining them.

If you successfully vacate the right-of-way (I love that term--let's go on a street vacation!), the city abandons their ownership rights. The land then reverts to the ownership pattern that pre-dated the creation of the street. In most cases, this is a 50/50 split with your across-the-street neighbor, but not always. Depends on the history. You don't have to pay the city for the real estate, but you pay for all the document preparation, filing fees, etc. It's expensive and painful, but in transaction costs, and the two years of your life you'll never get back.

Talea -

There are NO west side residential neighborhoods which have EVER received "free" leaf pickup.

Those west side neighborhoods residential have, however, had the privilege of paying for the east side neighborhoods' "free" leaf pickup.

We have been doing the "own our own dime" rake, bag, and put out for yard debris recycling ( at a substantial extra charge for every bag put out) for years and years.

This eastsider would rather do it your way, Nonny Mouse.

"The sidewalk, planting strip, and street are all owned by the City."

Tell me who gets sued if someone trips on the sidewalk in front of your house and breaks a leg.

You've dedicated that property to the city, but you still own it technically. It makes it easier for the city to charge you and yet not be responsible for anything.

Steve is right. So am I.

Nonny: They picked up the leaves every year in the Willamette Heights neighborhood when I lived there. My street adjoined Forest Park so there were a lot of leaves.

Alright, I looked this up. Land out to the middle of the road is owned by the property owner. It is not included in the legal description of the property. But it is nonetheless transfered with the deed.

There is a dedication or easement that allows the public to use these areas.

The duty to maintain the trees can lie either with the owner or the city, depending on who planted them, and who has the history of caring for them.

The city encourages you to plant trees, then charges for the leaf pick-up. Oh, my.

Anyone out there ready to start a petition to end the leaf fee? I'm in Roseway, and my lot has 8 leaf-droppers, which I diligently sweep up every year (including the foot of street nearest the curb). However, a number of houses on my block have no trees. Would seem this is not an equitable tax/fee by any definition.

And, as to the parking strip ownership/maintenance - no one from the City has ever offered to pay the several hundred dollars I incur every few years to have my six parking strip trees professionally trimmed.

And of course, there's nothing obvious on the PBOT web page about the new fee - but you can help clean your storm drains this weekend when it rains! http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=323673&c=39132

So here's a basic question - can I stop with the yard waste pick up and just throw my leaves, compost materials, and other crap in the street for the semi-annual clean up? If that's the case, I'll gladly pay $30 instead of whatever the garbage man charges. In fact, I'd pay $30 and haul it myself if we are allowed to dump it in front of Sam's house (which, incidentally, doesn't appear to be on the list of tree-lined neighborhoods subject to a new tax).

No, Other Mike, the yellow flyer expressly tells us: "Don't rake or blow leaves from your yard into the street." That's always been the case, and some people (like me) have always dutifully bagged their own damn leaves and hauled them to the leaf depots (paying the very reasonable $1/carload fee), whereas others have always cheated and put their yard leaves in the street. But with the $30 fee, I would think a lot more people will put their yard leaves in the street. It's ridiculous that I have to pay when I have no sidewalk strip deciduous trees AND I still have to haul my own leaves! (I've got way too many in back for the bi-monthly yard debris pick-up).

I finished the attic on my close in NE home. The city required us to plant trees in the parking strip in order to sign off on the plans. I've dumped the leaves in the street ever since. Suckit city of Portland!

So when was this voted on by the city council or is this just our boy emperor wandering off the reservation?

Note that the flyer mentions assessments only for Residents and Commerical [sic] property managers. Apparently, religious institutions and the Parks Department are exempt from the "fees" -- which would suggest that they are truly taxes.

In my neighborhood, where the avenues are seldom cleaned, the latter entity contributes an enormous volume of oak and maple leaves to surrounding streets and lawns. The divisive, vindictive, lamentable, less-than-literate, alleged mayor, it would appear, has invented yet another inegalitarian and, most probably illegal, subsidy.

BTW, this earlier blog entry might be helpful, especially the concluding comment:

Great minds will get nowhere arguing the ownership of the street, planting strip, trees, or sidewalk. There's a major disconnect between urban legends, land-use provisions, and municipal/case law (all of which seem to obfuscate the issue). Throw in a few tons of wet leaves and you've got the ultimate slippery slope.

In the real world, the city draws the line at the street. I work in real estate and see how the city dodges sewer-line repairs. There's a basic rule: anything from the street edge of the curb is yours; anything in the street is theirs. Case closed.

If the city takes responsibility below the streets, they should take responsibility above the streets. The legal doctrine of “ad coelum et ad inferos” provides that you own your property up to heaven and down to hell. If the city claims the ground under the street, they sure as hell ought to claim the street itself. If that’s the case, then they should be maintaining/cleaning the catch basins.

My intersection has three catch basins and two bus stops. This time of year, the bus stops can become a nightmare for cars, bikes, and TriMet riders. I’ve been cleaning all three grates for almost 10 years. I just got my new tax bill, of which the City of Portland tax portion was nearly $1800. By charging me $30 to remove my leaves, they’ve bought themselves at least four annual trips to clean the catch basins. Those who live near catch basins can call (503) 823-1700. Also, whether it's a private citizen or the city crews cleaning the catch basins - SLOW DOWN - it's dangerous.

Now to the leaves. There's an ancient common law rule, “ferae naturae” (or wild by nature), that applies to wild animals you trap (e.g., Beavers) or shoot (e.g., Ducks) on your land. Oil and gas rights are determined by mineral ferae naturae (you can drill a well under your land and suck up your neighbor’s oil from the same deposit).

Although they are neither animal or mineral, leaves are also wild by nature. They flit, fly, float, and fall according to the breeze (especially if the breeze comes from the business end of a Black & Decker). I'm not a betting man, but I may be if Measure 75 goes through. If I were, I'd bank on it that a preponderance of this year’s leaves will be falling nowhere near the yards, sidewalks, parking strips, or curbs of the NE Portland neighborhoods.

As a final note, my address puts me in both the Irvington A and C (there is no B) districts, as the flyer doesn’t differentiate sides of the street. Will we be taxed, oops, charged twice for this? Either way, I’m praying that Mayor Adams will LEAVE office soon.

For the past three years, I have corralled a wonderful group of neighborhood volunteers to help sweep the streets of downtown St Johns. We value our business district, but the city doesn't sweep it usually,( though they surprised us last year) and the business owners hadn't been doing it. Disposal of the leaves has always been a challenge, especially when the City cut way back on disposal depots.
I wonder if I hold our street sweep this year, if anyone will come out, expecting the city to do it, and will the city charge the businesses for work they didn't do.. and where will we put the darn leaves?
Its apparent the city doesn't want you to rake and haul your own leaves, the locations are fewer and there are fewer leaf depots.
St Johns has never been a leaf district. Now we are. When you mulitiply the fee by the number of homeowners, its apparent that the city wants to generate a lot of income for minimal work.
Ya say ya want a revolution?


to Garage Wine: I just phoned the Bureau of Water and was told that after a special meeting they just had, no, the leaf removal charge will not be on our water bill but will come to our home as a totally seperate bill. They are just using the water bureau's billing system.

To those posting that it's a useful and needed service, that's not the point. The point is that we didn't have a voice in deciding or even knowing that this charge was on the table. Government can not just decide to provide an unsolicited service and send you a bill...to a select few and not the mass. This has to be illegal. One news report online today said that the opt-out that "they" are working on is one in which you apply and they will come by and assess if the street (not just your property) is clear and meets their requirements. Unbeleivable.

"The original plan was to put the leaf charge on your now-all-encompassing water bill.

Here's a neat little game to play: Call the mayor's office and ask if your water will be turned off if you don't pay the leaf charge.

I will send a $5 bill to the first person who gets a definitive answer.

Posted by Garage Wine | October 22, 2010 4:53 AM"

So how are they planning to implement this?
They just want the money and now they are trying to figure out how to get it without too much wrath!
Or too much legal entanglement!
Arrogance rules down there, and
maybe they have just gone too far this time!

Maybe you have a very different definition of "own" than I do. Abutting owners have obligations related to sidewalks and street trees, but that doesn't mean they own the land in any real way. If you don't believe me:

1. Ask a surveyor.
2. Look at the title documents with your house. See where your property line ends.
3. Look at any plat of any subdivision anywhere.
4. Read City Charter 9-407 or City Code 17.28.020.A, which explain that maintenance of the public sidewalk is the abutting owner's responsibility.
5. Ask a developer if he had to turn over ownership of the streets and sidewalks to the city as part of the process.
6. Ask yourself why would street vacations exist if residents already own the land? That's the whole point--it gives public land back to the abutting private owners.

Ummm...so, my wife and I moved our car to a "non-leaf clean-up area" last night in order to facilate the "clean-up," which I still think smells like my dogs "deposits." And, when I got home from work today (riding the bus), no leaves on my street have been picked up. There is no way I'm paying that fee...none!!

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