Tour de Lab September 1st

Could proposed “leaf tax” sweep away a bike safety hazard?

Posted by on November 21st, 2008 at 8:37 am

Leaves where bikes like to be.
(Photo: Elly Blue)

Every fall in Portland, mounds of leaves pile up on neighborhood streets, creating slippery conditions on road shoulders and sidewalks.

Yesterday the Oregonian featured a story about a new “leaf tax” being considered by Mayor-elect Sam Adams that would create “leaf districts” in areas of the city with many street trees.

Adams’ idea made me wonder if this new tax would improve biking conditions.

I witnessed the bicycle safety implications of leaf buildup while riding down NE Tillamook on my way to work a few days ago. At 16th, a man riding ahead of me made a turn to cross the traffic calming barrier, rode through a deep pile of leaves, and toppled over onto his side. He picked himself up, ruefully said he was okay, and kept riding.

Story continues below

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(Photo © J. Maus)

Exactly one year ago, we covered the leaf safety issue. That story focused on a Tribune article that mentioned a couple who voiced concerns that general tax dollars were being used to clean up leaf debris in some of Portland’s wealthiest neighborhoods, while residents in other parts of the city had to pay to remove leaves themselves.

That’s unfair according to Eastmoreland Neighborhood resident John Replinger. The Oregonian’s Jim Mayer reported that Replinger told City Council; “I’m paying to do the right thing…We’re rewarding the lawbreakers and putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk.”

Currently, the City picks up leaves in the roadway in areas with a lot of street trees — places with heavy bike traffic like Sellwood, Laurelhurst, and Irvington. In advance of scheduled leaf collection, residents receive a notice, which many take as an opportunity to sweep all of the leaves from their yards into the street — sometimes ruining a perfectly good shoulder to ride in.

What is your experience riding on leaf-strewn streets this time of year? Would you support this leaf tax idea if it meant your bike route would be a bit safer to ride on?

The tax is under consideration for next fall. Read the full story (and comments) in the Oregonian.

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77 Comments
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    Paul November 21, 2008 at 8:44 am

    This issue drives me nuts this time of year. I often ride SE 41st from Stark, through the HAWK light to Glisan. It is all mountains of leaves now from properties adjacent to the street. Its awful at night.

    So I’ve moved my commute to busier streets until the leaves are gone. But it is ridiculous to see a spotless lawn with nothing on it – and then at the curb a four foot high pile of leaves. Wonder how those got there?

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    Duncan November 21, 2008 at 8:48 am

    I think that the tax will have a nagative effect- it will encourage people to sweep their leaves into the street. Whats needed is enforcement of the exisisting rules… but that would mean giving tickest to the landed gentry of this town.

    Unless the tax would mean weekly or even daily pickups, I see it as an incentive for people to continue a dangerous practice.

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    Meghan November 21, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I don’t mind new taxes, if it’s for something useful. But I have a hard time paying for leaves to be picked up out of the streets of our wealthiest citizens, which also happens to be where some of our largest and leaf-iest trees are.

    The City needs to do more education about why it’s not okay to just sweep leaves into the street instead of taking them to one of the many leaf-drop-off sites around the City.

    I ride at least three days a week, and Ladd’s Addition is where I’ve encountered the most problems with leaves where bikes are expected to be. The spot that scares me is the little curb cut you’re supposed to use to turn left onto Clay (?) St. as you’re leaving Ladd’s. It’s always covered in slippery stuff this time of year.

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    Ethan November 21, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I saw a guy using a blower to move all of his leaves into the street yesterday . . . it looked like a blast zone around his property. He clearly was not worried about a ticket (and it was a very busy street).

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    Andrew November 21, 2008 at 8:58 am

    SE Oak between 39th and 41st is creepy dangerous. No only are all the leaves making riders take course down the center of the road, but they have blown towards the 39th crossing where, a place where you need to accelerate to beat the cars going sometimes over 35mph. When you stand up to accelerate through there it is slick as snot,

    I support the tax. It makes sense if people are unwilling to be responsible for cleaning up their leaves.

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    Lenny Anderson November 21, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Making yard debris pick up weekly for the month of November would take care of a lot of the leaves…the green bins hold a lot.
    We should be rewarding folks who plant and care for trees, not taxing them.
    How about a steep tax on leaf blowers!!! to cover the costs of more frequent yard debris pickup.

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    Alicia Crain November 21, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Aren’t property taxes paid in part to maintain the city? Doesn’t the city operate street sweepers throughout the rest of the year without imposing a “squeaky clean street tax”?

    So…when they operate the street sweepers in fall (they were on my street earlier this week) with whatever funds pay for that, aren’t they wasting time & money doing that when they could be operating leaf pickerupers instead and not leaving the streets a mess of even soggier leaves now that they’ve (the leaves, that is) been cleaned?

    Something I found interesting was that last year when I called to request clean-up of a nearly 1-inch crust of crab apples on a busy part of N Williams, the maintenance person I spoke with suggested to me that “maybe it’s time to put the bike away.” This was before Halloween. Isn’t this city all about it’s “bike friendliness”? What was that..Platinum Level Bicycle-Friendly City in a temperate climate…we suggest putting your bike away in the fall…so we don’t have to clean up for your safety. yup. awesome.

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    Jeff TB November 21, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I prefer a “Leaf Fine”. Take care of your leaves or you get fined. Seems that citizen-based citations would be a good vehicle for enforcement.

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    the future November 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

    i agree with lenny but we also need to lessen the amount of leaves being trucked around. it is expensive + polluting. we have designated areas of our property (standard 50×100 portland lot) as beds where we can rake the leaves so that they can compost over the winter. similar to disconnecting downspouts connected to the storm sewer, we need to resolve this leaf problem on our property, not by shipping it away.

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    K'Tesh November 21, 2008 at 9:18 am

    How about a rock tax? (not to be confused with iraq tax)…

    For those who fail to sweep up the sidewalks after the roads have been sanded, and the snow has melted?

    Take the money made and use it to sweep the roads clean right after the snow is gone.

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    alan cordle November 21, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Ugh. I am the proud “owner” of two sweetgum trees in Irvington (lower number street — I say this because not every part of the hood is rich). I put owner in quotes because the city technically owns these trees, though my partner and I are the ones who care for them. The leaves on them are still mostly green on November 21, with a few yellows. I estimate at least 5-6 more times that I’ll have to rake the entire front yard this season, because they drop later than every other species. And that’s the number of times after the last (of two) city sweeps next week. Then the gumballs will drop, and finally those little whirlygig things. It’s a year-round adventure in yard work, and I would not use a blower. The new lawn debris cans hold approximately 1/50th of the total amount that will fall from these trees this year, so let’s be real about taxing me on trees that aren’t even mine and work I do for the city for free. Sorry Sam, I’m normally a fan, but this is a terrible idea.

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    mmann November 21, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I agree with “the future” (# 8). Hauling leaves by truck is dumb. It’s a resource that should be used by local residents. Mulch your beds, give it neighbors to mulch their beds, wheel it (wheelbarrow, bike trailer) to the closest community garden. But please, lets find a way we can use it before we ask someone else to burn gas and haul it away. And don’t even get me started with leaf blowers….

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    Racer X November 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Perhaps the speed limits should be seasonally lowered in these leaf zones…for the safety of bike traffic (and pedestrians) who have to travel further out in the lane?

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    GlowBoy November 21, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Mulching and composting is great, but not everyone is going to do that. I still think the idea of weekly yard waste pickup in November is a good one.

    Fortunately leaves aren’t a problem for me personally. In early November when we start seeing a few frosty mornings on the westside where I work, I start running a studded tire on the front of my commuter bike. Punches right through the leaves to the hard pavement below as well, so I don’t give them a second thought.

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    Capturedshadow November 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I spent most of Saturday raking leaves, borrowing a pickup, and hauling them away. I would rather have spent the time riding my bike so I would be willing to pay a tax for service that would have done the loading and hauling for me.

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    John Replinger November 21, 2008 at 9:54 am

    The “unfairness” that I was refering to in my statement at the Council meeting on Wednesday was that I have to pay to take my leaves to the leaf depots while those who put them in the streets don’t pay at all. I was not necessarily complaining that some areas get leaf collection while others don’t.

    We compost what we can, fill our yard debris container every week (including storing some for future collection), and hauling to the leaf depot.

    I actually had a proposal that I mentioned at Council, but which has received no attention – treat it like a SnoPark permit. Purchase a permit to put leaves in the street for a certain short period in advance of City leaf collection. Like the SnoPark program, which pays for plowing of parking areas in the ski areas, it would be user pays. With my suggested leaf program, if you had another, legal way to manage your leaves, you wouldn’t pay a fee. Maybe that’s unrealistic.

    Like some of you, I’ve narrowly avoided spills on some of the leave clogged streets. I want something better and safer, but I’ve been villified and harassed for my efforts.

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    John Lascurettes November 21, 2008 at 9:57 am

    For people that are concerned about composting the leaves: do you know that the city is not composting them? I actually assume they are.

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    toddistic November 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

    If you want people to do something, you have to give them an incentive, not tax them.

    Give people a small tax credit if they compost their leaves or deliver the leaves to a community garden instead of sweeping them into the street. This could be a discount on their garbage/waste bill.

    Just a thought…

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    Maculsay November 21, 2008 at 10:09 am

    It’s so easy to buy 10 feet of hardware cloth, make a cylinder, and start composting. Lot’s of people do this out here in the outer NE (where it’s easier to see the backyards, of course). When I lived downtown, I noticed the ritual of everyone shoving their leaves into the streets, knowing that the city was coming.

    While the city does compost these leaves, it sure makes more sense to attempt closing the loop as much as possible at each residence, and the overflow from the yards with tons of leaves can eventually trickle through the normal recycling containers.

    Adding a tax seems like it would encourage the less desirable behavior.

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    Dillon November 21, 2008 at 10:19 am

    I go back at night with a snow shovel and throw the leaves back in the yards.

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    John Replinger November 21, 2008 at 10:21 am

    A couple of you have hit the nail on the head – charging people for doing something makes it less likely they will do that. So, why is it free for people to put their leaves in the street and there are fees for delivering them to the leaf depots?

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    Hart November 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Leaf blowers need to be banned.

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    mabsf November 21, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Since we all breathe the air cleaned by trees, enjoy their blossoms in spring and their shade in summer I think we all – the city of Portland – should take care of it. Why not handle it like the snow on the sidewalks? House owners have to take care of the side walk walk ways, the city does the streets!

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    PdxMark November 21, 2008 at 10:35 am

    This thread is very funny.

    I’ve lived in and ridden through neighborhoods with and without the city leaf clean-up service. The amounts of leaves left on the street is, on average, about the same either way. Without leaf clean-up most people eventually get the street in front of their house cleaned up, and they almost never rake/blow leaves from their yard into the street. In places with the leaf clean-up it is a common practice to rake/blow leafs into the street, making the street worse until the scheduled clean-up finally comes through. Hence, on average, the streets are about the same with or without clean-up.

    As for composting on-site, I think people aren’t considering how many leaves the large shade trees drop and how relatively small inner-Portland lots are. A compost heap with all the leaves from some of the larger trees could take-up significant portions of the yards at those houses. Even a mid-size tree can require a significant compost heap. I know, I used to have a house with a mid-sized tree and a compost heap, and it was possible only because there happened to be an out-of-the-way nook beside the house because of how the house was situated on the lot. Leaves from the large trees, as evidenced by the huge heaps of leaves on the streets under those trees, ought to make it clear that in-place composting of that many leaves in impractical if anyone is going to have a yard that’s anything other than a compost site.

    As for the leaf removal tax — I resented leaf removal when I lived in neighborhoods without it, but I doubt that the city can make the service city-wide with some sort of tax increase. I don’t know if it’s the case, but I think an objective rule for what neighborhoods qualify for leaf removal, based on size & density of street trees, and leave it as it is.

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    Icarus Falling November 21, 2008 at 10:46 am

    It should be illegal to sweep your leaves into the street.

    Put them in yard debris bags, and wait for the proper day to have them picked up.
    Or try composting.

    That is the proper thing to do.

    I can’t believe they are considering a leaf tax!!!

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    Lenny Anderson November 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

    re leaves and bikes: bikelanes, routes, bikeways, etc. should be the first in line for clean up by BOM, regardless of “leaf zone” or no “leaf zone.”
    Just as bus lines should get sanding/ snow removal first, bike routes should get leaf removal first. So easy for Sam to do; just a phone call.

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    Ron H November 21, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I live in inner SE portland on a 33×80′ corner lot (yes, the proverbial postage stamp). We have two mature birches and one mature walnut tree on our planting strips. The three trees produce prodigious amounts of leaves. Still, we manage to rake them from the sidewalks, strips and even the street into bags and barrels to be taken away by the city contracted haulers. Raking leaves is part of the work required by those who like big trees. It’s not that tough. It’s actually good for you. Why are so many people so frigging lazy?!

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    Ron H November 21, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Oh yeah, the question at hand: I feel an incentive is probably the best way to curb (pardon the pun) the practice of blowing/raking leaves into the streets. On a side note, I’d be in favour of a ban on leaf blowers in the city. Save electricity/gas, save the air, save money, improve your fitness, lower your healthcare costs. It’s all good.

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    joe November 21, 2008 at 11:29 am

    the BTA should get on this. $3 everytime a new tree is bought in oregon.

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    bahueh November 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Icarus..it is illegal …..no body cares.

    I agree with Lenny…having the different collection services come by weekly, instead of biweekly, during late October – Mid December would be very helpful…I know I have a pile of leaves on my property right now I can’t do anything with since all 3 of my bins are full…
    add a few bucks on the bill that month, employ some people to pick them up…

    everyone wins.

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    wsbob November 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Composting on site, despite certain complications it can represent, should be done more often as a matter of course. Gardens and landscapes should be designed or redesigned to accommodate this basic garden function.

    The problem of too many leaves for individual residences to compost on site could be solved more practically if neighborhoods had a lot within their neighborhoods designated as a compost facility. A close-in compost area like this could make it possible for people to actually trailer leaves to the compost area by bike.

    A couple other things: it’s not really necessary to have a compost bin, or make one of those cylindrical affairs out of chicken wire to compost leaves. Leaves will break down just fine if loosely arranged in a berm in the shape of your own choice. Leaf blowers; they’re still noisy, but electric leaf blowers are far less noisy than gas powered ones, and they don’t stink. More hand raking is required with them, but they do a great job for follow-up.

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    jami November 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    in addition to tree and bike taxes, i propose special new taxes to disincentivize books, teaching certificates, and smiling at people you pass on the street.

    it just makes sense.

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    nibo November 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Beyond this, a little education wouldn’t hurt in the least. I live in NW and some of the areas have some pretty mulched up, slick leaf piles that force me into the road instead of slipping and falling into gross, gooey detritus. However, the drivers can get pretty upset if you’re in their lane when there is obviously a bike lane, piles of leaves or not. I was lucky this morning that the lady who honked the horn of her SUV (about 3 feet behind me) for just this reason didn’t startle me so much that I fell off my bike.

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    mmann November 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I want to point out how a lot of this “problem” is based on our silly addiction to lawns. Why not leave the leaves on the ground? Even though it’s better for the grass (and much quicker compost-wise) to let the leaves decompose on sight, most folks feel compelled to get them piled up and out of there. Is it the color? the clutter? Even a city lot can operate as a closed system – no chemicals in and no compost out. I agree with the original post – they can be a hazard to bikes on the shoulder. I was just trying to point out that we don’t “need” to use trucks to haul so many around town, regardless of whether they eventually get turned into compost somewhere.

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    metal cowboy November 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Not rich, but do own one of those homes on Willamette Blvd with massive leaf producing trees. Here’s what I have done outside of any tax or the prospect of using literally 100-150 bags to package up all the leaves, then pay by the bag for them to be hauled away by truck.

    I have met ith the street sweeper/leaf drivers when they come by at the beginning of the season. I have found out when they have our street scheduled for the late fall sweep and collection, then I hand rake my leaves, the ones I don’t use for compost, holiday turkey hand feathers , wreathes etc., into the street the night before – he arrives in the morning or by noon, all the leaves are gone – tech they are an obstruction but for only one morning. I have taken it upon my self to go to all my neighbors this year and let them know that Dec 1st in the big leaf sweep, so hold your leaf to the street sweeping until the night before or morning of. It’s actually working, three of my four neighbors have halted the great leave exodus to the street. I’m not saying this is a perfect idea and I am breaking the deal a bit by sweeping leaves into the street but only for a few hours rather than months.

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    Ron H November 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    To all those who think just leaving the leaves on the lawn works. It doesn’t, at least, not for many. If you had the number and kind of trees many of us do, the sheer volume of leaves that drop each autumn would overwhelm any effort to successfully compost on one’s tiny city lot. And any effort made certainly wouldn’t be complete by the following spring or summer. What’s more, those leaves won’t stay on the lawn all winter. We have this strange phenomenon called “wind” that tends to pick leaves up off flat surfaces like lawns and spread them onto other flat surfaces like streets. For some homeowners, the best solution is large scale composting like that done by the city.

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    JD November 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    The new “leaf tax” is only for the people who live in the high leaf areas. I imagine the $5.50 or so other areas pay per household for the high leaf area clean up will be removed or used for other purposes.

    It may be $55 per household per year if there are 100,000 households in the high leaf area…not sure. I would like a credit if I don’t use the service too.

    When I talked to the city about this issue recently, I too got a somewhat anti-bike message from the city saying that people will be able to enjoy bikes again in the spring time.

    The city law that relates to this is that the property owner is responsible for cleaning out to the center line of the street in front of their property.

    Another solution to leaves on lawns is to mulch them with a mower into the lawn. Good for the lawn and easy. We use an electic mower with wind power.

    For the rest of the leaves we use some as mulch around bushes and put the rest in a bin in the back. The compost is ready by spring. We use all the leaves from our block.

    I am glad the city is at least looking at this problem but I still think that getting rid of the leaf collection program, doubling the police force so we are up to other city standards on per capita police numbers and starting trash law enforcement on the leaves like other cities do would be better.

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    RyNO Dan November 21, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    The tribune had a story this week about the leaves, and wasn’t there a willyweek story last year with lots of follow up ? As I was riding in today, I thought to myself, bikepdxorg would be a great place for yet another leaf discussion. Et Voila !

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    JD November 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Sorry my math was wrong on the costs. There are abuot 500k people in Portland. The leaf removal program costs about $550k a year according to the city budget. If there are 3 people per household that is 160k housholds in Portland paying for the program now that is $3.40 per household now.

    If there are 10k households in the leaf areas (wild guess) than the cost would be $55 per household more for the high leaf areas.

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    Coyote November 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    If the street sweeping program money comes of property taxes, wouldn’t the owners of more expensive homes already be paying more toward street sweeping? Just get the streets swept Sam, you can redistribute later.

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    Paul Tay November 21, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I don’t get it. Simply roll where da leaves AIN’T.

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    BicycleMike November 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    A “leaf tax” are you serious? you must be kidding. As liberal as I am and pro-bike as well I really had to read this article twice before I actually believed it. A leaf tax, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such a thing.

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    JD November 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    In my area the streets mostly have leaves covering from one side to the other. There is no way to roll where they aint unless you take a major detour.

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    mark November 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I would not want to pay for leaves I do not put in the streets. I do not rake my leaves into the street, but my neighbors do. this makes the streets slippery, messy and dangerous. I do the right thing by not raking into the street, so I don’t think I should have to pay for what my neighbors are doing. I think they should just sweep on random days without notice.

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    eileen November 21, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I don’t know all the ins and outs, but off the top of my head, this sounds like a pretty dumb idea. How about instead of a leaf tax, a fine for people who rake leaves into the street? I mean, people aren’t allowed to cut down those trees and then you’re going to tax them in addition? Also, it seems like it treads on some pretty sticky land rights issues, like if your leaves fall in your neighbor’s yard, are you responsible for going over there and raking them? So if your leaves just fall into the street? I don’t know.

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    Steven Vance November 21, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I would prefer a fee for motorists that would go for cleaning up car glass in the streets.

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    Joe November 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I lived in both Irvington and Laurelhurst and watched as people living in the million dollar homes across the street spent hours the weekend before raking all the leaves off their lawn onto the street.. They did this despite very deliberate language in the leaf pick-up notice that asked them not to… Incredible! Rich bastards!

    I think the tax would be good. It would eliminate the worry that some people have about planting trees in the parkway because they are too lazy to pick up the leaves.. someone else can now pick up the leaves for them and they can go ahead and plant that tree.

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    Zaphod November 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I like the leaves.

    It creates a different feeling in the street, like a snow day. I know they will be gone soon enough. It makes it unambiguously OK to take the lane and effectively narrows the road. Everyone slows down and the world is a bit more civilized.

    The irony is that the increased danger of eating it on the wet leaves or sliding in your car creates safety by causing a natural slow down of all road users. It’s organic traffic calming.

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    jim November 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Well I usually jut remove the storm grate and cram them down the hole, jump on them a litte bit and put the grate back on

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    dan Kearl November 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Come on people! I’m one those “irvington” homes with large street trees and do have leaves in the street which the city swept up this morning. I pay to have these trees pruned, fix the sidewalks that they damage, clean up after every storm , etc. I can’t take them down, the city does nothing for me except pick up leaves once a year. I think every one benefits from having nice street trees in this city, so quit whining.

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    me November 22, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    i’m kinda sick of all the damn taxes being proposed lately. yeah I know, the city needs money, the state needs money, but jesus, taxing trees?? are we gonna start paying tax on the air we breath? enough already. it’s expensive enough to live here, I’m gonna get priced outta here, it’s gonna be another San Francisco. a great place to visit, but nobody can afford to live here.

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    Duncan November 22, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    50-
    In no other city that I have lived in did people think it was OK to empty their yard into the street. When I was young we swept leaves OUT of the street and into bins.

    It is the refusal of people to act responsibly that has created this situation. The creation of these districts is merely an attempt by the city to tax the people who rely on the service.

    That being said, I do not think it is the right approach, rather I think that people who sweep their leaves into the streets should be fined for using the street as their wastebasket.

    51- The city is already spending the money due to the widespread use of the streets as recycling bins- the problem isn’t the govt, it is the people who are refusing to take care of their own leaves.

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    dan Kearl November 22, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Hey Duncan, I didn’t sweep my leaves into the street! They are STREET TREES and the leaves mostly fall into the street. I haul away 2 pickup loads of leaves from my yard to the city leaf drops every year! Do you plow the street in front of your house when it snows? I pay plenty of taxes and don’t see the big deal about the city cleaning the streets in my neighborhood. This is a really small problem that exists a couple of weeks a year and doesn’t require a new tax to deal with this.

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    BicycleMike November 23, 2008 at 6:06 am

    I’ve had a change of mind, we DO need to tax trees. I propose we take each individual leaf, measure it and tax it in relation to it’s size. We then knock on the door of the neighbors house that the city has just determined the tax on all the leaves in front of the house and deliver the bad news.

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    Anonymous November 23, 2008 at 8:10 am

    When the city makes the rules that say, leaves from city owned trees on your property will be cleaned up at city expense and the leaves from the trees you own are you problem, then you get into a bit of a pickle.

    Every where I’ve lived both in US and Canada there’s been one of two solutions used.

    1. Rake em all into the street and they’ll be picked up by the vacuum truck.

    2. Bag em all and leave the for pick up or you could take them to the composting site yourself.

    This hybrid system in Portland is a joke.

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    Cecil November 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I live in Ladd’s Addition. I have an immature elm and an adolescent elm in the easement in front of my house, as well as a mimosa, a sumac and a fig in my front yard. Together, they produce a prodigious amount of leaves. My husband and I rake the leaves up and use them as compost in the gardens. If they fall in the street, we rake them out of the street because the city’s TWO pick up days are not nearly enough to ameliorate the hazard caused by wet leaves on the street.

    Every year, every one of our immediate neighbors rakes every one of the leaves from their trees into the street, knowing that EVENTUALLY the city will come by and pick them up. The result is huge piles of wet leaves that clog the storm drains and create an ice-like slick of decomposing plant matter for bicycles and cars to slide out on.

    My husband and I used to very politely advise our neighbors that what they were doing was not only against a city ordinance, but dangerous. They responded just as well as, to be blunt and topical, a bicyclist who has been chided for blowing a stop sign or red light. So we gave up asking them not to do it (much as we gave up trying to talk sense to red-light runners) and we also gave up calling the city about it, since nothing ever got done.

    So what’s my point, you ask? It is this – I have no objection to the concept of paying a tax if it results in a tangible benefit like a street I can ride my bicycle on without fear of sliding out around a corner – indeed, I am far less tired of being taxed than I am of the people who complain of taxes yet want their government to provide them with all sorts of expensive services.

    I would be more than happy to pay a “leaf tax,” but only if that meant that the city would come through and clean up the leaves more than TWICE. I am not, however, willing to pay anything to support the current system, in which piles of leaves are left in the streets for weeks on end.

    Anonymous (Post #55) has it right – the city should either have a regular clean-up of all leaves or people should be required to rake and bag all the leaves that come from their trees – whether those leaves are on the street or on the lawn.

    I’ve lived in places with both methods, and both work – for example, when I lived in Connecticut, the city allowed people to rake their leaves into the street, but also cleaned the leaves off the street on a weekly basis from September through snowfall. In Vermont, everyone bagged and dumped (or composted) their own – that also worked. Portland’s hybrid method, on the other hand, is a disaster.

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    Duncan November 23, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    dan-
    No I do not plow the street, but we are talking leaves not snow, and if you had read my post, you would see that yes I rake the leaves out of the street.

    It is fair to guess that the trees were there, and the law regarding their leaves was in place when you moved in. If you rake your yard GREAT and sincerely thank you- the problem is your neighbors don’t (and dome of mine too- I gave no doubt that I am in the leaf-tax area too). I dont mind a little leaf litter, but a three foot pile of leaves is a bit much… really i sraking and composting so hard- I have plenty of trees to (or rather my neighbor has trees whose leaves litter my yard.. the nerve) so I am only expecting others to do what I myself am doing, or pay a tax which I myself will likely pay.

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    spanky November 23, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I pay nine grand a year in taxes to the county/city. I don’t blow my leaves into teh street. the City makes me prune the trees, makes me fix the sidewalk when it heaves and will not let me take the trees out even if I wanted to. Does anyone else see the irony in the incentive Sam would give me to fight to remove the trees in front orf my house that absorb stormwater, absorb CO2 and provide coolness and shade in summer and make teh city less hot?

    Many folks int his city advocate a “soft approach” on all sorts of issues. Perhaps that appproach shoule be taken here: educating homeowners who rake/blow lawn leaves into the street.

    Further, the fact is that leaf removal serves everyone. When folks pull up and park in front of my hosue to frequent the trndoid slacker coffee shop around the corner, tehy get the benefit of teh leaves being removed: no nastiness to step in, and no front end alignment needed when they slide into the curb.

    If folks want to look at how the city might save dough on this how about (DUH!) not sweeping on weekends when (a) everyone is AT HOME WITH CARS PARKED and (b) city workers likely get time and a half?? Also, perhaps the city should look at weather and leaf conditions and make a decision as to whether a second sweep is really needed. I can tell you all that this year, in my neighborhood, it is not.

    Sam needs to watch out for a bit of a backlash from many who voted for him. he seems to bea bit too enamored of tax and fee solutions to what he perceives as problems. this issue is a classic example of what cna be characterized as Balkanization among us all based on a perception that one group benefits exclusively froma service that in truth benefits all.

    If the city is going to hit me with a fee for having two 100 year old trees in front of my house, then (though I wouldnt dream of it) the city should make it so I am 100% free to remove the trees and avoid the fee if I wish.

    Bicycclists, motorists and pededstrians benefit from my removal of my leaves from not only the yard and sidewalk but also the parking strip (right of way). Perhaps those pedestrians and nicyclists (like me!) should pay a fee or tax to cover that benefit similar to a gas tax?

    Back off Sam.

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    Oliver November 24, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Trees increase property values from 10 to 20%.

    So homeowners are already being taxed for their trees, and the city’s trees in front of their homes.

    These homeowners enjoy the immediate benefits of these trees, AND, as it was pointed out, the rest of us here benefit to a greater or lesser extent from nice trees in our city/world as already mentioned.

    However, this leaf tax idea is dumb, how do you incentivize the gardening services not to blow the leaves into the street? It’s maddening; as a cyclist, a driver and someone who rakes the leaves from his 3 little trees and the 150ft monster 2 houses over.

    I vote for increased collection, and incentives (pos. of neg.) for folks to deal with the leaves on their property (vs the street) but since we’re already paying taxes on those trees, my garbage hauler certainly shouldn’t get any more of my money to do it.

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    Duncan November 25, 2008 at 8:04 am

    There is a simple solution- pick up the leaves and compost them. I have big trees and a small lot and it isnt that hard.

    It seems that the naysayers are both saying that they do not want to be personally responsible while they do not want to pay for the city to do the job they refuse to do. Don’t want the tax? Take responsibility for your own trees.

    Really people, get a rake and make a pile- it is not rocket science.

    Failing that (“I am SOOO busy”) pay for the city to take them away (via the leaf district). I would really prefer you take them away- I don’t want to pay the tax either, and the 3′ piles in the road quite frankly suck. The church on 20th and Tillamook does this- Where Would Jesus Compost anyway?

    All of us who are fortunate enough to have mature trees should not make those who do not pay for our lazyness, or the lazyness of our neighborhoods. There are plenty of folks whose neighborhoods, built by developers who cleared the trees hav no shade, do not directly benefit from our trees (although yes indirectly, but my neighbors tulip poplar makes it so that I do not need an air conditioner- saving me 100s of dollars a tear directly.)

    What I am saying is that when people pile their leaves in the road, they are basicly saying “let someone else pick up after me”. They are choosing to forgo their personal responsability and place the burden on the society as a whole- and if the society wants to charge them for the service of picking up after them, than I believe the tax is a fair one.

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    k. November 25, 2008 at 10:02 am

    I can’t belive the number of people who can’t seem to stomach a leaf district tax that as I recall amounted to a couple or three bucks a month. You’d think Sam had proposed taking their first born. And just how much did you spend on that fancy custom commuter bike with the real leather grips and Danish brass bell? Get real.

    And yeah, leaf blowers and gardners who routinely blow their yards clean by pushing everything out to the street. I see it daily. Those leaf blowers should be banned, they are a scourge on society. Why don’t people pick up their own leaves, or maybe I mean get their gardners to pick them up? People used to do this, why not now? I think in today’s society it’s all about passing the buck. It’s not about solving the problem, it’s all about making the problem someone else’s. And then complaining about listening to them complain.

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    Terence November 25, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I think the city should just have all the trees cut down. I mean, whats the big deal? So what, we have these ugly brown things in winter with lots of slippery muck on the ground.

    Chop ’em down and save a lot of money.

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    alex November 26, 2008 at 10:50 am

    just a thought but… if i go down on my bike (and seriously injured) due to the leave piled on the street by a homeowner, can they be taken to court? a few publicized cases could whip people into shape….

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    Cecil November 26, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Alex (#63) – If I were to wipe out on my bike because a homeowner had raked leaves into the street, and I could prove it, I would certainly make a claim to that homeowner’s insurance company – whether I would go to the trouble of hiring a lawyer and go to court would depend on the extent of my injuries and the strength of my proof that the homeowner had indeed been responsible for the leaves that caused my crash – but it’s not an entirely crazy idea – I would caution, however, that the chances of that kind of lawsuit getting any publicity, let alone enough to get people to change their practices, are minimal.

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    Eileen November 27, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Terence, I’m 99% sure you’re joking. Right? Umm… lots of good reasons for trees, and not just because they’re pretty. My four year old son was bright enough today to tell me that if there were no more trees or plants we would all die and not be able to breathe. I don’t know where he came up with that one, but he’s pretty much right I think.

    If there is a law against the leaves in the street, why not enforce it? And collect fines. That way you’re only taxing the bad eggs. I think it’s littering. I think we could fine them $500 per leaf. Honestly, I can’t imagine anything more irresponsible than moving your mess for someone else to clean up. They do it because the city has allowed them to because every year, the city breaks down and cleans it up and doesn’t ever make the homeowners accountable. The street sweepers are enablers!

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    steve November 27, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Most oxygen is produced in the oceans Eileen.

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    jim November 28, 2008 at 1:30 am

    I bag the leaves in my yard.
    the leaves at the curb I rake out into the traffic lane to get ground up by car tires or swept up if the city chooses to sweep our street. If they do sweep our street we have no warning of what day they will do it. In the past I have mae leaf piles at the corner for the city only to have to clean them up in the spring because there was no leaf pickup.
    I find once the car tires grind up the leaves they quickly disapear. No action at all and the storm drain is smothered and floods

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    Cecil November 28, 2008 at 8:34 am

    “The leaves at the curb I rake out into the traffic lane to get ground up by car tires”

    Ground into a slick, wet paste of decayed plant matter that creates an ice-like surface for both bikes and cars to slide out on.

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    jim November 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    city is responsible for cleaning streets not homeowners. I can only put so many leaves in my can. city dosn’t pick up piles in the street. can’t leave them at the curb where water needs to run to the drain. use your head when you ride or drive and you will be ok. some people will never use their head and probably would be better off not ever being on the street in the first place. driving style needs to appropriate for condititions. If it were snow you would obviously ride more carefully, same with leaves- gotta use your head

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    steve November 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Use your head Jim, and please stop throwing your trash in the street.

    My 4 year old knows better.

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    jim November 29, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I don’t throw my trash in the street.
    I don’t even have street tree’s.
    I merely rake the leaves out away from the storm drain into the street as recomended by the city of portland so the storm drains don’t flood.
    Not my trash
    Not my job to clean the street

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    jim November 29, 2008 at 11:19 am

    the leaves on my side of the street are 95% gone now from car-posting
    The leaves accross the street are still sitting in haphazard raked piles and will be for a long time

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    steve November 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I have never seen or heard of the city recommending sweeping leaves into the street.

    You are also required by city code to maintain the street in front of your home. Following your property line to the center of the street.

    Come on, bag up your leaves like a big boy.

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    jim November 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Read it again Steve. I don’t rake leaves into the street. I only rke them away from the drains and the curb. Those leaves are now gone from cars driving on them so it would be impossible to rake up something that isn’t there anymore. Across the street there are piles of leaves that will still be there till when the snowplow comes in feb..
    I suppose I am supposed to shovel snow in the street in front of my house too? NOT
    We are responsible for sidewalks not streets.
    Get over it Steve

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    Russ November 30, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I don’t think Sam Adams has ever met a problem he couldn’t solve with a new tax or fee.

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    jim November 30, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Don’t need a new tax if you just take it away from a different area, like road maintenance

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    greg June 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Leaf blowers need to be banned! How many people would use a rake to collect leaves, then pick them up and dump them in the street or on neighbor’s property? No one, yet that is exactly what leaf blowers do. Plus they pollute the air and the noise makes our city unliveable. Ban them, ban them, ban them!

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