Citizen complaint of the day: Enough already with the sidewalk planters

Southie planters

Across the city now, people are complaining about homeowners gone wild with beautification. In South Boston, a concerned citizen complains:

These things make it impossible to use sidewalks and force pedestrians, many with small children, to walk in this narrow street. This can't be allowed, in fact obstructing a sidewalk is illegal and against ADA laws.

Even in leafy Jamaica Plain, homeowners have been whipped into a planter frenzy:

JP planters

Too many trees on Beacon Hill street.



Free tagging: 


    the sidewalks in the top

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    the sidewalks in the top photo wouldn't meet ADA without the planters either.....

    FWIW, I for one would be down with a new movement to widen sidewalks at the cost of some on-street parking or driving lane widths.

    To be fair

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    The city itself has put lamppost dead center in these small Southie side street sidewalks. They're no better than the residents.

    These street really shouldn't even have sidewalks, and should have speed bumps every 40 feet or so.

    Could be private property.

    I kind of doubt it since it looks like a city sidewalk, but in some areas of Boston the residents own the property up to the street.

    And public alleys have their own set of rules as well. This looks like a public alley.

    these look more like

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    barriers to parking on the sidewalks, not so much just for beautification.


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    a street in top photo, not a public alley.


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    A few glaring inaccuracies in the JP photo comment. The planters do not take up "66% of the sidewalk." They may be nearly 66% of that sidewalk's width, but 66% of that sidewalk would be a planter roughly the size of a Chevrolet Suburban.

    Also, the writer bemoans the lack of wheelchair access, but tips his or her hand as a concern troll by noting that strollers "barely" get by. First, a stroller and a wheelchair are by no means equivalent. One requires adequate space for access and is a necessity for its user. The other is a stroller.

    By the appearance of that photo, an umbrella stroller would fit through that space with ease. A broad, chrome, two-tiered stroller with its own luggage "system" may have a more difficult time. Much as the original Humvee was too broad and unwieldy for most American residential streets, some of the strollers currently marketed to city mothers have no place in a city with sidewalks as narrow as ours. Might I suggest Chicago or Phoenix for the stroller utility vehicles?

    I guess parents with multiple kids...

    Should just go fuck themselves? Is that the idea? Would your royal highness please be so kind as to post a list of which specific models and manufacturers of strollers are acceptable?

    SUV strollers are a pain

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    Although true city dwellers tend to ditch them once they realize how few places they actually fit - like, through doors.

    I suppose the comment would rather they all be trapped in an SUV, no?

    Sure! If you're pushing a

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    Sure! If you're pushing a double-wide stroller down a sidewalk, I hate you and I hope you step on a Lego.


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    I hate you and I hope you step on a Lego.

    That's possibly the harshest curse a parent can wish on another parent. I'm pretty sure the Danish army use Legos as anti-personnel devices. So small, but they're like tiny little k-bars when your foot hits them at just the right angle.

    Trolling much?

    In case you don't know this, the term SUV stroller refers to an unreasonably large stroller. There are two child strollers that fit a toddler and a baby and are not unreasonably large. It's also possible to carry one child in a backpack or sling or Baby Bjorn, allowing for a small stroller to handle the toddler. Once a kid is older than toddler aged, s/he doesn't belong in a stroller anyway. I've raised three children in the city, and I can tell you from experience that light weight, easy to fold, easy to maneuver strollers are by far a better and more useful option.

    A Public Sidewalk Means the Sidewalk is for the Public

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    In the first photo, the sidewalk is clearly not accessible by anyone, which I find disturbing.

    In the second photo, the "plantings" take up a good portion of the sidewalk which I also find disturbing. (One can argue percentages but a person in a wheelchair would not have passage.)

    Assuming the sidewalks are public sidewalks: No one has the right to block access to a public sidewalk for whatever reason as the sidewalks are public and used by the public and are not solely owned by the folks that for some strange reason want to plant potted trees up and down in front in their assumed properties on the public sidewalk. Period.

    Next: Aside from the mobility issue for folks in wheelchairs, let us not forgot those who are sight impaired and/or totally blind. For those folks, the ADA has strict rules, forthwith:

    "Street furniture, plantings, and other fixed items should not protrude into travel routes."

    See below link:

    No one cares about 4 gang

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    No one cares about 4 gang members being shot shot by other gang members until some innocent gets hurt or the shooting occur in an area where the thug life isn't condoned.

    I Was Going To Let This Go, But...

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    ... stuff like this drives me bats.

    May we assume that you never complain about anything less tragic than murder; that you're fine with letting the littler aggravations in your life go along without fixing them because there are always much more important situations with which to be concerned? If we were to, say, piss on your doorstep, you wouldn't complain about it because of some shooting someplace else?

    You feeling the need to complain about this thread seems, to me, at least equally as trivial as the thread itself.

    Maybe concern about potted plants as opposed to four deaths would be a bit weird if someone had actually shown such oddly placed concern, but nobody was making the comparison between the two until you decided to do so. And for you to pull random violent crimes out of your hat and shake your finger at us as though we have something to be ashamed about, because in your mind we seem to have decided that those crimes are less important, is a logical disconnect. It would be just as much so if I topped your 4 TEENS SHOT IN DORCHESTER with THOUSANDS MURDERED WORLDWIDE EACH YEAR!!!

    Just because something more hideous and horrible has happened in the world it does not negate anyone's right to express an opinion concerning something less so. Is that so hard to comprehend?



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    What is funny to me is how people on here think something
    is trivial 1: if it is against the vast majority of regulars or 2: and how superior people try to act.

    Murder is much more important than stupid planters on a street in a neighborhood that more
    than 90% of you don't even live on .

    And it is sad that none of you ever comment on murders in certain neighborhoods, or
    assume it is alway gang related. You would rather rant about truly trivial things!!

    Too funny .

    Let the bashing begin ... And you über intelligent insults begin

    Trivial enough for you to

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    Trivial enough for you to complain about how we kvetch here. Shouldn't you be out stopping MURDERS?


    My favorite citizen complainer is the person in Southie who constantly reports cars parked facing the wrong way on B Street.

    She must be new to the city/neighborhood. Even so, why is this such a big deal to her? I guess some people don't have anything better to do?

    Japanese shared street

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    Pretty typical there. With a small enough street, just do away with the sidewalk, and people walk wherever they want. No need for segregation. Cars can't speed here anyway.


    I have to drive this thing around just to beat the zoning rules.


    No street parking either

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    In most instances you have to show proof of off street parking when you buy a car. Granted - the country is roughly the size of
    California with 3-4 times the population - and the habitable area is probably only about 1/3 the total land mass unless you like living on the side of a mountain - so they've been forced to make compromises even a compact place like Boston would never make.

    That said - c'mon folks - don't put your planters OR your cars on sidewalks that are about 2 feet wide. One lesson we can take from Japan and Rodney King is that we all have to just get along. We live in a small area for the number of people here - a little cooperation PLEASE!

    Street parking invites problems

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    Their amount of habitable land really doesn't have any bearing on the lack of street parking. It's true their street layout reflects a more traditional, human-sized approach. But street parking takes what is supposed to be public land and co-opts it for personal use. In Tokyo, if you want a piece of land to park your car, you buy it or you rent it -- just like any other land use. Here, you also have the option of fighting over a limited portion of public right-of-way. Even though people don't actually own that land, they get so attached and entitled to it that they actually have the chutzpah to try and keep others out of it. Space savers are one example. Another, and perhaps more insidious, example is the way people fight against new development because they are afraid of people coming to compete for "their street parking spots."

    Get rid of street parking, get rid of the perverse incentives against development and growth. If someone want a piece of land to store their car, then they can pay for it, like anything else. The city does not owe anyone a parking space.

    The problem is the

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    The problem is the alternative to street parking in this country is huge off-street lots and garages.

    All of the pedestrian-friendly cities I've been to have plenty of on-street parking. The awful superblock car wastelands have no street parking and plenty of multistory garages.

    Where would you rather spend an afternoon, Harvard Square or downtown Hartford?

    Street parking and garages

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    I've been to Tokyo, which is a very walkable city with little street parking. Their solution is a robust public transportation network, many small private parking lots which are tucked here and there (many quite creatively) and some garages. If you want to park, you pull into one of those and pay a fee. Many of them are automatically operated, with some neat innovations that haven't made their way here yet.

    If you don't have public transportation, or it sucks, then street parking is not going to be enough to make up for that, and you'll need tons of garages anyhow. Remember, a parking space needs about 16 feet of curb, so there's only room for about 8-9 cars on one side of nice small walkable block. One way to make up for this is to charge a market rate for parking, as Shoup suggests. Nasty superblocks have more room, but they're hopeless anyhow. If more people are entering the district by car than by foot, then it's not really a walkable place.

    You often see both street parking and garages built here. For example, the New Brighton Landing project has explicitly allowed for street parking on its main shopping street, even though it is also planning a massive 1,750 parking space garage in addition to the existing 1,200 space garage and the Stop-n-Shop surface lot.

    I think they are doing it because they feel it protects people from the road. Which it does: but only because the road is built too wide in the first place. This is backwards. If it's not an arterial, then there's no reason to permit high speed traffic on it, and there's no reason for the road to be built so wide.

    Anyway, it is possible for walkability to co-exist with street parking, even though devoting so much land to machine storage is unpleasant and wasteful (and unnatural for traditional cities built centuries ago). But the pernicious effects I was talking about are at a different level, where people feel entitled to their street parking space, and act to block development in order to protect their claim. If that wasn't happening, then it wouldn't be so bad. But it is, and that's a problem.

    P.S. Harvard Sq is near many residents, it is a transit hub, and has several garages. Many of the streets elide parking.

    Good suggestion

    If someone want a piece of land to store their car, then they can pay for it, like anything else. The city does not owe anyone a parking space.

    Good idea. I suggest you start going door-to-door in Southie and Dorchester, telling people your idea and you want them to sign a petition to get this changed in the city.

    Let us know how it goes. ;-)

    Selfish, entitled assholes

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    Are still selfish assholes, even if they are also violent and dangerous assholes. And they're still wrong.

    Of course I expect them to raise holy hell about the matter. They're benefiting from a massive subsidy, and they like it that way.

    Change will come when the rest of the city doesn't want to put up with their behavior anymore. That's politics...

    The easiest way to go about it..

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    Is to move the planters into the parking lane. That will force the traffic to slow down, at which point the roadway is perfectly walkable and usable for everyone.

    And if folks don't like it, it's easy to undo.

    Cars can park there so why not trees?

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    Cars - including SUVs (of the internal combustion sort - though that could describe a baby on a bad day) are frequently parked on sidewalks. Granted at some point many of the vehicles are moved once the drivers are is finished their business (legit or otherwise). However, some vehicles are parked on sidewalks overnight so that better fits a comparison to potted trees.

    Add the folks who use sidewalks for bicycling, riding the 2 wheeled gadgets, roller blading and now even extreme ironing (though our intrepid ironer was not on the main sidewalk) it seems to me that sidewalks have far surpassed their previous mundane purpose of means of conveyance for pedestrians (wheelchair users included of course).

    More obstacles!

    So, I'm guessing that the streetlights down the block are in the way too?

    And the utility poles...

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    and the street signs, and the fire hydrants, and the cans on trash day...

    At least they're not on Centre or South streets, where there's all of the above plus rusting, half-fallen poles that should have been removed a long time ago but weren't because "Hey, the E Line is totally coming back, you watch." Still don't know how local artists haven't co-opted them or how folks who get yelled at for fliering everything else haven't made them unofficial community bulletin boards.

    When in doubt...

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    Think of the children!!!

    Utility poles are a worse

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    Utility poles are a worse offender. The entire sidewalk in front of my house is useless - it is barely wide enough to walk on, but you can't even walk on it because it's blocked by a big wood pole every 25 feet or so. I second the woonerf idea. TOn narrow residential streets, the street and sidewalk should be made a shared space and the cubs removed. There's no reason that the majority of a street be reserved for cars to the exclusion of pedestrians and wheelchair users - and even double wide strollers.

    Geez PEOPLE!!!!

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    And thus, this bickering, catiness, lack of caring shows the whole world the problem. People hating people and their issues...because they have their own and no one elses is valid. Instead of being constuctive...tear down the other guy. I'd say grow up, but you wouldn't see how that was your issue. It's all mine!

    Good Question?

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    Did the person doing the complaining to the city try to contact the folks in the building first? Maybe try to reach a peaceful and amicable resolution prior to calling in the enforcers?

    If so, and he/she got a "fuck you - mind your own business" then I'm all for this action. If not, then not so much. Sometimes problems can be solved without bringing in the government. I'd just be curious to know if that route was attempted.


    This seems to be a standard response

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    I remember a similar discussion about a moving container a few months back. One would hope that asking the neighbor involved would be the first course of action, but there seems to be a common belief in Boston that such questions are usually answered with baseball bats or gunfire.

    I haven't been here long enough to know if those fears are founded or to learn that lesson firsthand, but my interactions with neighbors here suggest those fears are unwarranted.

    I'm also not a big fan of cops or DPW getting pulled off of more pressing duties to babysit adults, but if the "fuck you" scenario played out, then the person who made the complaint has no choice.

    In southie

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    where you get city sanctioned property damage for taking a "saved space".... better to go right to the authorities first.

    That says more about Menino than Southie though. His failure to stick up for the law, means everyone has to expect the worst behavior from their neighbors. Game theory is fun!

    There's a good point in there Suldog

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    The question is where do you draw the line between "things to try to resolve amicably" versus "things over which to call the authorities."

    There are obvious ends of the spectrum: Tree overgrowing the property line: call the neighbor. Violent crime? Call the police. For the vast in-between, different people draw the line in different places.

    For me, if the answer to, "Could it reasonably be that my neighbor is unaware, or unaware that it is a problem for me?" is "yes", then I contact the neighbor; otherwise I just call in the city. "Gee, did you know your dog barks a lot during the day while you're at work?", for example. On the other hand, if someone is doing illegal and unsafe structural work, without a permit, outside of legal hours, then it's not like I could tell them anything they don't already know, so I would call the law.

    Apparently U-Hub posts about

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    Apparently U-Hub posts about sidewalk planters are the new U-Hub posts about bicycles. At least when it comes to comment volume. Wow.


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    Planters are the new space savers.

    I think it's any trivial

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    I think it's any trivial issue that over-entitled people with nothing better to do can argue about.

    Once it snows,

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    those planters will become space holders. ;)

    Meehan St

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    Those JP planters are likely there to prevent people from parking on that sidewalk as well. This is right near Doyles and a little yoga studio with no associated parking lot, and I have seen some of the folks on Meehan get very angry and yell-y about folks parking in the wrong places there.

    That said, I was totally opposed to the "shared street" concept until I realized it was Meehan St - that might actually work fairly well there since there is litte traffic, no legal street parking, and it is a very narrow st. Generally when I use my (horrors!) stroller there I am in the street anyway as there's little room or contiguous sidewalk. The only downside would be getting run over by the tourists (from Boston suburbs especially) who don't seem to know how to drive respectfully on a tiny one-way street in a dense neighborhood like this one.

    There are ways to prevent

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    There are ways to prevent parking on the sidewalk that don't involve objects that block most of the sidewalk. Like thin posts near the curb.