Greater Greater Washington

Shoveling hall of shame: MarcParc

Reader Jeb sends along this particularly egregious example of failure to shovel. But in this case, they shoveled plenty, just not the sidewalks.

MarcParc is one of the large remaining surface parking lots in Mount Vernon Triangle. It occupies the entire block from 5th to 6th Streets NW between K and New York Avenues, adjacent to CityVista.


Left: Unshoveled sidewalks. Right: Well-shoveled parking lot. Click on an image to enlarge.

Jeb writes:

Immediately after the original storm this past weekend, MarcParc restored full parking availability on their lot but left every one of the surrounding sidewalks buried under feet of snow. Pedestrians have been forced to walk in the middle of dangerously busy avenues (K St, 6th, etc.) to get around the parking lot. In fact, it's not even clear how somebody who parked in their lot would safely get down to the nearest corner without dodging cars (and the huge spray of dirty meltwater they throw up as they pass).
Jeb tried reporting the issue to 311 and DPW, as well as to MarcParc's central office, which hasn't returned his call. He says, "The man on duty at the booth acted unaware of the city's laws but said he would talk to his supervisor."
David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Until the District starts to enforce it's laws on shoveling ('within 8 daylight hours after the end of the storm') we're going to continue to not see our sidewalks shoveled. The problem is, since these really large storms only happen every 10 years or so (though there are many more frequent regular storms that would require shoveling), the enforcement part will be put of till 'later' ... and 10 years from now we'll go through the same ugly cycle. It's a nice day out today. The DPW enforcement folks should be walking down the streets handing out those $25 tickets. (Yes, the fine should be higher, but at least this would be a start.)

Incidentally, I hear Georgetown is bone dry (i.e. great job done by plow trucks) while we here in Dupont still can't get around by car. (There's an 18 wheeler food products delivery truck stuck at this moment at 17th and R Streets".)

by Lance on Feb 11, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

I had a similar experience the other night when plows were clearing out the parking lot and alley access road to Payne ES in eastern Cap Hill.

The plow finished the parking lot, then started clearing the alley by pushing all the snow onto the sidewalks across the street from the alley entrance. The neighbors were pissed to say the least, since they had spent quite a bit of time clearing the now-covered sidewalks. When asked, the plow driver said his only orders were to get the snow off the street; the sidewalks weren't his concern.

With the mayor and all city safety officials pleading with everyone to not drive so the plow drivers can do their jobs, it's a bit counterproductive when their main job seems to be making walking more of a pain than it already is.

by jyindc on Feb 11, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

pretty much my whole neighborhood (RIA near north capitol NW) has its sidewalks shoveled... EXCEPT around the baptist church on the corner of first.

and people wonder why i hate churches...

by dmf on Feb 11, 2010 5:35 pm • linkreport

I wandered around some today, and it seemed like the most egregious violators were the chain stores on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan and the National Park Service. The sidewalks around Rabaut Park and the Francis Asbury statue park at the intersection of 16th and Mount Pleasant and Harvard are awful.

by Matt W on Feb 11, 2010 5:42 pm • linkreport

Just walked across the Pennsylvania Ave bridge to Georgetown - a total disaster - completely untouched. Who is responsible for that? Shame on them.

by Gary on Feb 11, 2010 6:07 pm • linkreport

It would be great if they enforced the law. This would alleviated some of the costs of snow removal OR make it easier for the streets be cleared because pedestrians would be on the sidewalks. I don't really care if they bring in money - just that the sidewalks are clear.

Maybe take some of the parking enforcement during snowstorms and redeploy them to sidewalk patrol???

I know they ticket in Boston.

by Rob on Feb 11, 2010 6:30 pm • linkreport

This reminds me, on Monday I saw a police car stopped on 16th street @ Carter Barron with a van, fixing the speed camera. Nevermind that the top speed anyone could go down that snow-covered road was maybe 20mph.

by Gary on Feb 11, 2010 6:36 pm • linkreport

Or this cherry picker + police car behind it fixing the red light camera @ connecticut and calvert on Tuesday (nevermind the fact that Calvert from Columbia to Adams Morgan was completely snow covered...

http://img52.imageshack.us/img52/1070/ctcalvdc.jpg

by Jean on Feb 11, 2010 6:47 pm • linkreport

The problem is, as I understand it, that there is no actual fine to be issued for violations by DDOT or DPW.

Instead, apparently the DC Code says that landlord who fail to shovel their sidewalks shall have it done for them by DPW and DDOT, and then the Attorney General's office needs to sue the landlord in DC Superior Court for $25.

This is a completely asinine way to do it. I believe Wells and Cheh have introduced a bill to allow DPW and DDOT to simply issue a civil infraction (a ticket) to the property owner, rather than this amazingly outdated method of enforcement.

by Fritz on Feb 11, 2010 7:27 pm • linkreport

I talked to a DC cop about a business on my walk home from Metro. This was on Monday or Tuesday, the 1st or 2nd, and the business had not cleaned up after the Jan 30 storm. He told me that he did not actually know how to cite the business. (Thanks for your comment, Fritz - now I see why). I complained a bit more, and he told me that he would talk to the owner - he mentioned that he knew her - which makes sense because the DC cops hang out in their parking lot.

Just after that, I called the company, and got their answering service (it was after 5) and politely and firmly told them that they needed to clear the sidewalk.

By the next evening, they had - and they have been prompt ever since, including some pretty folkloric snow on the 6th. So I am guessing the cops did talk to them.

I will look for those cops again, since the CVS at Carroll & Eastern can't seem to understand that clearing the sidewalk is their responsibility. People were coming in to yell at them on Tuesday afternoon, and they were so clueless they have basically no response. The problems get complicated because of outsourcing, the fact that the business is a tenant - they don't own the property, and the managers on site have limited power to do much. I guess if that problem continues, I'll try and find a regional manager on the phone.

Perhaps Wells & Cheh ought to add a provision to their bill setting up a shoveling website of shame. Could help.

by DavidDuck on Feb 11, 2010 8:03 pm • linkreport

@jyindc

Your story needs to get to a councilmember's office

It is bad enough that businesses clear their parking lots and leave the sidewalks filled with snow and ice. But that's not neglect, that's malice.

by DavidDuck on Feb 11, 2010 8:06 pm • linkreport

@Matt W

NPS seems to be negligent all over town. Saw the same thing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

by DavidDuck on Feb 11, 2010 8:07 pm • linkreport

NPS was disgraceful all over Ward 3. They don't know or care enough about DC to handle their properties. There's no reason a national organization that handles heritage and wilderness properties should be running local parks in DC.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 11, 2010 9:25 pm • linkreport

I agree with Matt W & DavidDuck that (outside of the Mall) the NPS is nowhere to be found when it comes to clearing sidewalks. Disappointing but somehow not surprising.

Also, even with a joke of a fine, the lack of a legitimate avenue for enforcement is what creates most of the problems. Once the city figures out how to give out citations and collect on them, then we should up the fines. I read an article about Berlin last night clarifying what people's shoveling responsibilities in the German capital were. Private property owners are required to shovel their walks (it is illegal to salt them!) and those that don't face fines up to 10,000 Euros!

http://www.bz-berlin.de/aktuell/berlin/ihr-recht-bei-schnee-und-eis-article685239.html

by Erik W on Feb 11, 2010 9:34 pm • linkreport

The problem with making property owners plow sidewalks instead of making it a city service is that many people dont know who owns the plot.

While you may complain to the manager of CVS, it's not his fault. They're paying rent, and the building owner needs to organize shoveling. Meanwhile, the building owner might be in the bahamas collecting checks with no idea about snow at home.

You know whats faster and cheaper than having individual manually shovel? Having a vehicle plow it away. We don't shovel roads, why do we shovel sidewalks?

And yes, tiny plows that fit in 5 foot sidewalks are available and used elsewhere.

by J on Feb 12, 2010 1:39 am • linkreport

This argument over whose responsibility it is to shovel the sidewalks in front of businesses misses one critical point:

Any company that thinks so little of us that they won't shovel their sidewalk doesn't deserve our business. And it deserves a public shaming via the internet.

The hell with the Doug Jemal argument. The businesses say they're here to serve the public. The least they can do is have somebody get off his or her butt and shovel the damn sidewalk. It ain't that complicated, folks.

by Mike Silverstein on Feb 12, 2010 7:48 am • linkreport

More fun with DCPS. Here's the pile of snow they decided would go well in front of an alley entrance. Wouldn't blocking another street's alley be against neighborly snow removal manners? (Payne ES, D ST SE)

http://img692.imageshack.us/img692/463/img00067201002120823.jpg

by jyindc on Feb 12, 2010 8:32 am • linkreport

I was *lucky* enough to get to walk to work this morning after the bus refused to pick me up - AT A BUS STOP.

There are massive snow piles on the overpasses on North Capitol, which means that pedestrians cannot cross North Capitol without running into traffic on a major road! And the pile-up at Randolph Street and North Capitol is legendary - you couldn't get over it even if you wanted to.

I ventured out yesterday to walk my dogs, and the sidewalks around the massive Emory School and Technical High School sites (totalling about 6 blocks) were unplowed. Aren't schools owned by the city??? Which means they are not following the law? I've seen MULTIPLE city-owned sites that haven't seen a shovel this week.

@jyindc - I live on Rhode Island Ave at 1st St NE, and the plows have pushed so much snow onto my sidewalk - which I'm responsible for clearing - that there is a snow drift about 4 feet high now. It's actually quite impossible to shovel that clear with a flimsy little shovel. How is it that the city expects me to shovel their ROAD snow?

Take action: Tell the city you want this problem addressed at http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/15997 .

by Allison on Feb 12, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

There's another lot on 7th and M SE that plowed the spaces but didn't shovel any of the pedestrian walks. Circulator and other bus passengers have to get out onto the street and walk in the travel lane on M. Snow is 3 foot deep.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 12, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

I don't understand this non-sense of tenants claiming it's not their responsibility. The law is clearly written with the intend that everybody just clears their own side-walk. That means that the whomever is there, be it owner, tenant or whatever else is morally compelled to shovel the side-walk. It is in everybody's interest to get the side-walk shoveled.

BTW: This law has significant implications for large land owners, such as several universities that we have in the district. And they are not happy about it.

by Jasper on Feb 12, 2010 10:31 am • linkreport

To give credit where it is due, they did clear the sidewalk after the second storm that ended on Wednesday.

I also saw them attempt to clear the sidewalk during the first storm, but it snowed much more after that first clearing.

by SS on Feb 12, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

Sidewalks are going to be an issue for a long time. Taking a bus on Jones Bridge Rd in Montgomery County, the plows and shovel trucks built 10ft+ mounts of snow on homeowners sidewalks. Without the county returning & taking the snow elsewhere, there is no physical way anyone could clear this mile plus of sidewalks.

This also has a secondary effect. The Medical Center Metro was in a major traffic jam (15=20min for 1/2 a block) because many more people where using kiss&ride since they couldn't walk to the station.

by Dan on Feb 12, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

What is the legal liability for a property owner or tenant, in the event that a person falls and is injured on unshoveled sidewalks? My assumption is that if they are out of compliance with the law, they could be held liable. Any lawyers want to chime in?

by CJ on Feb 12, 2010 11:13 am • linkreport

@Jasper - Actually, the law is not that clearly written and is in major need for modern editing. It may depend on who's deemed "in charge or control" of an entire building: the landlord or the tenant? What if you have multiple tenants in a building?

Here's what the law says: DC Code 9-605--

§ 9-605. Failure of owner or occupant to remove--Removal by Mayor.

In the event of the failure of any person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate to remove or cause to be removed such snow or ice from the said sidewalks, or to make the same reasonably safe for travel, or cause the same to be made reasonably safe for travel, as hereinbefore provided, it shall be the duty of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, as soon as practicable after the expiration of the time herein provided for the removal thereof, or for the making of the said sidewalks reasonably safe for travel, to cause the snow and ice in front of such building or lot of land to be removed or to cause the same to be made reasonably safe, as hereinbefore directed to be done by such person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of such building or lot of land, and the amount of the expense of such removal or such work of making the said sidewalks reasonably safe for travel, shall in each instance be ascertained and certified by the said Mayor to the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia.

by Fritz on Feb 12, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

In the 17th Street corridor, Cavanaugh Court (1526 17th) led the way (as always) with a beautifully shoveled (down to the brick) wide walking space throughout the course of both storms. Copley Plaza (1514 17th) was also excellent, and maybe a little quicker than usual this time around. The businesses were more of a mixed bag, with Jack's, Pasha and JRs falling behind at some points, but eventually catching up. The snowpack on those awnings is a real hazard to pedestrians and should probably be intentionally poked off.

17th STREET HALL OF SHAME: Those gorgeous homes from 1536-1542 17th Street were shamefully derelict throughout the storm. There is simply no excuse for that level of neglect.

by Kyle on Feb 12, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

It would be great if DC enforced the sidewalk shoveling laws. It would also be great if DC even tried to shovel the sidewalks that it, itself, is responsible for.

The vast majority of the unplowed sidewalks near where I live are in front of DC-owned buildings.

With the exception of schools, which were plowed this time (unlike the December storm), most others were not.

Honestly I don't get that. On Spring Road there's an elementary school, another school, and the DC outpatient mental health clinic. Only the elementary school has been plowed.

I am sure that each agency doesn't manage it's own snow removal. At least, I would hope they don't, since it would be a million times more efficient to centralize an operation that involves moving around lots of equipment from site to site. So why on earth would the do one DC building and skip the ones nextdoor?

by Jamie on Feb 12, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

On whose responsibility it is: issue a fine, and let the business owner decide whether they should pay, or their landlord. Believe me, they will work something out. Its no different for a traffic camera: if a friend borrows my car and gets a ticket, it comes to me. Its up to me to sort it out from there.

by SJE on Feb 12, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

@SJE: Actually, it's not that simple at all. If the fine is issued to the tenant and the tenant fails to pay, there's not all that much the city can do to force them to fork over the money. If the fine is issued to the property owner and he/she fails to pay, the city can lien the property for the fine amount. It's quite similar to housing code violations - the fine goes to the property owner b/c ultimately it's his/her responsibility to properly maintain the property.

by Fritz on Feb 12, 2010 7:19 pm • linkreport

All right, I'm calling out St. Alban's School and the Saudi Embassy on Mass ave for not clearing up any of their sidewalks. I just had to walk home 3.5 miles along Mass Ave and it was a f-ing trial because so many places weren't cleared. And the number of homeowners with cleared driveways and front walks, but blocked sidewalks is just galling. I wish I had had a camera to document them all.

Meanwhile, the Haitian Embassy cleared their sidewalk. The HAITIANS for crying out loud.

by rdhd on Feb 12, 2010 8:47 pm • linkreport

DC will have to fine itself - West End Library & Police Station on L street were unshoveled as of last night.

by Gary on Feb 13, 2010 8:34 am • linkreport

I have had some luck this week by going up the management chain. This worked **really** well at CVS. Don't talk to the people in the store. Go to the corporate office - I had no trouble finding a good phone number on the website.

I had some luck with one of the parking companies, PMI, but I have a feeling that really was luck. And they did not do such an impressive job cleaning up the sidewalk.

Now onto the Wash. Theological Union...

by DavidDuck on Feb 13, 2010 9:37 pm • linkreport

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