Keeping Sidewalks Clean

A tenant’s car was broken into, and he hasn’t addressed it. The vandalized car is still there, with a shattered window, and glass fragments inside of the car and all over the sidewalk and street. Can I ask him to clean it up?

Yes, you certainly should ask the resident to clean it up.  He may or may not do it, but this question raises a broader point that ought to be addressed with the membership now in these trying times.  Stated succinctly, if the resident fails to promptly clean it, you must.

Apartment operators are reminded of the rule here that private property owners are legally responsible for sidewalk cleanliness in front of their property.  With the City in pretty bad shape these days, this task has become quite burdensome but is nevertheless more imperative than ever.  Shattered glass from never-ending car break-ins is just one component of what often awaits us each morning.  Litter, debris, and yes, human urine, animal/human defecation, and needles now regularly show up in front of our buildings on a regular basis.  This author and apartment operator believes that we have not just a legal obligation to remove this rubbish but also a moral compulsion as well.  For starters, our tenants should have a clean and safe entrance into their homes, and you certainly do not want them tracking in glass fragments or other unsafe particulates.  Likewise, neighboring property owners should not have to view an eyesore.  Indeed, if everyone on the block does their part in maintaining sidewalk cleanliness, the neighborhood stands a chance to become or remain presentable despite the amount of homeless that live unhoused in our community, despite the record crime now plaguing the City, and despite the carelessness of some citizens that refuse to properly dispose of their throw aways.

According to the City’s Streets and Sidewalk Maintenance Standards Manual, property owners are responsible to ensure that sidewalks are 100% free from graffiti, 100% free from illegal dumping, 90% free from grime, leaks, and spills, and 100% free from feces, needles, glass, and condoms.  Hence, you must have a system in place to quickly remove these items regardless of where they emanated from. 

So please live up to your obligation to maintain the sidewalk areas in front of your buildings.  Clean the glass chards promptly if the tenant refuses or is otherwise nonresponsive.  Admittedly, sweeping up glass is far easier than addressing human waste, graffiti, or large items of trash.  SFAA has a list of associate members that can assist with professional sidewalk cleaning as well as removal of dangerous or hazardous substances.  In addition, the Department of Public Works (DPW) maintains a 311 call-in service to report illegal dumping, human waste, and other improperly disposed of items.  A DPW service truck should respond to your call-in request for removal within a few days.  In sum, this is your problem and your responsibility, so you need to have a response and maintenance system in place to address what sadly have become all-too-common occurrences in our beloved town.