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Unsightly Cans

Original post made by Richard Ford on Sep 1, 2009

It would seem to me that placing your trash, recycle and compost cans out of sight in your back, or side yard would be a common sense type thing but after riding around my neighborhood it would appear to be not so obvious. There are quite a number of houses with their cans sitting or visible from the sidewalk in front of the house. Am I the only one who finds this distasteful? Isn't there some form of civic pride that would motivate people to make their front yards as clean and presentable as possible? Should we look to the city to notify people to clean up or at least put their trashcans out of site? How about trash cans with no lids? My neighbor has several cans with no lids and on hot days eesh.
Am I oversensative to this?
College Terrace

Comments (22)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2009 at 1:45 pm

The City does nothing to prevent unlicensed, unroadworthy, cars, trucks, trailers, etc. that sit in the front yard of many homes all over Palo Alto. I can't seem them worrying about garbage cans either.

But, I agree, they are unsightly. I also am concerned with those that leave theirs on the kerb all week, blocking sidewalks. It should be common sense to take them onto your own property after pickup day and then put them out the day before (not the weekend before).

Posted by other, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2009 at 6:53 pm

"Am I oversensative (sic) to this?"

In a word, yes.

Posted by Judy, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Palo Alto is a very messy City, that is apparently how we like it. 40 percent of residents are renters, they don't care where they leave their garbage cans.

Menlo Park requires that you remove your car from the street after 11 PM. They like neat tidy streets. Never any problem with Stanford using their streets for parking!!!

Posted by Robert, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2009 at 7:01 pm


Thanks for the heads up. I just moved my compost container to the back yard. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by PAs should care at least a little about the neighborhood, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 1, 2009 at 8:26 pm

No, Richard, you are not being oversensitive. People should move their trash cans out of visibility on non-trash days. These houses cost over a million dollars - why should the city appear as a dump? Wealthy areas usually have well-kept exteriors.

I chose to live in North Palo Alto because more people take care of their landscaping. I didn't want to live amongst dead lawns and weeds.

According to the City of Palo Alto, cans should be curbside but keep the sidewalks clear, with a minimum of 36 inches of sidewalk clearance as required by law for pedestrians to pass. Carts may be left curbside no longer than 24 hours before or after collection. Call PASCO with questions: 493-4894. This info is at the bottom of the page of this Recycling brochure, which states what is recyclable and what is not accepted: Web Link

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm

To the last poster

We no longer (sadly) have PASCO. The new company has different rules.

Posted by Richard, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Thanks for the can move.
Good luck getting rid of the van community though. I'm sure there are health codes being broken but I doubt it's a high priority problem for the city.

Posted by Try politeness, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

Or you could make up a polite half page flier with the rules and put it near front doors. See if it makes a difference, I think it would. People are busy and distracted and this would remind them.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:28 am

Anonymous notes taped to the front door is not "polite". The polite thing to do is knock on the door and talk to your neighbor face-to-face. Or invite them over to dinner and talk to them then.

Posted by PA should at least care, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:41 am

Obviously, I don't pay the bills. Green Waste is our new company, same phone number as PASCO. Why do you miss PASCO? Green Waste recycles almost everything! Check out the list! Web Link

Posted by anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Greenwaste is doing the best they can. Garbage and recycle containers are a problem, and that the increasing density of Palo Alto is exacerbates. We can read about what it is doing to parking as well. Pushing and escalating these problems on the public without pinning the costs of them where they belong is a theft from the public. No wonder some people hate government when that comes into focus, but we do not see the private interests behind it.

It is what is is, unless you cannot see what it is because the facts are hidden.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Woodside
on Sep 2, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I don't see any issue with people having garbage cans in their side yard visible from the street. Who would want garbage cans in their back yards or front yards? Green as you may be, you're likely going to have garbage and it has to be stored somewhere before being picked up by the garbage company and shipped to landfills. I personaly do not want garbage containers in my back yard, because I enjoy reading or bird watching there and a garbage can disturbs my pleasure. I rarely use the side yard and it is close to the street, so I store my garbage cans there.

Personaly, I try not to look into peoples houses and yards while riding around. Even though you are free to do so, I feel as if I'm violating their privacy. As I don't look into peoples yards, I have not been bothered by this garbage can issue as much as you have.

Possibly the city of Palo Alto can enact a law regulating the placement of garbage cans on personal property and enforce such laws with community forces that identify and educate violators. I think the best way to solve the problem is to identify violators, confront and then educate.

Posted by Gotcha, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Get the council to make having garbage illegal.

Only in PA.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2009 at 9:55 pm

If you think your neighbor's house is ugly, then talk to your neighbor. The city has better things to do than style policing.

Posted by PAs should care at least a little about the neighborhood, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Confrontation? Wrong choice. Living with awkwardness and stress after confrontation everytime you see the neighbor? Truth. Haven't you ever dealt with office politics? This is neighborhood politics.

The city should have an ordinance that trash cans do not belong in places visible to the public. This can be enforced by anonymous complaints to avoid confrontations. This is a wealthy town - why should it appear so sloppy? Everyone has a side yard that they don't look at.

Posted by Try politeness, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm

It is remarkable how people don't read or don't comprehend what others have written but respond negatively anyway. The original poster was talking about garbage cans in front of the house.
Also, Anonymous misunderstood what he read, he thought I said tape a note to a neighbor's door. What I suggested was a polite flier, like so many others that appear near the front door, usually under the mat, with the city's rules on it which can be downloaded from the web.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:32 pm

You need to learn to talk to your neighbors without "confrontation". Bring them some cookies. Invite them over for dinner. Take them out for coffee or a drink.

What are you planning to do? Stick an anonymous flier under the doormat of every house in town that you think is ugly? Talk about arrogant.

Posted by Richard, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Ugly houses and side yard can locations don't bother me a bit. We're all entitled to keep our yards as we see fit. To the point that it effects those around us either by being an outright eye sore or smelling to high heaven. I think 6 trash cans, three without lids, 2 compost, 2 recycle and a stack of card board boxes not broken down for recycle, all placed from the back of the sidewalk along a neighbors property line is just a bit excessive.

Posted by PAs should care at least a little about the neighborhood, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 2, 2009 at 11:39 pm


You can put all the cherries you want on top of that sundae, but the person will still get offended and it will affect your relationship. Let me clarify - YOU may not have any issue with the neighbor afterward, but the person will not like you anymore even if they are civil to you.

The anonymous flyer won't work either because people who are tasteless enough to leave their garbage cans in front of the house are not considerate people anyway. It's the "I don't want to look at it but the neighbors can look at it" mentality.

Posted by anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Honestly, there is nothing you can do, and there should be something. We have a neighbor in our neighboorhood that has the biggest house, and generates the most trash, They have maybe 10 trash cans and they are all in plain view of the public on multiple sides of their house.

They also have a virtual fleet of cars parked all over the place and on occasionally open up their garage revealing a Sanford and Son junk yard of stuff that spills out for the last few years into the driveway. They behave as if this is nothing.

When there is nothing to do, when there is no control or regulation, or way to force someone to be considerate of the rest of their neighbors I think I see a bigger larger problem. On some psychological level how is this not a thumbing of their nose at the rest of the community? Such people will always find the voids in propriety and shamelessly hide in them using the ambiguity of the law and politeness of other to express a basic uncivility.

While it might be true that saying anything would cause them not to like me, by their actions, or their refusal to look at their house from their neighbor's viewpoints, haven't they already decided they not only do not like everyone else, but express it by this kind of acting out, showing their garbage in everyone else's faces?

This kind of pattern was never so rampant in Palo Alto before. For example I was amazed yesterday, I had to drive downtown for an errand, and at EVERY, 100% of the lights I had to stop at there were people driving through the intersection on what was a green light to me. There are legitimate accidents and mistakes, but when the norm is to ignore the rules of society, where is this taking us?

At some point it will become necessary to solve the problem instead of pretending it will go away or ignoring it.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Anon - your comment about Downtown made me smile - something about downtown palo alto causes cars to ignore read lights and pedestrians to walk without looking...Once they get out of the Lytton, University, Hamilton zone they seem to recover though.

As far as cans and neighbors - a little common sense and common courtesy would go a long way...

Posted by evergreen park, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 5, 2009 at 9:12 pm

I have neighbors that discard trash on the sidewalks, have garbage and recycling piled up all over there driveways on a regular basis. I do hope that the city will start to enforce their codes more strictly.

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