Who owns the area between the sidewalk and street?
November 29, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What rights do the public have to the planting strip (between the sidewalk and street) in a Berkeley residential area?

Does the city own the property and the adjacent homeowner is required to maintain it, or does the homeowner own it, and the city has an easement for their own use?

But more specifically, what rights do the public have to that area? Are people allowed to walk their dogs on it? Does it basically count as part of the sidewalk in the eyes of the law?
posted by team lowkey to Law & Government (9 answers total)
From the City of Berkeley's website:

Who owns the parkway strip (planting strip between the curb and sidewalk) and who owns the street trees?

The planting area between the sidewalk and the street is part of the City right-of-way. It is also called the parkway or planting strip. It is owned by the City of Berkeley and an easement is granted to the adjacent property owner for “permitted” uses. Permitted uses include planting shrubs and flowers. However, written permission is required to plant, prune or remove City trees (as provided by the Berkeley Municipal Code, chapter 12.44). By default, all trees growing in the City right-of-way are property of the City of Berkeley whether or not they were planted with a permit. The city assumes responsibility for the trees and has an active program to ensure they are properly maintained.

It doesn't say anything specific about dogs on parkway strips, but I suspect your city's leash laws apply here, which including the all important "removing and disposing of feces" proviso.
posted by jamaro at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2009

Well, that's pretty clear-cut. We have a neighbor who has taken to guarding his parkway strip to make sure that dogs don't pee on "his" trees. When we told him he didn't actually own the strip or the trees, he was adamant that he did. It started with him yelling from his window to keep dogs off his property, but now he just stands out there with a hose and starts watering if a dog approaches. I'm not interested in escalating the issue at all, but it's nice to know who is in the right. Thanks!
posted by team lowkey at 1:28 PM on November 29, 2009

In many places where the homeowner doesn't own the strip, s/he is required to maintain it. If that's the case in Berkeley, it seems the requirement to maintain suggests that in spirit keeping dogs walked by negligent owners from crapping on the strip is OK.

I've seen the requirement to maintain go up again the "permitted uses" when people try to extend their front lawn vegetable gardens on to the strip. They can't plant veggies, but also can't just ignore crabgrass and trash dumped.
posted by morganw at 4:50 PM on November 29, 2009

I don't think it benefits anyone to discourage a property owner from maintaining the property in front of their house. Dogs peeing on trees or grass is not good for the greenery. Having yellow or dying greenery does not make for a pretty neighborhood. What do you value more? A place for your animals to pee freely without regard for beauty?
posted by JJ86 at 6:56 PM on November 29, 2009

jj86: “Dogs peeing on trees or grass is not good for the greenery.”

A propos of nothing: male dogs peeing on trees or grass does little damage. Oddly enough, it's the urine of female dogs that actually kills grass; male urine is pretty much harmless.
posted by koeselitz at 10:43 PM on November 29, 2009

True but one encourages the other, no? All dogs are territorial.
posted by JJ86 at 6:08 AM on November 30, 2009

male urine is pretty much harmless

I wish somebody would tell that to our lawn, because it sure doesn't like it when our neutered male pees on it.

That being said, there are a lot of plants and trees that are pretty much impervious to dog pee, and I wouldn't plant any tender flowers in the parking strip because you know it's going to get peed on. But my experience of living in Berkeley means you have folks like your neighbor with little better to do than vigilantly enforce their perceived rights, whether or not they are actually in the right.
posted by ambrosia at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2009

male urine is pretty much harmless

Male dog urine has the same nitrogen content as female dog urine. Overdoses of nitrogen harms plant life, be the source urine or fertilizer. The reason why it seems as though male dog urine does little damage is because of delivery method, not chemical composition. Male dogs usually lift a leg and disperse their urine in small doses across the body of many plants whereas a female dog usually squats and empties the contents of her bladder in one spot directly onto the soil. Owners of male "squatters" will see their lawn develop brown spots and all dog owners with smallish yards will see nitrogen damage to their plants from the continual buildup of urine from any delivery method (for example, my male labrador has, in 3 years, piss-killed every shrub in my garden that he hadn't already dug out of the ground).

team lowkey's neighbor is actually deploying the best method of minimizing the harm from dog urine—immediate watering will dilute and disperse the nitrogen, which prevents the nitrogen's hygroscopic action of pulling water out of the plant's tissues (this is the cause of yellowing/browning). Too bad about the yelling, however.
posted by jamaro at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2009

Sometimes people get nutty and stuck on a detail. Maybe he's had a recent trauma, or senility is kicking in, or he could just be kind of nutty. It would be nice to tell your neighbor you understand that he feels strongly about the issue and will do your best to direct your dog elsewhere. Just my .02; your comment, and your name, suggest that you aren't looking to get adversarial.
posted by theora55 at 2:40 PM on November 30, 2009

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