Staff Editorial: Stricter rules for on-street dumpsters show great promise

New regulations charge steeper fines for dumpsters that stay for a long time on residential streets. (Brian Kapur/The Current/May 2017)

As residents and investors renovate swaths of the District’s housing stock — particularly in dense, high-demand neighborhoods — dumpsters regularly sit on the street awaiting construction debris.

In response to community requests, the D.C. Department of Transportation has introduced new rules to encourage contractors to minimize the impacts of these dumpsters. The new policies include more aggressive permit fees that make it less attractive to use a public residential street as long-term storage, in hopes of prodding construction teams to move more quickly and to use smaller containers.

We strongly support the goal behind this approach. While we wouldn’t want to make it unreasonably difficult to renovate a home in D.C., the impacts of dumpsters for neighbors cannot be overlooked. They snap up valuable parking spaces, making it all the more challenging for other residents to find a space. And they’re unsightly, seriously detracting from otherwise lovely blocks.

We’ve had particular concern about the way that many contractors have left dumpsters in place for months on end, even when they’re not consistently needed. In some neighborhoods, the same block might end up with multiple barely used dumpsters. In Georgetown, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E recommended an outright ban of on-street dumpsters in 2014 due to community frustrations there.

The Transportation Department’s latest approach, which goes into effect May 19, is less draconian and was developed in consultation with local construction and development firms. On top of existing fee rates — $75 per month for the first three months a container is in place; $125 per month for the fourth and fifth months; and $200 per month beyond that — the District will now assess a “public inconvenience fee” for dumpsters that occupy more than one parking space and are in place for more than 30 days. This monthly surcharge works out to $55.20 per linear foot of occupied space, according to an agency spokesperson.

Applying this fee schedule, if a dumpster takes up 20 feet of curbside and is left in place for more than 30 days, the second month’s permit would cost $1,179 instead of $75. That’s a pretty substantial incentive for a project team to move out a large dumpster more quickly or use a smaller, less intrusive one to begin with. The new rules also prohibit a dumpster from taking up more than two parking spaces.

We’re optimistic that these regulations will achieve the desired effect, though we look forward to seeing the new fees in action to confirm that they’re helping residents reclaim their streets.