'Trashy behavior': Illegal dumping angers residents of Portland's Parkside neighborhood

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PORTLAND — Some Parkside residents say they have had enough of trash and unwanted furniture piling up in their neighborhood.

Parkside Neighborhood Association President Chelsea Miller said her group has been working with city officials to confront a growing problem of illegal dumping on residential streets, particularly Grant and Sherman streets.

Miller said residents have been complaining since June about trash in non-city trash bags that is being dumped on their properties and sidewalks.

“It’s happened in front of my building,” said Miller, who lives in a Park Avenue condominium. “Usually, one of us will just pick it up and put it in a blue bag.”

Grant Street resident Catherine Mars Anderson has become obsessed with the Parkside trash problem, tracking down city officials and property owners to report violations.

Anderson said she has caught people in rental trucks trying to dump large items in a Dumpster behind her house.

“There were dirty diapers in my tomato plants,” Anderson said.

In an e-mail to City Councilors, she detailed how one resident put a couch out on the street with a sign warning it was infested with bed bugs. The sign blew off before someone reportedly took the couch.

Miller said she believes the increase in trash has been caused, in part, by an increase in the cost of the city’s blue trash bags and the discontinuation of municipal bulky waste hauling.

As of July 1, residents started paying $10 per roll of 10, 15-gallon trash bags or five 30-gallon bags – an increase of 25 cents per small bag and 50 cents per large bag.

The price hike was expected to produce $350,000 in added city revenue, but Miller believes it’s coming at a cost to her largely low-income neighborhood, especially when so many families are struggling to make ends meet.

“It seems very much connected to the bad economy and the rise in (cost of) trash bags,” said Miller, who wants the city to subsidize trash bags with grant funds.

City Councilor John Anton said trash issues have cropped up all over the peninsula, so the Solid Waste Task Force, which he chairs, is reviewing policy changes to address the problem.

While the task force is not likely to recommend reducing the price of trash bags, Anton said the group is re-evaluating solid waste services, including reinstating the large waste collection.

Since that service was cut from the city budget residents have ad  to pack up their bulky waste and transport it to the Riverside Recycling Center, where they must pay for each item they deposit.

“Not everyone can make it over to Riverside,” Anton said.

Miller said the trash problem peaks at the end of the month, when renters are moving out of their apartments and want to get rid of unwanted belongings.

Anton noted it is illegal for residents to leave items on the street, even if they label them free for the taking.

“Basically, that’s illegal dumping,” he said.

“Nobody should be picking up furniture on the street, especially with the bed bug problem,” he added. “If we’re going to go down that road, it needs to be more structured,” such as a swap shop.

While Anton said the task force is scheduled to report to the City Council by the end of the year, Miller said she will be reaching out to educate neighbors about reporting illegal trash the Planning Department (874-8693) or to police (756-8137 or 874-8479).

Miller said she can only hope that other residents step up to the challenge the way Anderson has, by picking up litter every day. She also once made 19 calls regarding a single blighted property.

“It’s actually made a difference,” Anderson said. “It gives the impression that we don’t tolerate trashy behavior.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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