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Last Chance for the Claw

By Colin Walsh

If you have a yard, I hope you planned on getting all your spring cleaning done this weekend. Next week is the last time the Claw will be coming by for months. (See the helpful city chart for details). After next week any piles you put in the street will sit and molder until the first week in May.

Or if someone tosses a cigarette into the pile of dry leaves and sticks it may smolder instead.

Got other plans this weekend? Tough Turkeys. If you don’t do your yard clean up this week, you either need to hire a hauling service, haul the trimmings yourself, or stack them somewhere near your house for the Davis rats to nest in.

This 2 month no Claw experiment the City is performing will be followed by a 5 MONTH claw summer vacation.

It’s not clear what the claw will be doing during its time off. Will it be headed out to see the national parks, possibly front load some sandcastles on the CA beaches? Or will it be a staycation out at the Davis dump? Either way I hope it is rested and ready, because that end of October pick-up could be a real doozy with half a years’ worth of yard waste clogging the streets of Davis.

Good luck Davis City cyclists circumnavigating the promised pile propagation of pokey poles polluting Pole Line.

Who thought having one single pick up of bulky yard waste between the end of February and the middle of October was a good idea? Every member of the Davis City Council except Will Arnold that’s who.

No claw pic


ron glick

It will probably be loaned out to DPD so they can attend the County MRAP round up in a sort of stripped down Rat Patrol type vehicle.

Funny the Mayor wants to spend six figures on an MRAP but doesn't want to provide basic services for picking up detritus from peoples yards.

Donna Lemongello

AFAIK, the bin however will still be picked up every week, so maybe what does not fit can sit 'til next week or a neighbor can lend theirs (I have done this). I can only comment on what I have observed, but it looks to me like a little effort will accommodate the situation.

Colin Walsh

Yes, the bins are still being picked up, but from my perspective, almost anything that goes in the bin, I compost on site. It’s the bulky items that do not easily go in the bin that are the problem. Except greasy pizza boxes. The bin is pretty useful for those.

As I see it, having claw pick up makes it easier for people to have big carbon sequestering trees and shrubs in Davis. Big trees and shrubs also shade and insulate homes which saves energy. Getting rid of the claw, makes it harder for people to have this kind of vegetation around their homes making them more likely to remove it. In fact the City it self recommends removing large trees and shrubs on its website.

Todd Edelman

In the middle of the January 10, 2019 meeting of the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission - when we were looking at Davis Claw-ism as a Special Agenda item - we had a problem: There was an active shooter about, possibly near the Senior Center. They'd already shot DPD Officer Natalie Corona - who died soon after of her wounds - and shot at several others. Mayor Lee - the BTSSC liaison - was present, and both he and I think staff at the City facility got the call that we should shelter in place. Shortly after we moved out of the Valente room - with windows on two sides - to the adjacent one with no windows. (The meeting minutes don't reflect a change of venue.) The external doors of the Center were also locked.

It was a smart move for safety reasons.

OK, either before or after the move to the better-protected room, four members of the public spoke about the danger of officially-sanctioned piles of generally-dark colored, barbed with cut tree branch ends, completely without reflector-ized surfaces (unlike motor vehicles, bicycles and anything not normally expected in the street in civilized places) trash in the public right-of-way. One had been seriously injured in a crash whilst riding a bicycle into one of these Davis Danger Street Piles.

Several Commissioners were of similar opinion. A motion failed - it was about a lack of data. The second motion was mine - seconded by then Commissioner Gudz*:

“Keeping street safety as a paramount consideration of this body, the BTSSC recommends the City Council switches yard material on-street collection to 12 pickups with a concentrated weekly schedule as appropriate, with the ultimate goal being a phase out of the program and to support an educational program for property managers to better manage their waste on side [sic] as a complement to the termination.”.

It was passed unanimously -- I had accepted a friendly amendment by Commissioner Andrews to not have a fixed date for the phase out.

The Council’s decision on the issue later that month decided on 17 pick-ups, every other week during the traditional Davis Street Danger Piles Season where it is legally-permitted for the Piles to hunt people riding bikes (which is not the same as “cyclists”), and no concrete timeline for phase out, though the Holy Claw of Davis would need to replaced sooner rather than later. There would be no new program organized to support meaning-well citizens to collect and compost yard waste on site, to share the organic waste containers of neighbors or to consider the option of leaving leaves where they lie, which itself is supported by soil scientists and tree experts alike.

The main result, it seems, was to save money. The Davis Street Danger Piles would remain in the street during Season, but officially were only allowed their Joy of the Traditional Hunt every other week just under eight months a year.

As we know, the Piles tend to exceed the official limits, both of time and space -- the latter refers to the legally-allowed distance from the curb. Their continued presence may violate state water-quality standards. While the general happiness of cycling in Davis is fairly-unique in the state, what’s even more rare is the City’s hunting permits given to its Street Danger Piles. That the latter is used to assault the former - our City’s symbol - cannot be honestly reflected upon in blog-text, verse or poetry, but only in the dirty, secret center of every human’s hypothalamus -- where irony began.

- BTSS Commissioner Edelman, speaking on my own behalf.

* Curiously this was about nine months before Gudz and two other then-Commissioners wrote: “We believe that Todd Edelman has been given more than enough time to become a productive member [of the BTSSC].”

Ron O

Thanks for this helpful reminder.

If I'm not mistaken, council members established this schedule "on-the-spot". I don't recall the details leading up to the decision, but I believe the end result was different than the process/recommendations which proceeded it.

Seems to me that "demand" is the first thing to consider, before changing a schedule. However, it is true that the bins have altered the demand, to some degree. (Still, there's lots of yard waste that simply doesn't fit in the bins.)

Gilbert Coville

Another thing to consider: Last week, the claw came to our street one day early! If you are considering putting your LITS material out at the end of the day before your scheduled pickup, you might get passed over.

Todd Edelman

Ron O. re: "simply doesn't fit in the bins":

From what I can see it simply requires more work to do this. This means more mechanical processing, or asking your neighbor to use their extra space. Or bigger containers. Or extra containers, shared with neighbors. Really large logs can be stacked, and picked up once every season, yes? Shouldn't tree maintenance people be required to take these away?

I'm not saying that any of this is simple, but it seems preferable to threatening street safety and water quality.

ron glick

On my street there is a parking lane in addition to a bike lane and a traffic lane. Yes its a six lane street. Its easy to keep yard waste out of the bike lane. The problem with the one size fits all solution that you describe as "civilized" is that it assumes to know what civilized is without regard to the needs of the entire community.

Ron O

Todd: Seems to me that those who suggest that all yard waste can fit into the bins simply don't have experience (e.g., in regard to larger yards, shrubs, and trees).

Not everyone can afford to routinely hire "tree maintenance people", either. Yard work/gardening is a healthy, "do-it-yourself" activity, which is increasingly under threat (in a variety of ways - including the increasing cost of water, yard-size reduction in newer developments, etc. I find this to be rather sad, and ends up "separating" people from their outdoor environment. I'm failing to see how this improves anything.)

The end result of this trend is inevitable - fewer shade-producing plants, in an increasingly hotter environment. Also rather sad that the only place that some folks will "experience" the outdoors is in our increasingly-neglected public parks.

I'm also failing to see how organic yard waste threatens water quality - unless one thinks that all natural areas are a threat, as well. (Not to mention all of the inorganic material, oil, etc., that ends up in the street from cars and other sources.)

I do, however, realize that it's a problem for bicyclists (on main routes, at least). The again, so are the bins, if you're not watching where you're going (or are using inadequate lights). There are some very bright bicycle headlights available on the market, these days. (For that matter, some bicyclists apparently think it's "safe" to not use any lights.)

Seems to me that there's "room for compromise", on most streets. I'd suggest that the BTSSC (and their supporters) cease their "total war on yard waste", and instead accept some compromise - in the interest of the entire community.

Darell Dickey

>> Seems to me that there's "room for compromise", on most streets. I'd suggest that the BTSSC (and their supporters) cease their "total war on yard waste", and instead accept some compromise - in the interest of the entire community. <<

Oddly enough, what you are railing against here IS that compromise you wish to see.

Ron O


From Todd's post: " . . . with the ultimate goal being a phase out of the program . . . "

That's not a "compromise" in any sense of the word.

I understand that the piles can be a problem on some streets, but certainly not all streets.

Other cities have the claw, as well.

I guess we'll see if the current schedule is adequate, but it's better than a complete elimination, at least.

Darell Dickey

Ah. Understood, Ron.

For many, many reasons, this system is not sustainable. Financially and otherwise.

Are you aware of what percentage (or total number) of Calif cities still use loose waste pickup?

Ron O

Darrell: The costs and impacts won't magically "disappear", even if the claw does. (Unless plants/trees are removed.)

The photo included this article provides a visual aid to some degree, even if the branches are somewhat smaller than what I've seen.

No - I don't know the answer to your question. However, a California-wide comparison might not be applicable. Trees (in particular) are pretty important in hot, flat, valley towns. And with climate change, will be increasingly important in the future.

I believe that Sacramento and Woodland both have the claw, but haven't looked into it beyond that point.

Why do you apparently view the ultimate/complete elimination of the claw as a "compromise"? (Partly as a result of your other posts, I suspect that your concern is an extension of what I view as a rather rigid "militancy" and unwillingness to compromise, among some bicyclists. As demonstrated in Todd's post, as well.)

Not intended as a personal insult (to you or Todd), despite how it might sound.

Again, I don't think it's much of a problem on streets that aren't main thoroughfares for cars/bicyclists. (Provided they're using adequate headlights, in the first place.)

Ron O

I would add that gathering all branches at once (via the claw) is probably less-expensive (and less-impactful) than creating a need for individual trips to the landfill, either by a professional landscape company or individual homeowners (assuming they're able to transport the material in the first place).

Asking neighbors for permission to use their cans (at at time of year when they might also be full) may not be reasonable, nor adequate. (Not to mention the fact that one would probably have to "time" their requests to coincide with the time that their neighbors put the cans out for pickup.)

To some degree, I see a lack of concern regarding the needs and concerns of others, in regard to this issue. (From both sides, really.)

Again, I do understand the problem on streets that are heavily-used by bicyclists and cars.

Todd Edelman

Ron O: I use strong lights on my bike, but it's still a problem seeing the piles because they don't have reflective services, appear very inconsistently (in front of some properties and not others, at some times of the year only, etc). Everything in the street - cars, bicycles, temporary construction materials, etc., has - by state law - some type of reflectors or reflecting material. This obligation also applies if the materials are within the space designated acceptable by City regulations. I don't recall this specific issue being mentioned in the earlier discussions, and - as much as I am responsible - I regret that. The bins have a smaller footprint, and as I understand it can only be out for 24 hours or so -- much less time than the piles. They could easily have reflectors or even better, some kind of passive solar-glowing solution like used in landscaping for paths, on their traffic-facing side.

All streets need to be safe.

Rather than the State fining the City of Davis over this very likely violation, should our local labs create some kind of local climate-appropriate bio-luminescent plants that can be grown at home, picked/harvested and placed on piles? I would be happy to study that!

Further, it's not required by state or local to have lights with the illumination-level provided by mine. Thinking creatively again: I would support a tax on the sale of new motor vehicles that supports factory-installation of lights on bicycles.

I am not an expert on water quality issues, except that it’s nice to ride a bike to pick up safe drinking water along streets that help create safe drinking water.

Ron O

Todd: I'm not an expert regarding water quality, either. However, the street drains have no direct relationship with drinking water, to my knowledge.

We are referring to organic plant material (placed in the street for short periods of time). The same type of material generated in vast amounts in large, natural areas of the state. (The same areas which are the source of most of the state's drinking water).

Vast amounts of leaves are still going to end up in the street, regardless of whether or not the claw is used to pick them up.

I'm failing to see how this is a significant problem for water quality, especially when compared to the oil and other inorganic waste that ends up in the street everyday. Perhaps it is a concern, but this doesn't seem to be the primary reason for local opposition from some bicyclists, at least.

Regarding being more difficult to see (and taking up a larger footprint), I realize that. Then again, I can (somehow) see the piles myself at night - from the lighting provided by streetlights alone. Perhaps a combination of slowing down, using adequate lights, and keeping the piles off of main bicycle/car thoroughfares is a workable solution.

Note that parked cars themselves take up a lot of the same spaces (as the yard waste) to begin with - thereby (already) forcing bicycles to ride a few feet away from the curb.

Again, many streets have very few bicyclists coming by. I'd say that banning the piles altogether would be a perfect example of the "tail wagging the dog". In my opinion, bicyclists aren't doing themselves any favors, by pushing this beyond a reasonable solution.

I suspect that we'll just have to "agree to disagree".

Colin Walsh

I just want to say, I have ridden bikes in Davis since I was a kid and the only time I have ever hit a yard waste pile was on purpose, and I haven't done that since I was about 15. Back then before the bins and composting the piles of leaves and grass clippings where more fun to ride through.

I like trees and bushes. I want Davis to have lots of them. I want the trimmings to be easy for people to deal with so they are encouraged to have lots of threes and shrubs. I am open to solutions besides the claw on how to do that, but so far the claw is the best thing going.

A reduced claw schedule means more bigger piles for longer. That seems pretty bad for bikes to me.

Dave Hart

I think it's a great idea and wish the city would eliminate the claw entirely. If residents chop stuff up and pack it down, the largest bin can handle just about anything the typical Davis yard can produce. If you have an exceptionally large amount of leaves and debris on an average weekly basis, you can order additional bins. It's all about chopping up what you put in and packing it down hard! The claw is a convenience only. It is not a necessity. Do the work. And if you really believe it can't work, you can message me and I will personally help you figure out how to make it work. Strange how no one picks up on my offer. It's like people who want to complain really don't want there to be any other solution that "what we've always done".

Ron O

Dave: Perhaps you should "offer your services", rather than just "advice".

Just kidding, sort of.

Just today, I witnessed someone performing significant trimming of a large tree, and piling the large branches in the street. He told me that he was aware of this "final pickup" for awhile. (This was apparently the reason he was doing this work today.)

No way those branches would fit into a bin - even with a chipper.

I'm more-and-more convinced that some people have no idea what they're talking about, regarding this issue.

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