PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland residents who live in certain neighborhoods face a choice this time of year – pay a $15-30 fee to have the city clean up leaves in front of their houses, or opt-out and clean up the leaves themselves.
But now the city says not a single person who opted-out of Portland’s Leaf Day Pick-up fee received a penalty for failing to pick up their own leaves last year.
That means either there’s no enforcement, or every one of the nearly 18,000 people who opted out of the fee last year is raking up their own leaves.
“We didn’t find anyone out of compliance last year,” Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera wrote in an email to KGW.
The city claims to do spot checks on homes that opted out to see if leaves were removed from the curb to the center of the street.
If someone fails the spot check, they are supposedly billed for the Leaf Day service fee and sometimes more.
“You may also be subject to administrative fees of $15, which may include the costs of the spot check, billing, appeals process, and additional customer service,” the bureau said on its website.
But the city has no record of how many people, if any, have ever failed a spot check.
“We don’t track how many residents who opted out didn’t comply,” said Rivera. “In spot checks over the years, we have found compliance is very high. In general, we feel that encouragement works best and we’re not out to take a punitive approach.”
A KGW investigation in March found nearly half of all eligible Portland residents opted out of paying the leaf removal fee. In 2015, 17,849 residents avoided the fee by agreeing to clean-up the street in front of their property.
Records show there’s been a steady increase in the number of residents opting-out. As more property owners opt out, revenues drop.
When the program started in 2010, cash-strapped city leaders expected to raise $800,000 annually. They expected 30,000 residents in 28 tree-lined Portland neighborhoods to pay the leaf clean-up fee.
Last year, the program raised $422,156.
The last day to opt-out was November 1. Street clean-up begins on November 12.