Ahem, that planter is not a litter box

As I walk around American cities like Chicago, New York and Washington DC, I see lots of low metal fences around streetside planters. Robust vegetation grows inside, protected from people and dogs. Invariably the plants are in dramatically better condition than those in similarly situated planters without the fences. For some reason, this detail did not catch on in Seattle. I’m guessing that in balancing the various constraints of the right-of-way, city policy and standard practice valued a less cluttered streetscape.

planter with fence at Via6

Getting more people to live in our urban neighborhoods is great, but they come with feet and dogs so planter fences deserve another look. Newer projects such as Via6, Bell Street Park (under construction) and the Pike Pine Renaissance (on the boards) are turning to planter fences as a way to provide lush vegetation on our streets. The results are better walking experiences and a healthier urban environment, but we’ll only get more of these improvements if we respect the subtle behavioral cues that these fences represent. I’ve talked with the gardeners and maintenance folks that have to clean up these planters. Unsurprisingly, they’d rather we just built everything out of concrete.

I’ve seen people lift their dogs over these fences despite the presence of discouraging signs and passersby. Maybe apartment buildings should be required to provide private facilities for all their four legged inhabitants as at Stadium Place or maybe there is a new public relief station parklet that could be deployed in busy corridors. Just like I can’t park my car on the sidewalk, people should be sensitive to the way curbing dogs in an urban environment impacts the public realm. With careful design and mutual respect, we should be able to welcome many new residents, and their furry friends, into a great pedestrian-oriented city.

  • SeattleMike5

    This is one of the biggest livability problems in Seattle. There is no “mutual respect” as far as urban dog owners are concerned — they’re completely oblivious.

    At one of the large apartment communities near me, dogs have killed a large portion of the fancy new ground vegetation. Owners let their dogs pee and poop directly on the plants, and some don’t even pick it up. In Belltown, even larger bushes and vegetation in front of older buildings have been killed or seriously cut back due to dog urine.

    The solution that some apartment developers have come up with is to “plant” rocks instead at the newer buildings, but dog owners ignore the rock & gravel area and direct their animals to poop/pee on the vegetation, no matter where it is.

    This problem doesn’t contribute at all to a “healthier urban environment, only a polluted urban environment. Until the large apartment management companies and the City do
    something, we’re going to continue having a major dog pollution problem.