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Snitch City: The joy of nosing through your neighbor’s trash

The image features a collage with photos of compost, an illustration of a bird, and an inset of bins outside a house, incorporating yellow highlights and graphic elements.
Illustration by Clark Miller for The Standard; Photos courtesy Ibrahiem Rose, Adobe Stock

Welcome back to Snitch City: The petty gossip column no one asked for. One week in, our new series has already drawn a wealth of submissions from readers eager to call out their fellow dime-droppers, informers and tattlers. We welcome more submissions in the box below—readers with receipts go to the top of the pile! 

Thy neighbor’s garbage: Not really thy problem, right? After all, what could be less worthy of your attention than stuff the people across the street consigned to the dump? 

But this week’s submissions yielded not one, but two, instances of San Franciscans paying keen attention to the particulars of their neighbors’ waste disposal practices—as well as someone blowing the whistle on a bird that won’t pipe down. 

Crime: Visible trash cans

No one finds trash cans lovely to look at, except perhaps when you’re walking your dog and looking for a socially acceptable place to ditch that little green poop bag. But is the mere sight of a bin offensive enough to alert the authorities? 

It was to the worried neighbor in the Outer Sunset who lodged a complaint with the Department of Public Works. 

“Someone complained that my trash bins are visible from the sidewalk at a certain angle,” Ibrahiem Rose wrote to our snitch line.

A house with a garage, a driveway, and a covered patio area with some potted plants. There are also blue and green recycling bins beside a small brick planter.
The visible trash cans. | Source: Courtesy Ibrahiem Rose

DPW was apparently sympathetic to the bin snitch, issuing Rose an educational outreach letter, gently reminding him that thanks to a 2006 city law, garbage receptacles must be removed from sidewalks and public view after collection—or their owners can face a $100 fine.

“It is an unfortunate situation,” Rose wrote in an email about his trash can problems. “We, of course, were not aware of the specific code and did not intend to offend anyone.”

So save yourself a hundo and make sure your trash bins are in their upright and concealed position.

Crime: Having compost pile in own yard

What could say “I live in the San Francisco Bay Area” more clearly than having your own compost pile? Answer: snitching on your neighbor’s backyard compost pile.

“My neighbors complain about a small pile of compost at the back of my garden, claiming that it will breed bacteria and attract rats,” the anonymous snitch-snitcher told us.

Let’s break this down, because bacteria and rats sounds bad! Emphasis on “sounds.”

“It is just decomposing weeds from the yard, not food compost at all, and, I had to inform them that bacteria is in all soil, even in their own yard,” the reader explains.

“As for the rats, they are mistaken. The pile does provide a home to a bumble bee hive, though,” the reader warns, as if it to ward off any attempt at disturbing his mulch pile.

Crime: Being a bird, singing

Strolling through leafy San Francisco on a serene day and taking in the natural wonder of birdsong is one of the best, free things you can do in the city. But what happens when the bird is an “insane mockingbird” and decides to terrorize the Richmond neighborhood (specifically on 23rd Avenue between Cabrillo and Balboa streets)?

The new normal knee-jerk reaction to an annoying bird mimicking car alarms (mockingbirds actually do this!) is obviously to go off about it on Nextdoor, like one poster to the platform did.

“It sounds like every car ever made threw all their old unused alarms into one bird and set it free to terrorize the neighborhood?!” the post reads. “No joke it’s been about a week and it goes off all night till like 6am.”

Harper Lee fans will know it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird—no matter how insane it is. But you don’t have to be a law scholar to know that according to the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it’s also illegal.

Joe Burn can be reached at