Who Is Leaving Anonymous, Passive-Aggressive Notes On Coleridge?

nothing says "i love my neighborhood" like taping passive-aggressive anonymous notes to your neighbors's houses.

Neighbor Ellen wonders WTF:

I’d love to know who is leaving these notes on our houses on Coleridge.

They appeared on houses between the mini-park and Fair Avenue sometime early this morning (or very late last night).

One of my neighbors had apparently gotten a similar anonymous note and had put up a note a week or so ago saying she’d like to talk about it and leaving her name and phone number. This new note was just taped above hers, ignoring her request to speak to them directly.

Recently, we got hand-written note on one of our scooters. It was legally parked, but not in the motorcycle parking spaces by the mini-park, where we usually park it. We have to move it for street cleaning, of course. This note said we were bad neighbors for parking anywhere but the motorcycle spaces. There was no name on it, but there was a phone number — of an out-of-town Hertz rental car agency, and nobody knows anybody there who lives in Bernal Heights.

Who could be angry anonymous note-poster be? They sure aren’t making any friends. One idea we had is that it could be a real estate agent or broker who doesn’t live in the neighborhood.

Another possibility: Mitt Romney moved in down the street.

PHOTO: Neighbor Ellen

43 thoughts on “Who Is Leaving Anonymous, Passive-Aggressive Notes On Coleridge?

  1. Oh christ, these are the kind of wackos that form housing/neighborhood associations. Don’t let them get their claws into Bernal Heights.

  2. I have a neighbor just like this. She’s older, lives alone, is very angry and anxious, and believes its her job to police the neighborhood for “infractions” like this. I believe she has some degree of mental illness. I used to get myself wound up trying to talk with her politely, until I realized nothing was going to change her behavior. Now I just ignore her and remind myself to feel compassion for a troubled woman who is clearly shedding a lot of sweat over the “small stuff.” I remind myself to be grateful for a full life and people who love me, so that I don’t have the time or energy to worry about other people’s trash cans. In my experience, this has been the best way to handle the situation.

  3. The note leaver is not entirely wrong, or mean spirited. He/she says please and thank you, and leaves a good reason for not leaving trash cans in the street. It seems to me that this simple request is logical, however it is presented.


    • it’s actually illegal to leave your trash cans out on the street. it’s in the SF municipal code. for my part it bums me out that all my neighbors leave their trash cans out… particularly my next door neighbors who tend to leave them out basically in front of my front door. it’s pretty lame. trash cans being left out also encourage people scavenging through trash, which is loud and often results in strewn-about garbage. yeah, the garage is small, so is mine, but take ’em in!!!

  4. …or it could be a neighbor who just doesn’t like trash barrels left on the street. the DPW po-lice will get ya for that one. in our humble small abodes we apparently need to leave room for our poor little trash barrels so’s they don’t get all fogged over and the yuppsters don’t lose sleep over declining property values due to the unpleasantness of seeing trash barrels. Kinda like Noah taking in two of each kind, one green, one blue.

  5. So, for those that don’t have garages, where are the bins supposed to go? The living room? How do you enforce a code where there is simply nowhere to put garbage bins except against the house? This is really ridiculous. City living comes with all kinds of inconveniences and eyesores. Sounds like someone needs to move to the ‘burbs.

    • Having no garage is not an uncommon situation here. The City has guidelines for allowable enclosures at the edge of the sidewalk and a waiver when it’s not possible. It is a San Francisco’s regulation after all – it’s set up to work here!

  6. Just a block from there, but it looks like I’m out of the note-writer’s jurisdiction. I’m with Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable on this one, which is a perfectly normal thing to see myself type.

  7. I agree — a polite note seems pretty reasonable. The fines for leaving cans out is $100 – $500 per incident. If they were nasty they’d just call DPW.

  8. I think notes are fine, I think the anonymous factor makes it all seem a bit creepy, like “I’m watching you, but you don’t get to know who I am!”. When you leave a note, leave your name and phone number, it opens dialogue, creates accountability for words and actions, and when done right it can help foster respect between neighbors.

    • i have to say though, it’s almost better to be anonymous than to sour relationships with neighbors. it’s really easy to just say ‘oh so and so is uptight and crazy’ and dismiss the note, and i think it is really the anonymous factor of these kind of notes which drives any possibility of behavioral change on part of the recipient. i think if the note-writer thought it would be useful to talk to the recipient (or perhaps they have already attempted to) then they would have left a name… i don’t think cowardice is necessarily the reason for omitting a name.

  9. I’m all for taking responsibility, but as someone who was once a teenager with a cell phone, I think putting your name and phone number out in the street all willy nilly is a practice to be cautioned against

    • Good point by km, though I feel note/s that identify the giver could be left inside of nearby residences–or tucked into mailboxes of potential “violators”–in order to be more forthright about the complaint, which is a legitimate one, and to start a discussion and some mutual understanding. If the person really does not know who they need to contact among their neighbors, they can leave a nice, extensive note in all the neighbors’ mailboxes. (If the person does know, it’s even easier to reach out to neighbors, and it’s a shame that the person cannot be more transparent and will be seen by some as simply a busybody or worse.)

      Someone who tapes vehicles or other objects with nameless, terse notes invites skepticism and does not seem open for dialogue by the very act of their anonymity (even if they are open to talking). Though sliding notes inside a property or residence may initially surprise people and seem awkward–if the giver truly does not know where their targets live–reaching out to others will at least lead to the possibility that they will respect you, and seems much more proactive (showing true concern for the neighborhood and its residents) than hiding behind unsigned, mysterious, one-way correspondence.

  10. Team note writer (but not the note writer).

    Some people don’t like direct confrontation. A simple request, such as how about not leaving your cruddy looking garbage cans on the street, could turn into an unpleasant interaction. Here the recipient is posting the note on the internet and parents’ groups, calling the writer angry and asserting that the writer couldn’t possibly be a resident. I wonder how respectful a discussion would have been.

    Anonymous notes aren’t friendly but at least this one is polite. Do you seriously think the note-writer is a real estate broker or someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood? Sorry, I think that’s a ridiculous supposition. More likely it’s a neighbor who is shy and doesn’t like stuff cluttering up the street. Sure, a busybody, but you appreciate those busybodies when they report crime and keep the area clean, don’t you?

    Plus, as someone said, it’s better than getting fined. Though I expect next time, after this public airing, the note writer may well skip the note and just call DPW to issue a ticket.

    • “Some people don’t like direct confrontation.” Some people? LOL. Pretty sure that’s everyone. But most (I hope) people recognize that getting over that fear and engaging neighbors directly and politely is the respectable course of action. It also may engender a more appropriate weighing of the “is this really worth confronting someone about?” equation.

    • i totally agree with everything you wrote!! and yes, i do also think the note writer will just call the infraction in next time!

  11. It seems to me to be a polite, direct note — in other words the exact opposite of “passive-aggressive”. Whether it is the best way of dealing with the situation, I don’t care to comment on. But the headline writer really shouldn’t be using phrases they obviously don’t understand.

  12. She said “Thank You”. Enough said for this not to be passive aggressive. This is an example of a direct, honest and thankful note. The recipient is the one who is reading into it. I would easily leave a similar note and hope the intended message is received firmly without banter. I wish people would realize when they are in the wrong, work to fix the issue and not want to escalate things by wanting to have a “Come to Jesus” talk with everyone who does not see their way. Clean up your trash.

  13. On the east coast, this would be called a love letter. Come on guys! An individual is allowed to be direct without being labeled aggressive.

  14. I would caution the note-writer against calling DPW. Despte the comments above, many bernal residences simply do not have room to reasonably comply. I live in 1 of 4 identical houses just a few blocks from this location. I keep the bins in my garage. My neighboring house is a rental and the garage is used as a second unit. Our houses are at the street line except for a planter bed. There is no place to keep them inside unless they are in one neighbor’s living space, which is unsanitary and unacceptable. I suppose they could keep them in their post-stamp sized back yard, but then they would have to roll the full bins through their living space, which seems unreasonable. I agree it makes the street look bad, but really what can DPW or anyone else do?

  15. This was polite and to the point; sounds to me like the recipient’s feelings were hurt because they were called out for bad behavior.

  16. Ditto: it was a nice note pointing out bad behavior.
    I wonder though: how long does Neighbor Ellen leave her trash cans out. One day after pickup? Days? Weeks?
    A pleasant but anonymous note seems the best way to approach the situation… If you attend the monthly community police precinct meetings you’ll hear the reminder to never approach a person who needs to revise their behavior, but rather to call for police.
    This mirrors that advice.

    • “…never approach a person who needs to revise their behavior, but rather to call for police.” Yes, when we are talking about a crack head or a threatening person or situation. But this is about a neighbor’s trash cans. This fearful/uber-cautions approach is at heart of what us formerly east-coast now proud San Franciscans might have a chuckle about. Leaving anonymous notes and calling the police over trivial matters are almost by definition passive aggressive actions. Putting a name/phone number on a critical note (and in the mail box is a great idea!) is perhaps a bit forward or aggressive, but at least it is direct.

      • How does this note leaver know that the trash-can leaver isn’t a crack head? Just because someone lives in a house with trashcans doesn’t make him/her NOT a crackhead.

  17. After reading more comments, all very reasonable, I amend my reaction to this somewhat. The notes have probably been “polite” enough and have pointed out specific “problems.” Having a “dialogue” about such things is not easy for many people, so at least someone took the time and effort into making others aware of small infractions. Many neighbors would have let such things slide, which probably would not invite the end of the block as they know it, but also does nothing to improve a situation where violations are technically taking place. (And as we know, “technical violations” are often the most difficult to pinpoint, talk about, and solve, since they grate on us in different ways.)

    But I sadly muse: if basic, anonymous “politeness” meets criteria for being a “good neighbor”–and if someone may be commended for leaving such notes and not calling the police about trash cans, which is what they are “supposed to do”–this is a depressing (though not surprising) statement about modern urban life in the United States. We live in the world we make, unfortunately.

  18. I find the person complaining about this innocent note more passive aggressive than that implied by the note writer.

  19. Yeah, I am new on Coleridge and I was kind of surprised how many people here leave their garbage cans out all week. In my old neighborhood you get a ticket for that. It does look kinda ugly, and lots of people who do it have garage room.

    I saw neighbor Ellen’s note to the anonymous note writer the other day at her door, and wondered what it was all about. Now I know!

    Count me as mildly sympathetic to Anonymous. Not passive aggressive, just polite.

  20. Who cares wether the note is passive agressive or not! The point here i think that brings some blood up to the surface is the fact that someone is complaining about a couple of GARBAGE CANS! Seriously folks, do you not live in a time and place where there are MUCH MORE SERIOUS ISSUES than a small visual stain on the fabric of their street? They want us to use the cans, we get fined if we dont, they want them accessible so they can easily remove our trash, fair enough. I get the feeling that people these days are trying to create their neighborhoods to be an exact Norman Rockwell scene. In real life, life is not that neat or simple. Be glad that our neighbors are taking their trash out and putting it in the bins. If you are complaining now, imagine how enraged you would be if there were NO CANS AT ALL! At least they all match each other these days! Be glad you do not have to take your stuff to the dump and be glad that we have a clean community. Dont be mad that we live in a tightly stuffed metropolitan location. You chose to live here. That comes with some of the unpleasantness that you get with high density urban living. I agree with earlier poster, if you dont like it… Move to the BURBS!

    • “Be glad that our neighbors are taking their trash out and putting it in the bins.”

      This brings to mind the Chris Rock routine about melon farmers with low expectations who want credit for doing the things they’re supposed to do.

  21. This person is being very polite to just leave a note. He/she could have called DPW & the property owner would have been fined $250/day until the problem is resolved. This has happened where I live in Bernal Heights, mostly single family homes. Several neighbhors complained about garbage cans being left out. One of the neighbors told another not to complain as you don’t want your neighors angry at you. One person did leave a note but to all neighbors on the block. Especially since the area was looking like a garbage dump. Nothing seemed to work so DPW was called. The neighbors were fined until corrected. This did open up a can of worms though as several other agencies came out. In addition to being fined for the garbage cans, some were also fined ($150/day) for having concreted over their front yards without permits & ended up putting back their front yards; another had work stopped on their home for not having the proper permits; & another’s illegal unit (which was the garage) was taken down. Incidently most of these were rentals, which were eventually sold. The new owners take care of their homes. Overall, it turned out to be a big improvement to the block. For the most part, many neighbors do put their cans away & if no garage available, into an enclosure, take care of their property, & surroundings.

  22. A la Wikipedia:

    The book Living with the Passive–Aggressive lists 11 responses that may help identify passive–aggressive behavior:

    Ambiguity or speaking cryptically: a means of creating a feeling of insecurity in others or of disguising one’s own insecurities.
    Intentional Inefficiency: Intentionally being late and forgetting things, another way to exert control or to punish.
    Convenient forgetfulness: To win any argument with a dishonest denial of actual events.
    Fear of competition
    Fear of dependency
    Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: the passive–aggressive often cannot trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone.
    Making chaotic situations
    Making excuses for non-performance in work teams.
    Victimization response: instead of recognizing one’s own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

    Hmmmm, how about just put your garbage cans away? Cheers!

  23. I wonder if the same person stole my recumbent bike, maybe they’re good with an angle grinder? It was locked next to the stairs by the minipark. Looks like the heist took two attempts, I laughed off the first one, but I underestimated them.

    If you have any information about this crime, please contact Detective Jones at the Ingleside Police Department referencing case #BW52893.01.

    My burning man is ruined!! Welding was just about to begin, it was going to be a la-z-boy recliner bike. Dreams dashed.

    I’ll be selling lemonade next week, adjacent to the Sutrito tower as a fundraiser to replace this 2012 Coleridge icon.

  24. Pingback: A Neighborly Response to an Anonymous and (Arguably) Passive-Aggressive Note | Bernalwood

  25. Does anyone ever consider that people work, often long hours, and sometimes have a problem getting to putting trash cans away in a few hours? Perhaps a neighbor is one person who goes to work before the cans are emptied and come back late at night when it might disturb people to noisily bring the cans in. Don’t sweat the small stuff and have a little empathy.

    • If you’re curious, the actual City rules are to put the bins away within 24 hours after collection. So that should give people time to work it into their varied schedules, yes? The issue at hand here is actually about people who leave their bins out all day every day.

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