I used to live in city-subsidized housing. It was an apartment complex with a big garden.
To enjoy the garden in the summer, residents started putting old chairs and a table outside. Once summer was over, they didn't bother to take them inside again. The table became weathered and didn't offer a pleasant sight anymore.
The city noticed and put up a letter on the apartment board saying that having your own furniture in the garden was unorderly and threatened that any furniture that wasn't removed from the garden by the end of the month would be disposed of.

(You might want to quickly think about the long-run effects this letter had.)

In the following weeks, the residents dumped their old sofas, broken beds, televisions and, what-not into the garden. Normally, disposing of large items like this required you to have a car, drive the items to a disposal yard and pay a fee. However, the city had just made it free.

Or so the residents thought.

Of course, the city didn't think of following through with their threat anymore. Removing a couple of chairs and a table would have fit in a normal workday of a city janitor. Removing this pile of trash would have been costly.

The months went on, the sofas were wet, nobody used the garden anymore.
I moved away soon after.

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5 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:34 PM

I don't see how your link and the article are particularly related.

I think the right procedure works something like this: 1) Tenants notice that one of them has trashed the garden, and tell the landlord who. 2) The landlord tells the offending tenant to clean up or they'll be billed. 3) If the offending tenant doesn't clean up, the cleaning fee gets added to their next rent bill.

In your case it seems like the offending tenant wasn't pointed out. Maybe because other tenants didn't care, or maybe some tenants had a mafia mentality and made "snitching" unsafe. Either way, you were right to move away.

The whole thing was much more banal than what you're imagining. It was an interim-use building with mainly student residents. There was no coordination between residents that I knew of.

The garden wasn't trashed before the letter. It was just a table and a couple of chairs, that didn't fit the house rules. If the city had just said "please, take the table out of the garden", I'd have given a 70% chance of it working. If the city had not said a thing, there would not have been (a lot of) additional furniture in the garden.

By issuing the threat, the city introduced an incentive they didn't intend.
Some residents who picked up on the incentive destroyed the garden because they were overconfident in the authority following through with the threat – no matter what. 

I don't think [1] or [2] are even (reasonably) 'possible' in most similar situations.

I think the only plausible possibilities are:

  1. The relevant people persuade the litterers to remove the items they left in the garden. (Assuming the story in the post is accurate, this didn't work or wasn't tried.)
  2. Some people, i.e. not the litterers, and maybe 'the city', remove the items.

[1] requires fairly 'expensive social technology', e.g. trust, common values, or effective persuasion being feasible at all, and it is not-uncommonly either absent or prohibitively costly to develop.