- Is this art? Or just an old piece of junk? (Image: Courtesy the Kaplan-Allen family)
It's a case of hippies versus The Man up in D.C.'s Palisades neighborhood. What decade is this, again?
A group of Palisades residents say an old Volkswagen Microbus, parked in the front yard of a private residence and painted with rainbows and peace symbols, is a "public art installation" they'd like to see stay put. The D.C. Department of Public Works says the van is an abandoned vehicle, and therefore considered a health and safety risk which must be removed.
Sounds like a real stone drag for the Kaplan-Allen family of the 5700 block of Sherier Place NW. They're asking their neighbors to come together on Sunday afternoon to stage a 1960s-themed rally to save the "Peace-Mobile," as they've dubbed it. The vehicle, which no longer has an engine, was once a set piece for a theatrical production of Pippin at Georgetown Day School. It's been sitting in the family's yard since the spring, according to a news release, with the hope that it might "spread a little sunshine."
"All summer, passersby stopped to take photos with their cell phones and celebrate in that spirit. But one neighbor complained to DPW, and now the agency threatens to censor and shut down our display," reads a statement from the family.
DPW spokesperson Nancee Lyons confirms the department has scheduled the VW for removal by the end of October. The Kaplan-Allens may also have to pay a fine of up to $1,000.
As Lyons explains, there's not much room for interpretation about whether the Peace-Mobile is art or merely junk. Under D.C. law, a vehicle is considered abandoned and dangerous if it is left on private property for more than 30 days in an inoperable or extensively damaged state and without valid tags. The Kaplan-Allens could comply with the law by storing the Microbus in an enclosed garage, but leaving it out in plain view is a no-no.
"We have an obligation to follow through with city procedures due to citizen complaints," Lyons writes in an email.