Most hell strips are public property that must be maintained by the property owner. That means the city can do whatever it wants to your hell strip - put in water and sewer lines or bus benches, pile snow on it, tear it up during street repairs and widening. In some cities you can be fined for not maintaining your hell strip, and in some HOA communities you must plant trees and grass in it and keep it watered.
The term is most often attributed to garden writer Lauren Springer, who popularized the practice of planting tough, drought-tolerant plants (including cactus) on hell strips. Now there are "planned" hell strip gardens offered by many nurseries.
Most gardeners find their "hell strip" to be that spot next to the sidewalk or the street that people's dogs potty on and gets blasted with full sun from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the sprinkler system doesn't quite reach.