L.A. Leaders Discuss Sidewalk Repairs

By City News Service

Los Angeles leaders renewed a conversation Monday about a problem that has bedeviled the municipality for decades – how to fund and prioritize repairs for thousands of miles of broken sidewalks in the city.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance and Public Works and Gang Reduction committees met jointly to explore several options to tackle the backlog, including giving out loans and offering to share repair costs with property owners.

State law puts the responsibility of the repairs on the owner of the property next to the sidewalk. But the city in the 1970s decided – against the objections of then-Mayor Tom Bradley and the city administrative officer at the time – to take on repairs for sidewalks damaged by overgrown tree roots. The program ran out of funds two years in.

Since then, the amount of broken sidewalks has grown to an estimated 4,600 miles, or 40 percent of the city’s 11,000 miles of sidewalks, partly due to ambiguity around who has the responsibility of paying for the repairs.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who was instructed to report back in 60 days with a strategy for sidewalk repairs, said the city should adopt “a policy that recognizes the way the city has approached the problem so far.”

“This problem didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It happened as the result of the city taking responsibility, but not putting in the resources, so you can’t just dismiss that part of that history.”

The city should also think about handing the responsibility for repairs back to private property owners in a way that is “fair,” he said.

The discussion comes as the city is deciding how to spend about $27 million in this year’s budget on repairs of sidewalks directly next to libraries, parks and other properties that are owned by the city. Unlike other damaged sidewalks, the liability for those walkways are clearly borne by the

city, officials said.

Santana said repairing all of the broken sidewalks next to city property will cost more than the $27 million allotted this year.

The city is also the target of a class-action lawsuit that alleges the city has failed to give physically disabled people proper access to sidewalks.

Ideas the city is considering include having the city and private property owners share the repair costs, creating assessment districts to raise money for repairs, and low- or no-interest loans to help property owners finance the repairs.

The city is also considering setting up a trust fund in an effort to maintain a steady source of funds for sidewalk repairs.

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August 21, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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