Los Angeles is finally fixing a problem that it’s been tripping over for decades.
After the Bureau of Street Services estimated that 40 percent of the city’s 11,000 miles of sidewalks are in disrepair, city council members on Monday gave initial approval for a $1.3 billion plan to fix them. Then the responsibility for sidewalk repair in the city will be passed back to residents and business owners.
The plan will go to the full council for consideration later this month.
“This is a problem that has been over 40 years in the making and [Monday], the city took a huge step toward fixing it,” said budget committee chair, Councilman Paul Krekorian, 2nd District. “We have advanced a solution that will lead to the repair of every sidewalk in L.A.’s 11,000 mile sidewalk system that needs it.”
The plan will create a cash rebate program for repairs, prioritize sidewalk repairs for residents with disabilities and provide one no-cost repair for every sidewalk in the city.
If completed in the next three years, the rebate program will pay a cash rebate to property owners who take matters into their own hands at
a rate of approximately 50 percent of the average repair cost per square foot. Council members have not determined what the maximum total cap per parcel will be. The city will also create a list of prequalified contractors for repairs and a
priority and scoring system for each broken stretch based on factors such as severity, liability concerns and traffic.
“This policy accelerates decades of overdue repairs and keeps the city’s promise to residents to fix sidewalks,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino, 15th District.
Properties that do not participate in the rebate program will still eventually receive a no-cost repair from the city with a warranty period of 20 years for residential properties and five years for commercial properties. If a sidewalk breaks during the warranty period the city will perform one fix at no cost. The city will “phase-in” responsibility for future repairs back to adjacent residential property owners after the warranties expire.
California’s 1911 Improvement Act places sidewalk repair responsibility on the property owners. In 1973, however, Los Angeles took responsibility for sidewalk cracks caused by tree roots and provided free sidewalk repairs to take advantage of available federal funding. After a reduction in federal funds, the program was ended. From 1978 to 2000 the city did not have a full-scale permanent sidewalk repair program. The city’s 2000 budget provided $9 million to repair 46 miles of most damaged sidewalks. Funding varied from year to year and then ended when the recession hit.
The proposal will also explore tree removal mitigation measures to preserve the urban forest and explore the use of alternative materials for sidewalk construction. City staff will report back on best practices for maintenance of the urban forest, including tree retention standards, tree removal criteria and replacement standards.
Councilman David Ryu said the 4th District is a victim of the broken sidewalk epidemic in the city and he thinks the plan will be a long-term solution.
“I’m very pleased with what we came up with,” he said.
Ryu said he and his staff have been meeting with homeowner and neighborhood associations to build an assessment and priority list of the areas in most need. He said many groups in the district have already catalogued some of the worst spots, and that he will continue to use their help to execute the plan.
Ryu also directed staff to report back on the feasibility of instituting a sliding scale of cost sharing for commercial property owners applicable to nonprofit and community service organizations that own property adjacent to damaged sidewalks.
The joint committees also approved a motion by Ryu to direct the city to examine alternative products that the city can use for repairs that would be cheaper and greener than concrete. For example, Santa Monica implemented a program using material made of recycled rubber and plastic from agriculture irrigation pipes. Approximately 650 tons of waste tires are collected annually in Los Angeles.
In a letter sent to the council members on Monday, Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the group supports efforts to incentivize repairs, but has concerns about the cap per property.
“This creates a disadvantage to many more businesses than residents,” his letter read.
The chamber also suggested that the warranty be applied equally to residents and commercial properties.
The program is a result of the class action settlement that the city council recently entered into with members of the disabled community. The lawsuit alleged that Los Angeles violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to maintain sidewalks in a condition that is usable by people who rely on wheelchairs, scooters and other assistive devices to get around.
Residents can report sidewalks in need of repairs by calling 311 or using the MyLA 311 App.
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