Today In City Hall: Sidewalks, Driveways, LADOT and Measure R

By now, you may have received word from the Bicycle Coalition that the City Council’s Budget and Finance, Public Works, and Transportation Committees are meeting in a joint meeting today to discuss, amongst other things, how the city will spend it’s Measure R Local Return dollars.  Yes, the long fought for 10% set-aside for bicycling and pedestrian projects remains in the city’s official recommendations, and the bike coalition has already put together a good list of talking points for anyone who’s going to head downtown at 1:00 P.M. today.

But even if the Measure R proposal sails through, there are several other proposals that could make today a bad day for pedestrians.  The city has long discussed retreating from its obligation to maintain our sidewalks.  Two proposals on the agenda could move forward those proposals. 

The first calls on the city to require that sidewalk repairs be done by homeowners when they sell a property.  The argument is actually that this doesn’t cost homeowners anything, because the cost would be included in the sale of the house.  That’s a sure fire way to kick start the flagging housing market.

The second absolves the city of the requirement to repair sidewalks, curbs, and driveways that are caused by roots coming through the sidewalk.

You might be surprised, but I scrolled up and down the agenda a couple of times, and didn’t see a mention anywhere of the Bureau of Street Services or LADOT recommendations that the city should scale back its street maintenance or anything of the sort.  But sidewalks?  Let someone else take care of it!

And if that’s not enough excitement, there will also be motions on DASH cuts and hikes, super graphics, and parking meter maintenance.  I can’t make the meeting personally, but I’ll be live tweeting the meeting and posting an update later this afternoon.

  • Dorothy Le

    thanks damien for the heads up for all the bad news on pedestrians…dang…it’s never all good is it? anyway, we can comment on the pedestrian issues also…it’s all interrelated….

  • Hmm, I don’t want to become the public defender of all of Don Shoup’s ideas, but the “repairing sidewalks at sale” is one of his. The alternative is what we have now, where the city simply does not repair the sidewalks. At all. Tree roots create huge lumps that people in wheelchairs can’t navigate, and the city spends millions of dollars a year resolving “trip and fall” lawsuits – legitimate ones.

    At least with repairing sidewalks at sale, we will have a gradual way to improve sidewalks.

    The regulation will cause people to spend a little bit more money on a public good.

    I think this would be a good thing, a subtle way to get people to take care of their neighborhoods.

  • JP Perry

    I have a problem with the ‘repairing sidewalks at sale’ proposition. What if the property doesn’t change hands for a long time? It could be decades before a property is sold, and there is no system in place to repair sidewalks *right now.* In my neighborhood, Sherman Oaks, we have streets with entire 30-foot sections of sidewalks missing. Something needs to be done that addresses the problem now, not eventually.

  • Cory

    A lien on the property to be collected at a future point of sale would solve the issue of (or at least provide the mechanism for) installing or repairing sidewalks in front of properties that are not turning over.

  • This proposal is an abdication by the LADOT of their core responsibilities. They’ve been working overtime to increase the amount of roadway we have to maintain by constantly expanding the road network, adding lanes, removing public space.

    Now we have to pay for their short sightedness.

    No. This is a bad idea. There is more than enough money to pay for sidewalk repair. If we are running out of cash to pave roads, then stop paving roads. Reduce a travel lane. If I can’t walk to the corner to get some groceries because the sidewalks are a mess, or my kid can’t get to school because the sidewalks are horrible or non-existent what sort of city do we live in?

    Car-only streets are not handed down to us by God. We can choose to narrow roadways, spend our money on less energy and capital intensive forms of transportation, and still live a very pleasant and productive life as happy consumers.

  • Cory

    I do not disagree. I believe that what Herbie and I are talking about is options. What is being proposed is not options. When the street trees were planted, consideration was not given to what the trees would do to the sidewalks. That negligence has been amplified by the massive size of this city. The simple fact is that the party responsible for destroying those sidewalks should be required to repair them. However the property owners should have an option in place that will allow them to have the sidewalks repaired (or installed) in a more timely fashion.

  • Chris Loos

    What then is the purpose of a city government if not to provide *basic* services like sidewalk repair? This is truly pathetic.

  • For those who are interested, here is a report where Shoup explains his reasoning behind the idea of repairing sidewalks at sale.

    @Damien – In the report, Shoup shows that point-of-sale requirements in other cities did not affect real estate markets.

    @JP Perry – In the report, he addresses your concern. Roughly half of all properties turn over within 10 years. This rate is the same in Beverly Hills and in Compton, in LA County and the US. After 30 years, about 80% of properties have turned over. Shoup notes that if LA had adopted a point-of-sale requirement in 1995, about half of the city’s 4600 miles of sidewalks would have been repaired by 2005. For comparison, the city repaired only 67 miles of sidewalk between 2000 and 2008. Where point-of-sale repairs about 2300 miles over a decade, the city repairs 100 miles at best.

    @Josef I see where you’re coming from; I agree that LA BSS and LA DOT have their priorities all screwed up. But I wouldn’t let that stand in the way of point-of-sale requirement, which I think is a good idea. In many cities, property owners are responsible for sidewalks. LA BSS surveyed 82 cities around the country and found that property owners pay for repairs in 33 cities, the city pays in 11 cities, and the city and property owners share the responsibility in 38 cities.

    I look at point-of-sale as just a different way to finance sidewalk repair. The other option is to tax. Theoretically they are very similar. In both, residents pay to finance a public good. However, in point-of-sale the money goes directly to the good we want, sidewalks. The mechanism guarantees it. With taxation, the money goes into a general fund where political processes can usher it away from sidewalks and into roads, public officials’ salaries, and whatever else.

    I view this proposal as a very positive change for LA’s pedestrians and I wish Damien hadn’t painted it in such a negative light initially.

  • Oops, I forgot to put the link for the report. Here it is.

    http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/PuttingCitiesBackOnTheirFeet–November19,2009.pdf

    There are some good pictures in there, too.

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