City Can Fix the Sidewalks Now, or Wait for the Court Orders

In today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times, Ari Bloomekatz updates the state of the myriad of lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles for the poor state of its sidewalks.  Last year, the city settled a pair of lawsuits complaining that the city was not in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act when it came to street crossings.  The settlement will cost the city $85 million and will build access ramps at thousands of intersections.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/6382328885/sizes/m/in/photostream/##Waltarr/Flickr##

But Bloomekatz reports that lawsuit is the tip of the iceberg:

But there are four other cases pending that could leave the city on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fixing all of Los Angeles’ sidewalks would be a daunting task: Officials estimate the cost of improving them all would top $1.5 billion. But advocates for the disabled hope they can make a measurable dent in the problem.

The article continues with a series of short quotes from pedestrian advocates, including L.A. Streetsblog Editorial Board Member Deborah Murphy, and disabled pedestrians struggling with the city’s broken network of sidewalks.

Next comes a quote from Council Member Bernard Parks who both criticizes the city for not investing in infrastructure and then excusing not making the investment today based on the city’s budget crisis.

However, Bloomekatz’s research puts lie to that particular claim.  The City of Sacramento dedicates 20% of its pedestrian funds to sidewalk repair.  That level of dedication can make a real impact on the State Capitol, and it could make a real impact here as well.

Los Angeles has a choice to make, it can fix its sidewalks now or it can wait for more court orders.

8 thoughts on City Can Fix the Sidewalks Now, or Wait for the Court Orders

  1. Most cities in California use this policy:

    Sidewalk MaintenanceMaintenance and repair of sidewalks is the property owner’s responsibility, except when damage is caused by an official City street tree. 

    LA needs to go back to this policy and make property owners responsible for sidewalks again!

  2. Jass, the difference is that in many instances the costs/benefits of a tree/landscaping is more localized to the property than the general public.  Additionally, several planners such as Shoup, have argued that tying this improvement to sale of a house (which a couple years ago which almost certainly tied to some profit on the property) was a workable approach that is already in place in various cities in California (I think davis is one).

  3. Here is the response that Bernard Parks and his ilk never hear:

    Dumping money into sidewalks is not only an expenditure, the way road paving is, because in most places sidewalks add value to the property and their long term maintenance costs can be recouped through local taxes and fees.

    Taking this money and paving potholes on blasted out stretches of highway in suburban neighborhoods that have always been write-offs in terms of their ability to pay for the local infrastructure and services that keep them running – this has always been a stupid doubling down on a bad investment. It was a politically popular thing to do, but has resulted in a 30-year backlog of street maintenance and billions in land values tied to government dispensations of road construction money.

    Sidewalks should first be improved in the places that are paying their own way – the streets in LA that produce the most local return in tax dollars through business license fees, sales taxes, property taxes, utility fees, etc. After that, as the money per acre to the city diminishes, and there is no prospect of that situation improving, the city city should dole out sidewalks on the basis of that street’s ability to pay for the sidewalks through taxes over the lifetime of the sidewalks.

    The great thing about this is that we’re heading to this point right now, and it won’t require a single election. The economics of street maintenance are so messed up that fiscalizing everything about our streets is the only way we’ll make it out of the mess we’re in.

  4. @c368dc8a672d639b439a4da8ff208603:disqus  but its not cost effective to have every homeowner repair their sidewalk. A single crew doing the entire road does it faster and cheaper.  And its more uniform, which makes the walking experience better

    Also, the trees are a huge help to people on the road and paserby due to the shade they provide. Theyre a public good.

    In other cities, snow removal on sidewalks is also the duty of the property owner, while the city plows the street. I also think this is a stupid policy.

  5. If the city wants to claim that home owners own the sidewalks in front of their house and should be responsible for their repair, then have them also pay for the street upkeep to the parking spaces that they insist are for their own private use simply because they are located in front of their houses. Since most of the miles of street repairs being made now are predominately on streets with single family houses that have very little traffic, then that money spent for street repair for ‘their property’ could be used on the much more heavily traveled arterial streets. You could extend this what’s in front of your property is your responsibility argument to any parking space, street light, tree or sidewalk in front of private property is the responsiblity of the property owner. 

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