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L.A. City Council Considers Multiple Sidewalk Repair Motions

Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick
Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick
Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick

Today at 2 pm, the Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee agenda includes two council motions regarding repairing city sidewalks.  One motion (Council file 13-0600-s109) proposes a city "limited sidewalk repair plan." Another (Council file 13-0941) proposes eliminating permitting fees for sidewalk construction and repair.

According to Councilmember Buscaino's press release, the limited sidewalk repair plan will dedicate $10 million to sidewalk repair. The plan is a collaborative product of the city's Public Works Department (Bureau of Street Services, Bureau of Engineering, and Bureau of Contract Administration) and City Administrative Officer. All construction would be performed by private contractors, with city oversight. All $10 million goes to sidewalk work, split into three equal $3.33 million components:

    • One third responding to lawsuits: high pedestrian use locations where poor conditions have already resulted in lawsuits being filed
    • One third for "iconic streets": promoting economic development in retail areas with heavy pedestrian traffic
    • One third for a "50/50 program": the city and property owner split sidewalk repair costs. This third would be divided equally among the 15 council districts. 

Additionally, last week, another sidewalk repair council motion was introduced. Councilmember Blumenfield's motion (Council file 14-0163)  proposes just the 50/50 sidewalk repair program. According to Blumenfield's office, the city's prior 50/50 sidewalk repair program ran from 2004-05 through 2008-09, with  a budget of $7-10 million annually. Over five years, the program resulted in about 2500 completed sidewalk repair projects. 

Each of these motions have some potential to help improve sidewalk conditions, though each motion needs to work its way through the city's legislative and administrative processes. There's no shortage of council proposals that have languished due to a lack of political will to see them through to on-the-ground improvements.

Why the flurry of motions and press releases related to sidewalk repair? There's some heat on the issue from media attention, from increasing visibility of pedestrian advocacy organizations including Los Angeles Walks, and especially from the ongoing cost of settling lawsuits. These pressures have sparked some attention, and, apparently, now some competition among councilmembers as to who can get credit for being L.A.'s sidewalk repair champion.

Representatives from L.A. Walks suggested that, while these proposals could result in some welcome small gains for pedestrians, overall they represents a piecemeal approach. These pedestrian advocates aren't opposing the council initiatives, but would prefer a more comprehensive approach, with sufficient ongoing funding to repair and maintain sidewalks.

Is a $10 million sidewalk repair program this year enough to show that the city is taking its estimated $1.5 billion sidewalk repair backlog seriously? Are the current proposals the first steps in the right direction? How do we get to a more comprehensive initiative? What sidewalks would you like to see repaired first? Your comments below.

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