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L.A. Finally Shamed Into Doing Something About Decrepit Sidewalks

11:01 AM PDT on April 2, 2015

Yesterday, the City of Los Angeles and plaintiffs in an American with Disabilities Act lawsuit over the pitiful condition of the city's sidewalks reached an agreement in which the city agreed to pay more than $1.3 billion over the next three decades on sidewalk repair. The agreement needs to be certified by a federal judge before it becomes law.

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A group of city leaders led by Mayor Eric Garcetti hailed this as a new day for the City of Los Angeles. With 40 percent of the city's sidewalks in need of repair, the $1.3 billion commitment will go a long way to fixing the backlog of broken walkways.

Yesterday's event was surely full of great news for Angelenos tired of navigating sidewalks destroyed by tree roots, time, or any of the dozens of enemies of asphalt that exist in Los Angeles. But there's a long way to go.

After the agreement is certified, the city still needs to figure out how exactly it's going to meet the $1.3 billion commitment. No infrastructure bond ballot initiative has ever even made it to the ballot. And while Garcetti announced new infrastructure funding for road repair at the end of last year, those funds will mostly be used for road repair--although they could be reallocated to help fill the sidewalk backlog.

But even if funding is figured out (new sidewalk bond? Measure R2?), another concern is that yesterday's agreement doesn't cover every busted sidewalk in Los Angeles. Sidewalks next to land owned by other government agencies, including every LADOT LAUSD school, is not covered by the agreement.

The third, as noted by retiring UCLA Professor Donald Shoup in the Los Angeles Times, is that the $1.3 billion commitment isn't enough to cover the backlog of broken sidewalks as well as any others that will break in the next couple of decades.

So while yesterday's press conference and announcement was good news, it was not the end of the story. On the other hand, once a judge signs off on the agreement, fixing the city's sidewalks becomes a legal mandate, not just a good idea.

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