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Controller Galperin Finds L.A. City Sidewalk Repair Program in Need of Reforms

Controller Galperin’s audit offers ways to make L.A.’s sidewalk repair efforts more effective. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin today released an audit of the city's sidewalk repair program. In the report, Repairing L.A.’s Broken Sidewalk Repair Strategy, Galperin cites several city practices that get in the way of the program being effective. The city has focused funding primarily on repairing sidewalks next to city-owned properties, at the expense of focusing where repairs are most needed based on pavement condition and pedestrian volumes.

Additionally, when the city fixes a sidewalk, it replaces the sidewalk for the entire parcel, which makes repairs more costly and time consuming than necessary.

At a press conference this morning, the controller spoke alongside City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and community group representatives: Jessica Meaney of Investing in Place, Lillibeth Navarro of Communities Actively Living Independent and Free, and John Yi of Los Angeles Walks. Watch the full event on Facebook live.

Under the 2016 Willits lawsuit settlement, the city committed to spend $1.37 billion over 30 years to address broken sidewalks, inaccessible curb ramps, and other barriers to pedestrian access. Though the city has made some progress since 2016, Galperin found that "less than one percent of sidewalk parcels have been certified as repaired and there is a backlog of 50,000 sidewalks that need to be fixed."

Per Galperin:

    • Over the last five fiscal years, the city received more than 1,700 claims and 1,020 lawsuits for sidewalk injuries, paying out more than $35 million in settlements, including $12 million in fiscal year 2020.
    • The city has completed Willits settlement-related sidewalk repairs at 2,100 sites — a small fraction of locations that need fixing.
    • There are another 50,000 reported sidewalk problems that haven’t been addressed.
    • As of the end of June 2021, the city had issued certificates of compliance to less than 1 percent of sidewalk parcels in Los Angeles.
    • In fiscal year 2021, it took the city 41 days on average to complete the most basic sidewalk fixes (like patching small cracks) compared to 3 days to fill street potholes.
    • The city doesn’t know how many sidewalk locations actually need repair and how much the repairs will cost. Other big U.S. cities have performed citywide sidewalk assessments, but L.A. has refused to do so.

Galperin's recommendations include:

    • Change city law to allow for the repair of individual sidewalk defects instead of requiring an entire parcel to be fixed.
    • Alter the prioritization system so that sidewalks next to residential and commercial properties can be considered for repair right away.
    • Work to provide quicker short-term responses to sidewalk problems reported by the public.
    • Invest in a citywide condition assessment of all sidewalks and curb ramps to identify locations that need urgent fixes.
    • Pursue additional funding to address the mounting backlog of sidewalk requests.

On that last funding note, several speakers this morning pointed to specific funding that the city could use to repair its sidewalks. Meaney remarked that the city can and should use existing transportation tax monies - like Measure M and R local return - to repair sidewalks. Councilmember Blumenfield asserted that the city could use federal infrastructure money to repair sidewalks.

Find the full sidewalk repair report at the Controller website.

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