By David Zahniser
4:27 PM PST, February 4, 2014
Looking for new ways to fix buckled and broken sidewalks, Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield called Tuesday for the reinstatement of a program that allows private property owners to pay a portion of the repair bill.
Blumenfield, who represents part of the west San Fernando Valley, said he wants to make it possible for property owners to pay up to 75% of the cost of repairing their sidewalks. The effort would resemble a cost-sharing program that ended in 2009 amid a city financial crisis.
Blumenfield spokesman Jason Levin said the councilman has not decided how much money should be put toward the program. However, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the high-level budget analyst, recommended three weeks ago that the council devote one-third of this year's $10-million allocation for sidewalk repairs to a cost-sharing program.
Santana's recommendation has not yet reached the council.
City leaders have struggled for years with a sidewalk repair backlog that, by one account, has reached roughly $1.5 billion. Blumenfield's proposal would focus on heavily trafficked streets, such as transit corridors and major commercial boulevards.
Blumenfield said in a statement that such a strategy would "encourage people to get out and walk" and "visit our local restaurants and businesses."
The council first created a "50-50" sidewalk repair program in 2004, allowing property owners and the city to split reconstruction costs evenly. The program, which focused only on residential streets, ended five years later as city leaders scrambled to cut costs during a major economic downturn.
Since then, advocates for the disabled have gone to court to demand that the city complete the repairs needed to ensure that wheelchair users can travel on sidewalks without obstruction.
The city's lawyers view broken sidewalks as the financial responsibility of private property owners. However, the city also has an ordinance requiring it to make repairs to sidewalks damaged by the roots of city street trees, said Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer.
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