Geneva James pushed her walker slowly up the street in South Los Angeles Tuesday and joined the crowd gathered outside her home in a countdown. The 84-year-old smiled as she watched a worker take a jackhammer to buckled sidewalk she's been complaining about for the last 15 years.
"It's beautiful," she said. "God has answered my prayers."
The sidewalk next to James' home on the corner of 48th Street and South St. Andrews Place was the 100th repair of a warped, broken or otherwise damaged sidewalk in Councilman Bernard C. Parks' district through his collaboration with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative. Parks said the goal is to repair 400 sidewalks before his term ends in June.
There are more than 11,000 miles of sidewalk in the city and approximately 40% are in need of repair, according to Parks' office.
"No one should live this way," Parks said.
While there was $10 million allotted for sidewalk repairs in the city in the 2013-14 budget, it went unnoticed and unspent by the end of the fiscal year. And, according to the Bureau of Street Services, none of the $20 million for fiscal year 2014-15 has been allocated for sidewalk repair yet.
Sidewalks rank as one of the top three budget concerns in the neighborhood, said Gwendolyn Wood, a board member of the Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development Council.
"It's been just a terrible problem for people all throughout the district and elsewhere in the city,” added Veronica Hahni, executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative or LANI.
Repairs to the 100 sidewalks have cost more than $700,000, which Parks said he believes is less than what it would have cost if the city were to do it. The repairs come to about $7,000 per sidewalk repair, including tree removal.
The sidewalk repair comes as a welcome relief for James, who has been unable to walk on the sidewalk without the help of family. She said she’s watched several children and parents fall on the sidewalk over the years.
James said she complained to the city for almost two decades, but was told there was no money available. At one point she was told the city could give her a permit to make the fixes herself, she said.
"I told them no way," James said. "I just would keep on until they come out and do it."
Don Dennis, her grandson, approached the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and Parks and explained his family's concerns about the sidewalk and the danger it posed to James. Dennis said someone came out immediately to assess the situation.
Repairs should be complete in a week.
"She's very ecstatic about it being done and the opportunity to move around and not have to be concerned with tripping and falling," Dennis said. "I think she's going to have more peace of mind and be less fearful."
Across the street from James' home, Dora Garcia, a 20-year resident, said she is struggling with her own sidewalk issues. She said she's been calling the city for 10 years about a tree stump that needs to be removed.
Garcia, who has a bad leg, struggles to walk on the sidewalk when she leaves her home.
"This is a real hazard," said Garcia, 39.