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L.A. councilman seeks systemic plan on sidewalk repairs

FinancePaul KrekorianHerb Wesson
City needs an 'endgame' on sidewalk repairs, L.A. councilman says

As Los Angeles increases spending to begin addressing a massive backlog of sidewalk repairs, a city councilman is proposing new measures to decide which sidewalks to target first and help homeowners fix broken walkways.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said the plan would ensure that Los Angeles repairs aren't done on “a piecemeal basis.”

Last year, the city budgeted $10 million to fix sidewalks, but there was no plan in place to determine how best to spend the money, Krekorian said. Delays in decision-making resulted in the bulk of the money being unspent by the end of the budget year in June.

This year, city leaders doubled their allocation for sidewalk work to $20 million. Council members also added $7 million that was left unspent last fiscal year. Krekorian says his plan is meant to ensure that all of that money gets spent on sidewalks, and in the most effective way.“We haven’t been moving forward with a program that has an endgame in sight, which is having a systemwide maintenance program that will, over the course of 20 years or however long it takes, completely repair all of the broken sidewalks throughout the city,” Krekorian said.

The councilman portrayed his proposal as “the first citywide sidewalk plan in decades.” Cosponsored by Council President Herb Wesson, the plan asks city staffers to report back on how they can identify, prioritize and budget for repairing broken sidewalks owned by the city, “with particular focus on those sidewalks that hold the highest potential for liability” or that pose the biggest problems for public mobility and access.

His office estimated the city spends between $3 million and $5 million annually defending or settling lawsuits related to injuries suffered on its buckling sidewalks.

City officials have said that 40% of city sidewalks may need repairs. A plan to ask voters to boost the sales tax to pay for street and sidewalk repairs was recently abandoned, leaving it unclear how the city will fund the massive backlog of work.

Krekorian's proposal includes other suggestions, such as finding new ways to prod businesses and other government agencies to fix their sidewalks and helping neighborhoods create special taxing districts to fund sidewalk repairs.

In addition, Krekorian called for the city to create a revolving loan program that homeowners could use to help finance repairs, and bring back a popular program -- ended five years ago -- that allowed homeowners to expedite repairs near their properties by paying half the cost, with the city paying the remainder.

The proposals now will be reviewed by City Council committees focused on the budget and public works.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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