L.A.'s broken sidewalks: Residents say city, not homeowners, should maintain

The broken sidewalks around Margaret Peters' South Los Angeles home got her involved in volunteer work.

"It has been a go-to issue for me," said Peters, treasurer of the Southwest Area Neighborhood Development Council. "The No. 1 complaint in my neighborhood is sidewalks."

Peters was among more than a dozen residents who spoke at a community meeting Tuesday night in South L.A. about the city's proposed plan to spend $1.4 billion over the next 30 years to repair its immense network of sidewalks.

After years of complaints about the state of the walkways, city leaders are soliciting community comments on how they should proceed with the ambitious repair plan and what share of the cost should be borne by private property owners.

A report from the City Administrative Office recently recommended that homeowners assume responsibility for upkeep adjacent to their property after the city rebuilds walkways damaged by trees, or certifies they are in good condition. Commercial property owners would have to pay for repairs near their land within a year of receiving notice of a problem from the city.

Most of the speakers Tuesday night voiced frustration with the proposal to gradually shift responsibility for most city sidewalk upkeep to residential property owners, a concept dubbed "fix and release."

"I got people in my neighborhood who have lived in their homes upwards of 40 or 50 years," Peters said. "And now you are going to tell these older people on fixed incomes that all of a sudden they are going to be responsible? That just doesn't seem fair."

The southwest neighborhood council conducted a sidewalk survey last fall that found respondents overwhelmingly want the city to maintain sidewalks and remain liable for trip-and-fall accidents caused by tree damage.

Among the questions raised by residents Tuesday were whether local contractors would be used to rebuild sidewalks and whether older neighborhoods would lose their character if iconic trees were removed.

"I don't want the deforestation of older communities," said Council Member Paul Krekorian, chairman of the council's budget and finance committee. "We have to preserve as many trees as possible."

Additional community meetings on the proposal will be held in the coming weeks.

City officials do not know how many of its estimated 10,000-plus miles of sidewalk need repair, where all the damage is located and which spots should be fixed first, a recent Times report found.

A Times analysis of more than 19,000 resident requests for sidewalk repairs received over the past five years found that no repairs had been made in 40% of the cases. Many sidewalks were patched over with asphalt, a temporary fix that sometimes leaves the path uneven.

As part of its coverage of the issue, The Times has created a submission page where readers can share photos and comments related to L.A.'s broken and buckled sidewalks. Readers also can explore records of complaints about sidewalks for their streets and neighborhoods using The Times' interactive map.

Twitter: @bposton 

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