The City Council this week unanimously adopted measures that will make residents entirely responsible for maintaining sidewalks and trees on city-owned parkways abutting their lots.
The number of residents facing sidewalk-repair and tree-removal costs is "significant," said Mayor John McTaggart, who has had such problems on his own property three times. "There may be as many as 20% of the residents who have or will have the problem in the next few years," he said.
Many trees with shallow root systems, like the Italian stone pine, were planted along residential streets when new housing tracts were built 20 years ago and the area was unincorporated. Now oversized, the trees are cracking sidewalks.
Residents have been responsible for 75% of the cost of sidewalk repair and half the cost of tree maintenance. The changes are being made because of budget constraints, city officials said.
The council directed city staff to examine the possibility of financing sidewalk repair and tree removal with a special assessment district, under which property owners in affected areas would be assessed annually to cover the costs.
Without an assessment district, the costs to individual property owners can vary dramatically, depending on the extent of sidewalk damage and the number and size of the offending trees.
The trees cannot be removed without first obtaining a free permit from the city's department of public works. Sidewalk repairs also require a free permit.
"We're trying to prevent a wholesale denuding of the city," said Steve Yamshon, assistant director of public works. "Trees provide Rancho Palos Verdes with a nice rural atmosphere."