L.A. councilmen concerned about length, cost of sidewalk survey

Three Los Angeles City Council members voiced alarm Wednesday that a proposed study of broken sidewalks could take three years, saying they want a faster and cheaper plan for getting their arms around the problem.

Councilmen Eric Garcetti, Bill Rosendahl and Joe Buscaino called for the Bureau of Street Services to “go back to the drawing board” on a proposed field survey of an estimated $1.5 billion in damaged sidewalks. They said they want a less costly approach than the proposed survey, which officials have predicted would cost “well over $10 million.”

Last week, street repair managers told the council the survey would take three years, with specialists spending 18 months walking every sidewalk in the city and an additional six months developing the software that would list the results. The survey could be a first step toward asking property owners to approve a tax to finance repairs.


Rosendahl, who heads the council’s Transportation Committee, criticized the length of time the survey would take.

“There has to be a much faster and much smarter way to catalog our crumbling and buckling sidewalks,” he said in a statement. “Why not tap into the networks of thousands of community activists in the city? Why not use cutting-edge technology and smart phone apps? We have the energy and creativity to do this better and cheaper.”

The city has not put any money into the repair and replacement of sidewalks since the 2007-08 fiscal year, opting instead for quick fixes — such as pouring hot asphalt into cracked pavement when residents complain. Damaged sidewalks produce about 2,500 “trip and fall” lawsuits each year and have sparked federal civil rights lawsuits from wheelchair users.

Garcetti, who is running for mayor, said his office annually conducts a street-by-street graffiti assessment in his district in a single day. “We can’t afford to wait three years and spend $10 million on a study while our sidewalks are crumbling below our feet right now,” he said.