Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sidewalk Repair May Become the Homeowners Responsibility

Images from the internet. Used under educational free use clause
It’s been all abuzz recently that the city of Los Angeles city panel may place the burden of sidewalk repairs on property owners. Up until 1974 this was a standard way of doing things, property owners were responsible to maintain the sidewalk. But in 1974 the city exempted property owners from that time and on, from being responsible to repair sidewalks damaged and cracked from overgrown tree roots. They did this to reap the benefits of federal funds available at that time to make the repairs. But, as many of us have seen in Los Angeles there are cracked, raised and broken sidewalks everywhere. This is quite a large amount of work and expense for the city to continue to fund. To many of us that have lived in Los Angeles for so long, it doesn’t seem like cracked and damaged sidewalks are a big deal. But they do become a big deal when people get hurt because they aren’t repaired or maintained. It also becomes an accessibility issue to people who have disabilities. So if this ordinance is passed and it becomes the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalks there may be a lot of money that has to be doled out to fix these sidewalk situations. The current City Administrative officer is proposing a phase in period where sidewalks that are adjacent to single family homes that are damaged by tree roots still remain under the city’s responsibility until it’s repaired. But once the repairs are made, it will be the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk from then on. He is also proposing a sidewalk inspection program, where inspectors would evaluate then issue notices or citations to homeowners if the sidewalk is in need of repair. Business would not fare so well. Commercial properties would be in a “fix and release” program where property owners would have one year to fix the sidewalks before inspections are done and another year to do repairs if the city finds that the sidewalk needs repair.
This proposal is due in part to the city’s agreement to pay $1.4 billion, over 30 years as part of a legal settlement with disability advocates. This does not include the additional cost of repairing the sidewalks, which these advocates claim should have been a higher priority for the city. The city will now have to create a plan where they not only pay the payments on the $1.4 billion, but now have to repair sidewalks around city buildings, transportation access ways, medical facilities, commercial areas, places of employment and residential area.
So now that we know why the city is doing this we now have a few questions… What happens in situations where the sidewalk is damaged by earthquakes? Whose responsibility is it going to be if sidewalk repairs become the property owner’s responsibility? Also what happens if leakage from underground pipes and such is causing problems to the sidewalk, who is the responsible for that? (When you consider that most of the public waterworks pipes are more than 8 decades old it’s likely for this to happen) What happened to all the federal money that was received to do the sidewalk repairs? Also what happens when utility work and maintenance require excavating through a sidewalk who is responsible for that? What happens when the city streets suffer from flood damage? Will repairs to the sidewalk be covered by your flood insurance, the city, or something else?
These are all questions that we don’t see being asked, but it looks like it could fall in the grey zone which means that property owners need to be ready to pony up the money for sidewalk repairs. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.
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