Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian today proposed a plan for spending $27 million earmarked for fixing sidewalks in this year's budget.
The funds are being made available as the city attempts to put a dent into a large backlog of broken sidewalks in Los Angeles. City officials estimate that 40 percent of the city's sidewalks, or about 4,600 miles, are in poor condition.
With the availability of sidewalk repair money virtually nonexistent in recent years, the city has racked up about $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance, while also paying out millions of dollars a year to people injured by the damaged walkways, officials say.
With the funds some of the first the city has budgeted for such repairs in years, Krekorian said he wants to make sure an "effective plan" is in place for how to use the money.
One of two motions introduced by Krekorian proposes a series of strategies such as splitting the repair costs with homeowners under a so-called "50/50" plan, and giving out loans for repair projects.
Also suggested are "assessment districts" in areas where property owners are willing to tax themselves to pay for repair costs, as well as a trust fund where the city could sock away money dedicated for sidewalk repairs.
Another Krekorian motion would direct city staff to identify and prioritize sidewalks in need of repair.
Both motions are expected to be taken up by the Budget and Finance Committee, which Krekorian chairs, and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee.
Krekorian said he hopes to start a "thoughtful, comprehensive conversation about all of the different approaches we can take to effectively and sustainably initiate a long-term sidewalk replacement program" with the funds that are available.
While the $27 million budgeted for sidewalk repairs this year is more than the city has seen in years, it is still just a fraction of the $1.5 billion officials estimate is needed to repair all of the buckled and damaged sidewalks throughout the city, Krekorian said.
Many of the ideas offered Krekorian attempt to stretch the amount as far as possible by putting some of the financial burden on private property owners.
State law says property owners are responsible for maintaining adjacent sidewalks, but some of the responsibility shifted to the city in the early 1970s when officials offered to pay for damage caused by overgrown tree roots, according to Krekorian.
One of the strategies -- the 50/50 cost-sharing program -- for defraying repair costs proved so "wildly popular" when it was introduced as a pilot program about a decade ago that it had to be discontinued when the city ran out of funds, Krekorian said.
Krekorian said he is proposing to offer the 50/50 program only to residential property owners, who may have more trouble picking up the full tab on repairs than commercial property owners.
--City News Service