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Debate over who should pay still a major stumbling block for LA sidewalk repairs

Damaged sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles
Pinelife/Flickr Creative Commons
Damaged sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles could spend as much as $27 million this year for sidewalk repairs around city-owned properties. But local officials are still trying to determine the best way to fix cracked, buckled walkways throughout the rest of the city.

L.A. Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Joe Buscaino are leading an effort to fund a major repair program - something they say the city has never properly undertaken. To underscore how long city leaders have been struggling with the sidewalk problem, Buscaino referenced a 1973 Los Angeles Times article at a joint meeting of the Public Works and Budget committees on Monday.

“The title of it is ‘The cracks in L.A.’s sidewalk policy’ and overall it just indicated we’ve never treated sidewalks like other valuable assets across the city of Los Angeles,” Buscaino said.

This year, the city plans to spend $27 million on sidewalk repairs. The work will begin on sidewalks near city-owned properties. There has been a long running conflict between state and city law as to which entity – a property owner or the city – should pay for repairs. But that debate is moot for sidewalks next to city-owned buildings.

Still, it is unclear how LA's leaders will move forward to deal with broken walkways citywide. To help homeowners fix their neighborhood sidewalks, city officials are considering a loan program or the 50/50 program, which years ago, allowed property owners to split repair costs with the city. City Administrative Office staffers are also expected to follow up on Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s suggestion that alternative materials, like rubber, be used to fix sidewalks.

The city pays out millions of dollars every year to Angelenos who are injured on damaged sidewalks. Councilman Mike Bonin said he knows how it feels to lose balance on buckled pavement. “I tripped over one actually yesterday getting out of my car in my own neighborhood and it’s time that we did something to change that,” Bonin said.