Monday, August 27, 2012

LA finally gets serious about fixing its sidewalks

Angelenos have heard the statistics many times over the past few years: nearly half of LA's sidewalks are cracked, crumbling, or...whatever term you'd like to use to refer to the mess above. It will take an estimated $1.5 billion to return them to pristine--or at least usable--condition. In the last few years spending on sidewalk repair has been less than one percent of that figure. The city spends about the same on the 2,500 trip and fall claims it receives each year.

But now, the LA Times reports that the city is pondering the first step in a comprehensive program to bring its sidewalks up to snuff: a survey of all 10,000+ miles of sidewalks to document the condition of curbs and gutters, street trees, soils, and other details, and the development of a software program to compile the results. The survey could take three years and cost more than $10 million.

Actual "sidewalk" in Woodland Hills
Why go to all that effort? It would provide justification for the City to place a bond measure on the ballot (possibly in 2017) to fund sidewalk repairs.

Is this the fix Los Angeles' pedestrians have been waiting for? It would move the responsibility for sidewalk repair from adjacent property owners to the City, a move that's sure to please those property owners. It would also demonstrate, if subtly, that the City values pedestrians enough to pay for repairs to their infrastructure too--just like it has always done for drivers.

Those seem like good reasons to move forward with the plan to me, but I'm just one voter. If the bond measure is approved for the ballot in 2017, the City would still have a lot of voters to convince--something it wasn't too successful at in 1998, when a similar measure was rejected by 60 percent. Let's hope Angelenos have come to their senses by now--or that they've really gotten tired of tripping on broken sidewalks.

You can read more details about the survey and possible bond measure here.


  1. Sidewalks? What's a sidewalk?

    Seriously, sidewalks are needed and to be in good usable condition to make any neighbourhood presentable and to attract the walking and transit oriented population.

  2. The sidewalks in my LA neighborhood have huge sections missing in front of certain properties. I know gaps in a freeway wouldn't fly, so neither should this.

    But the 2017 timeline is unacceptable. Three years and $10 million for the City of LA just to assess how bad the sidewalks are? Come on.

  3. I totally agree with both of you--note so-called "sidewalk" picture above from my neighborhood. Can you imagine the reaction if the vehicle lanes were allowed to languish in this state for any period of time?

    JP, to the City's credit, the three-year timeframe isn't completely unreasonable:
    1. 6 months to get someone under contract
    2. 1 year to do the surveys (with five people working full-time)
    3. 1 year to develop the software and complete analysis
    4. 6 months for reporting

    Still, it would be nice to get that down to two years, and I hope the City considers that when hiring someone to complete this work.