Slow Going for Sidewalk Fixes

Slow Going for Sidewalk Fixes

Photo by Justin Bridle

A broken sidewalk in Ocean Beach.

By the middle of next month, the city of San Diego will unleash two dozen local college students onto its sidewalks.

They’re part of a $1 million study to document San Diego’s cracked and root-damaged sidewalks. Engineering students from UC San Diego and San Diego State University will walk all 5,000 miles of the city’s sidewalks with a handheld GPS tracker. They’ll note where sidewalks are broken – and whether problems like overgrown tree roots or worn-out concrete are the cause. They’ll also point out areas where no sidewalks exist.

The students will start in the city’s older mid-city neighborhoods, such as City Heights, said transportation department spokesman Bill Harris.

“Those are the areas where we think we’re going to have the greatest areas of repair and maintenance needs,” Harris said.

The study is part of a comprehensive effort to deal with San Diego’s illogical sidewalk policies, which contribute to their deterioration. The City Council approved funding for the study in June, the same time it committed to addressing a policy that makes it property owners’ responsibility to fix sidewalks but the city’s legal liability for trip-and-falls.

Six months later, however, neither effort has started.

The city hasn’t begun the sidewalk study because it couldn’t hire the students fast enough, said Hasan Yousef, a deputy director in the transportation department.

“It’s the hiring process,” Yousef said. “It takes some time.”

The city’s still finishing background checks on the students. They’ll be expected to cover a mile to a mile and a half each day once they start.

“We expect they’ll get faster as time goes on,” Harris said.

Still, the whole thing is expected to take a year, meaning it won’t be finished until the beginning of 2015.

In the meantime, a discussion on revising sidewalk policies will happen in December at the city’s Infrastructure Committee. City staffers won’t make recommendations for changes, but rather lay out current policies so Council members can debate them, said Gina Jacobs, a spokeswoman for committee chairman Mark Kersey.

“It’s basically the start of the discussion,” Jacobs said.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

  • 903 Posts
  • 29
    Followers

Show comments
Before you comment, read these simple guidelines on what is not allowed.

10 comments
R Mulligan
R Mulligan

Do not rely on the city, to fix your sidewalk issue anytime soon. Trip hazards and uneven sidewalks need immediate attention. Recently, I started a business that focuses entirely on sidewalk repair and maintenance. I make sidewalks smooth. Call us at 619-324-9438 www.SidewalkRenovations.com

KatFerrier
KatFerrier

You aptly point out the City could be moving on this more quickly. I'm glad to see this long overdue study happening period. Kudos to the City and to Councilmember Kersey for his leadership in getting this funded and started - as well as reporting from VOSD in highlighting the problem. The City will need to be smart in coming up with a funding strategy that includes multiple sources, e.g. what about using utility undergrounding fees to cover a portion and increasing TransNet funds allocated. WalkSanDiego is researching how other cities deal with this issue to bring best practices to light. Current formula obviously doesn't work.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

Big sidewalk problem on Euclid Ave. right in front of Euclid Elementary school.

Sidewalks do not belong to property owners and should not be the owners' responsibility to repair. You get haphazard patches and fixes if you get anything at all. This is just another example, like the trash container policy, where the city is being cheap and passing off it's responsibility to homeowners. Homeowners already pay plenty if taxes and fees to have things like sidewalks and potholes maintained. (We don't own the trashcans either but we're supposed to pay to replace them with the city trucks crush them. Another ripoff.)

Sounds to me the city is just going to come up with a uniform policy to get out of paying or being liable for anything. In other words, they are going to pass off their trip and fall liability on the homeowners too.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

Big sidewalk problem on Euclid Ave. right in front of Euclid Elementary school.

Sidewalks do not belong to property owners and should not be the owners' responsibility to repair. You get haphazard patches and fixes if you get anything at all. This is just another example, like the trash container policy, where the city is being cheap and passing off it's responsibility to homeowners. Homeowners already pay plenty if taxes and fees to have things like sidewalks and potholes maintained. (We don't own the trashcans either but we're supposed to pay to replace them with the city trucks crush them. Another ripoff.)

Sounds to me the city is just going to come up with a uniform policy to get out of paying or being liable for anything. In other words, they are going to pass off their trip and fall liability on the homeowners too.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

One of the things that bothers me about property owners’ responsibility of fixing the sidewalks.
Did you know that sidewalks require a special mix of concrete, varying by city, to meet their code requirements? There is more to it than just replacing the sidewalk.
The city says its your responsibility yet fails to communicate that detail.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

One of the things that bothers me about property owners’ responsibility of fixing the sidewalks.
Did you know that sidewalks require a special mix of concrete, varying by city, to meet their code requirements? There is more to it than just replacing the sidewalk.
The city says its your responsibility yet fails to communicate that detail.

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson

I believe it is the City’s responsibility to provide sidewalks. In Grantville, on Riverdale, between Rainier and Friars Road, there is no sidewalk. In 2005 I asked Jim Madaffer’s District 7 council office about building a sidewalk here. A few days later I received a letter from the City stating my request went onto a list for sidewalk construction. During Marti Emerald’s reign as District 7 representative I contacted her office about the lack of a sidewalk at this location. I informed her that Madaffer put it on the list. The reply from Emerald’s office was that my request was no longer on the list. Emerald’s office supposedly put this request back on the sidewalk list. Assuming someone from Scott Sherman’s District 7 office reads VOSD for any mention of “Scott Sherman” or “District 7,” please consider this my third request over the past 8 years for a sidewalk at this location.

Also, regarding parking strips, it is my understanding that it is the property owner’s responsibility to maintain the parking strip. It is also my understanding from my time on the Serra Mesa Planning Group that the City encourages property owners to plant trees—in the parking strips—a policy, therefore, that contributes to the destruction of sidewalks.

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson subscriber

I believe it is the City’s responsibility to provide sidewalks. In Grantville, on Riverdale, between Rainier and Friars Road, there is no sidewalk. In 2005 I asked Jim Madaffer’s District 7 council office about building a sidewalk here. A few days later I received a letter from the City stating my request went onto a list for sidewalk construction. During Marti Emerald’s reign as District 7 representative I contacted her office about the lack of a sidewalk at this location. I informed her that Madaffer put it on the list. The reply from Emerald’s office was that my request was no longer on the list. Emerald’s office supposedly put this request back on the sidewalk list. Assuming someone from Scott Sherman’s District 7 office reads VOSD for any mention of “Scott Sherman” or “District 7,” please consider this my third request over the past 8 years for a sidewalk at this location.

Also, regarding parking strips, it is my understanding that it is the property owner’s responsibility to maintain the parking strip. It is also my understanding from my time on the Serra Mesa Planning Group that the City encourages property owners to plant trees—in the parking strips—a policy, therefore, that contributes to the destruction of sidewalks.

Omar Passons
Omar Passons

I'm glad you are still pursuing this story. It's important for several reasons. Having just tried to wheel my mother down a sidewalk in North Park with her rolling walker, I can't imagine what the disabled or elderly face who don't have able-bodied young-ish people around to help them. And from a citywide perspective, the policy question is too enormous not to pay attention to. It will be helpful if you can find out what 5000 miles of sidewalk would cost to repair to appropriate standards, as that will give us part of the cost question. Then, if the city can let you know what sidewalk installation costs, that will help with the part of the cost question that is new sidewalk that doesn't currently exist. And finally I assume there is a range of life cycle repair and maintenance estimates that vary based on use, the type of ground underneath the sidewalk, etc. These three cost figures, even in broad ranges, would combine to give us a useful picture of how big the problem could be. Then we can weigh in when the City Attorney's office provides alternatives in terms of legal exposure options and whether we can do this at the Charter level or requires a legislative fix in Sacramento. The most likely version of this story seems to end with there being no way the city could afford to put this liability on its balance sheet. So we probably ought to start talking about partnerships with the business community, as we can't raise taxes enough to pay for the current problem, let alone the Level of Service we might want for existing assets or this potential new financial liability of thousands of miles of sidewalk installation and repair. Still, glad you are keeping us informed, as I don't seem to read about this anywhere but in the virtual pages of Voice of San Diego

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

I'm glad you are still pursuing this story. It's important for several reasons. Having just tried to wheel my mother down a sidewalk in North Park with her rolling walker, I can't imagine what the disabled or elderly face who don't have able-bodied young-ish people around to help them. And from a citywide perspective, the policy question is too enormous not to pay attention to. It will be helpful if you can find out what 5000 miles of sidewalk would cost to repair to appropriate standards, as that will give us part of the cost question. Then, if the city can let you know what sidewalk installation costs, that will help with the part of the cost question that is new sidewalk that doesn't currently exist. And finally I assume there is a range of life cycle repair and maintenance estimates that vary based on use, the type of ground underneath the sidewalk, etc. These three cost figures, even in broad ranges, would combine to give us a useful picture of how big the problem could be. Then we can weigh in when the City Attorney's office provides alternatives in terms of legal exposure options and whether we can do this at the Charter level or requires a legislative fix in Sacramento. The most likely version of this story seems to end with there being no way the city could afford to put this liability on its balance sheet. So we probably ought to start talking about partnerships with the business community, as we can't raise taxes enough to pay for the current problem, let alone the Level of Service we might want for existing assets or this potential new financial liability of thousands of miles of sidewalk installation and repair. Still, glad you are keeping us informed, as I don't seem to read about this anywhere but in the virtual pages of Voice of San Diego