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If Michael Anderson can’t fix two whole blocks, he can at least improve the 62 feet in front of his house.

Anderson’s Pacific Beach home, steps from Kate Sessions Elementary, doesn’t have a sidewalk. He has complained to the city for more than a decade, but no sidewalks along his windy side street off Beryl Street have come.

Anderson has seen a truck almost hit a woman holding a preschooler by the hand and pushing a stroller with an infant. On school days, he says, too many kids walk by for him to ignore the situation any more. He wants a sidewalk there so much he’s willing to pay for it himself.

“I’m stunned that we haven’t had bodies in the street,” Anderson said outside the house Friday morning.

He had brought a rolling tape measure with him to meet Nick Duich, a vice president at H&D Construction Company, and learn what putting in a sidewalk takes.

To build a new sidewalk outside Anderson’s house — a stretch just longer than the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate on a baseball field — the total cost would be almost $5,000, Duich estimated after reviewing the project. Drawing up plans for the city and permit fees make up one-third of that price.

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Nick Duich, vice president of H&D Construction, (right) talks to homeowner Michael Anderson about what it would take to install a sidewalk in front of the house he owns.

It’s unclear exactly how much the permits will cost until Anderson submits his plans. He could be getting off lucky. Duich projected Anderson would have to pay $966 — the amount the city charges to permit regular sidewalk repairs. But it could be more: Installing sidewalks in places that don’t currently have a curb or those that deviate from standards requires a minimum $2,500 deposit for the permits, according to a city transportation spokesman.

We connected Anderson and Duich, whose company works on sidewalk installations and repairs, after both contacted us when we started writing about San Diego’s nonsensical sidewalk policies. The rules make property owners responsible for sidewalk maintenance, but leave the city generally on the hook in court if someone trips and falls on a sidewalk.

The price tags for sidewalk jobs could explain part of the shabby state of city sidewalks, too. The city runs a cost-share program that waives permit fees for sidewalk replacements, but that takes up to eight months for a repair, according to the city’s website. The cost-share program doesn’t cover new sidewalk installations like Anderson’s.

His house has been in his family for more than a half-century. Anderson doesn’t live there anymore. His daughter, a recent college grad, is there now. Anderson was 9 years old when he moved in with his parents in 1956.

Back then, Anderson said, many of the people driving through the neighborhood were there because they were lost. His dad kept a map of the area that he brought out whenever he saw someone going back and forth.

“This was a morgue,” Anderson said.

The urbanization of Pacific Beach has made Anderson’s sidewalk project complicated. Duich told him he’ll have to remove and reinstall a street sweeping sign, mark gas and sewer lines, provide wheelchair access, possibly repave his driveway and deal with a Chinese Elm tree that’s older than Anderson. Its roots almost extend to the street.

At least Anderson’s property isn’t on the other side of the road, Duich said. The hill isn’t sidewalk-friendly.

“It would cost a fortune,” Duich said.

Just installing a sidewalk in front of his house won’t alleviate Anderson’s concerns about safe passage to the elementary school. Two more houses without sidewalks stand to the north and one to the south on his block on the same side of the street.

But putting in a sidewalk will give him piece of mind. He feels a responsibility to keep his property safe. He’s planning to start putting money away.

“They can pretty much name their price,” Anderson said.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers 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.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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