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Will LA Ever Become Unstuck from Its Dysfunctional Sidewalk Policy?

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Last week, members of the City of Los Angeles Joint Committee of Public Works and Gang Reduction and Budget and Finance Committee submitted a letter to the City Council with their policy proposals for the City of Los Angeles Sidewalk Program.  Read the complete letter here. 

 

The letter signed by Councilmembers: Paul Krekorian, Joe Buscaino, Nury Martinez and Mike Bonin opens with, “For forty years, the City of Los Angeles has been stuck with a dysfunctional policy when it comes to sidewalks.” This lack of a solid policy for the City’s over 11,500 miles of sidewalks, has created a situation of buckled sidewalks, utilities in the middle of the sidewalks blocking access, missing sidewalks, lack of curbcuts, crosswalks in need of redesign and upgrade, and intersections and paths of travel in need of critical safety and livability fixes and more – this growing list of infrastructure problems totals over $1.5 Billion dollars in need for the City of Los Angeles.

As a result of the lack of sidewalk repair, several years ago plantiffs Mark Willits, Judy Griffin, Brent Pilgreen, and Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (“CALIF”) filed a class action to ensure better access for persons with mobility disabilities to the city’s sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian crossings and other walkways. This lawsuit was settled in 2015 and outlines key next steps, as well as mandates the City of Los Angeles invest a minimum $31 Million annual in sidewalk repair. 

Concurrent to the sidewalk class action, in June 2014 the Joint Committee of Public Works and Gang Reduction and Budget and Finance began holding hearings and community meetings across the city to engage hundreds of stakeholders in efforts to finally develop a comprehensive sidewalk program. The Joint Committee recommendations now will go before the full City Council for discussion. As outlined in their letter the recommendations are to ensure a City of Los Angeles Sidewalks policy include the following elements:

  1. Incentivize Proactive Repairs by Property Owners
  2. Inspection and Certification
  3. Comprehensive Repair Program
  4. Warranty for Future Damage
  5. Prioritizing and Coordinating Repairs
  6. Demand based Repair Work Coordinated by Council Offices
  7. Division of Labor for the Repair Work
  8. Preserving the Urban Forest While Maintaining Accessibility
  9. Utilizing Non-Standard Sidewalks Designs and Materials
  10. Leveraging the Sidewalk Program, Accelerating Constructions and Alternative Financing Options

For more detail on what these 10 elements should address – we highly recommend partners read the 5 page letter.   

What’s unclear to us after reading the letter is: will this program finally create a comprehensive inventory of the City’s 11,500 miles of sidewalks in order to ensure the prioritization, coordination, and acceleration is feasible and developed in a systematic and data driven framework for the entire city?

For several months, Investing in Place has been convening a work group on this pending policy. Supporting the creation of an inventory has become the clear ask from advocates across the city in order to ensure steps are taken to create a comprehensive program. 

With the City of Los Angeles budgeted to spend $31 Million by July this year, creating a citywide inventory would be a helpful and pragmatic next step.  For more background, see our comment letter and ideas the Investing in Place workgroup, and AARP submitted to the Joint Policy Committee for fixing the most critical element of the transportation network – the city sidewalk.

(Jessica Meaney is Managing Director of Investing in Place … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw