Los Angeles thinks outside the box at tackling sidewalk disrepair

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

(photo credit: Allen County Public Library)

For many Californians when they think about infrastructure, they immediately think about roads and power lines. But the reality is that probably the most used segment of infrastructure of all is the sidewalk. It helps deliver you on foot from place to place, is a dimension of safety off the street, and is an unheralded and under respected part of our day to day lives.

And not only are sidewalks under respected, they’re also woefully underfunded. Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, at least partially responsible for the fate of the city’s estimated 10,750 miles of sidewalk, this week introduced a measure that hopes to change that. By using public/private partnerships, Blumenfield hopes to sidestep the confusion that currently permeates through the city over sidewalk repair responsibility.

“Public-private partnerships present an innovative opportunity for the City to address critical infrastructure needs while making the most of every available public dollar,” said Blumenfield. “With our sidewalks in disrepair, it’s time to revive this idea in a way that best reflects the changing needs of our city.” And this isn’t minor, isolated disrepair. This is disrepair sprawl – 4,620 miles of cracked and crumbling sidewalks.

The plan revives a 50/50 program introduced in 2004, where the property owner pays half and city pays the other half.

 “The city has the complete burden of sidewalk repair but no funds to complete it,” Blumenfield’s communications director Jason Levin told the California Economic Summit. Levin explained that even when property or business owners were willing to make a contribution, they ran into red tape that prevented them from doing so. “Often times, they’re thwarted,” he said. “The way it works now is business owners are not able to make repairs to the sidewalk without a permit, which would cost them even more. We want to take the permitting process out and have cost sharing with folks.”

The motion has now been referred to the Committee on Public Works and Gang Reduction, where it can go through the process of evaluation. The sidewalk situation in Los Angeles is similar to San Diego’s, a topic we explored when covering Voice of San Diego’s Stumblr, a community-compiled photoblog showcasing the disrepair of San Diego’s sidewalks.

Clearly, this is not a problem impacting one isolated city. Blumenfield’s proposal is an example of innovative thinking on finding new ways to help pay for infrastructure that desperately needs maintenance. For more ideas, check out our prosperity plan on more ways we can work to invest in our state’s infrastructure. 


Matthew Grant Anson

All stories by: Matthew Grant Anson