Los Angeles is filled with so many broken sidewalks that make them unsafe for pedestrians and also extremely dangerous to actually unusable for the handicapped. These sidewalks have numerous split elevations, deviations, cracks and are just broken, often due to tree roots. In fact, according to a Los Angeles Times editorial, it’s estimated that 80% of sidewalk damage is from adjacent trees. The Los Angeles City Council has committed $1.4 billion over the next 30 years to repair its sidewalks.
Apparently developers in Los Angeles planted fast growing trees in narrow public rights of way with little thought to the future that outgrew their areas, and their roots pushed up and broke surrounding public cement sidewalks. As a result, public sidewalks became unsafe and dangerous to use.
L.A. used to require property owners to fix their sidewalks by their homes and commercial properties. But when these trees started causing massive damage, unhappy property owners started protesting this expense and the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance (city law) for free repairs to sidewalks damaged by trees, but it failed to adequately budget for this huge repair bill.
Recently, city officials estimated that 40% of the city’s 10,000 miles of sidewalks are in need of repair. Further, Los Angeles pays out $4 to $6 million a year on trip and fall personal injury claims in the city. As a result, disability rights advocates actually sued the City of Los Angeles for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. In April of 2015 this suit was settled with L.A. agreeing to pay over $30 million a year to repair the damaged sidewalks. Amazingly, L.A. contends this large amount still is not sufficient and reportedly is considering a plan to shift sidewalk repairs back to the adjacent property owners. If L.A. cannot fix the problem and there is a need to make the sidewalks safe as fast as possible, the question is, should the cost be shifted back to the property owners for an affordable, quicker fix? If this is done, the next question is what could be done to make this process go as easily as possible? One thing cities do or could do in such circumstances is to waive permits or permit fees for these repairs.