The Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to set aside $27 million in a sidewalk repair fund, but details of how the money will be spent still need to be determined as the city tries to resolve a lawsuit by advocates for the disabled.
The lawsuit contends the city has not done enough to make sidewalks more accessible to everyone. With the case still unresolved — but nearing a settlement — the city has been unable to move forward on a long-term sidewalk repair plan, even as money for repairs has become available.
The council agreed to put the $27 million in a trust fund dedicated solely for sidewalk repair. The city would theoretically continue replenishing the fund, while spending the money on a series of not-yet-developed repair programs that could involve cost-sharing with property owners or offering loans.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, who pushed for setting up the fund, said the council “took a very important step forward” today in creating a “comprehensive sidewalk repair program that will benefit the people of Los Angeles for decades to come.”
He said the city last tried to tackle sidewalk repairs in the 1970s using federal funding, but ran out of money.
“The city has struggled for the 40 years since that time to keep up with our aging infrastructure, our maturing trees, and all of the repairs that have been needed because of that,” he said.
The “initial focus” of the repair effort will be on fixing sidewalks next to city property, Krekorian said, but “soon thereafter, we’ll be prioritizing residential areas in large, disabled and elderly communities, where there are complaints about accessibility.”
A “broader program” for broken sidewalks next to other private residences and commercial properties will eventually be included in the repair plan, Krekorian said.
Complicating the lawsuit settlement is an unresolved debate over who is responsible for fixing sidewalks. Sidewalks next to private residences are privately owned, but the city assumed responsibility in the 1970s to pay for their repair.
With the lawsuit pending, city officials said they have opted to initially fix sidewalks that are unquestionably the city’s responsibility, such as those next to libraries, parks, fire and police stations and other municipal property.
But despite plans to use at least $7 million of the $27 million on such repairs this year, city officials recently admitted that very little of it has been spent during the first seven months of the current fiscal year, which started in July. The $7 million had actually been left over from the previous year, when only $3 million was used despite $10 million being allotted for repairs.
Krekorian said he was “astonished” to learn that city departments have again failed to begin the already funded repair projects, adding that city employees were unable to give him an answer as to why none of the $7 million has been touched.
To help ensure that the money does get used, Krekorian said, city departments were also instructed today to report back every 30 days on repairs of sidewalks next to city property.
— City News Service