LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A top Los Angeles official proposed Tuesday, May 26, that the responsibility of fixing broken sidewalks be shifted back to property owners.

Under state law, property owners are on the hook for repairing adjacent sidewalks, but the city in 1974 exempted property owners from repairing sidewalks damaged by overgrown tree roots.

The exception was made so that the city could take advantage of federal funds for the repairs, but the money soon dried up, leaving the city still responsible but unable to continue fixing sidewalks, according to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

Santana is recommending that the city “phase-in” the process for restoring the responsibility of sidewalk repairs to property owners.

He also recommends that the city once again set up a sidewalk inspection program to evaluate the condition of sidewalks and to issue notices when repairs are needed.

Santana proposes that the city repair sidewalks adjacent to “single-family” homes if they are found to be damaged by street tree roots at the time of inspection, then release the responsibility for those walkways back to property owners.

Santana advises against the “fix and release” strategy for commercial properties. He said property owners should have one year to fix sidewalks before the inspection is done, and another year to do the repairs if the sidewalks are cited as needing them.

He also advises against most cost-sharing plans, as the city would be responsible for fixing residential sidewalks during the first few years, unless the programs are aimed at encouraging more repairs.

The plan is being contemplated now that city leaders have agreed to spend $1.4 billion — or about $31 million a year — over three decades as part of a legal settlement with disability advocates to reduce the amount of crumbling sidewalks around the city.

The settlement requires that the city prioritize its repair spending starting with sidewalks next to city buildings and facilities, then transportation corridors, hospitals and other medical facilities, commercial and business areas, places of employment and finally, residential areas.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance and Public Works and Gang Reduction committees are scheduled to hold a joint meeting on Monday to discuss the proposals. A series of hearings throughout the city is also being planned.

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