The sounds of a jackhammer were music to the ears of Cecilia Luna.
For the past 18 years, the Arleta resident has seen the sidewalk crumbling in front of her house along the 14000 block of Hoyt Street, near Arleta High School. The bulges are nearly impassable. Part of the problem is a big tree, whose roots continue to spread underground. They’re also causing problems for her plumbing and sewer line.
“One lady told me she was going to sue me if she fell (on the sidewalk),” recalled Luna. “I told her it wasn’t my fault.
“(But) the kids on skateboards like it. They use it as a ramp. They don’t see the danger,” she added.
On Monday, Dec. 7, work crews began repairing the sidewalk in front of Luna’s home, part of an effort spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilmember Nury Martinez (District 6) to fix a situation that has continued unabated for several decades.
Luna’s is one of nearly 100 sidewalks in Martinez’ district that have been identified as “most troubling.” There are other locations in Lake Balboa, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Van Nuys.
The repairs are being done thanks to $700,000 from state and Community Development Block grants. Homeowners won’t pay a cent.
“I don’t remember the last time I saw someone fixing the sidewalks,” Martinez said as she watched in front of the sidewalk on Monday.
“These overgrown trees have taken over sidewalks. They’re beautiful trees, but they’re destroying the sidewalks in our neighborhoods,” the council member said. Since taking office two years ago, Martinez said, sidewalk repairs have been one of her priorities but she hadn’t been able to secure funds until now.
Helping in the effort is Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), a nonprofit organization that revitalizes neighborhoods. They help secure permits and funding, and manage the repair projects.
Veronica Hahni, LANI executive director, said that they expect to have 60 of those 100 sidewalk sites — about 6,000 feet of sidewalks — repaired by the end of February next year. They will then get started on the rest.
“Cracked and severely damaged sidewalks don’t only impede mobility, they also influence a neighborhood’s sense of pride,” Hahni said. “Degraded conditions affect residents’ physical safety as well as their perceptions of their neighborhood.”
This is an increasingly difficult situation for residents, she added.
“They can’t put wheelchairs out, and they have plumbing and sewer line problems,” Hahni said.
The repairs launched by Martinez’ program is only a drop in the bucket, however.
The city of Los Angeles has 10,750 miles of public sidewalks, and about 40 percent (4,600 miles) need some degree of repair.
In the early 1970s, the city of Los Angeles decided to take over repairs of sidewalks. Before, it was a homeowner’s responsibility.
Since then the problem grew to the point that, last year, Los Angeles officials settled a giant class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of a quarter-million disabled city residents who contended that broken sidewalks impaired their rights under the American with Disabilities Act (ACT) to move freely around the city.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to spend $31 million a year for the next three decades to fix sidewalks.
Initially, the money will go to installing curb ramps and repairs on sidewalks adjacent to city land, followed by those on main streets. Over time, smaller residential streets will be fixed, but it could take years for some areas to see repairs.
Luna said she had called Los Angeles city offices numerous times about the sidewalk outside her house, without any results.
That’s why she was pleasantly surprised when she received a letter from Martinez’ office letting her know her sidewalk had been placed among the priorities for repair.
“It was great to hear it was going to be resolved,” Luna said.
In Luna’s case, some trees will be trimmed or removed in order to repair the sidewalks. This is to ensure that tree roots don’t continue to damage the repaired areas.
But the removed trees will be replaced with new ones.