D. Martinez / SFVS

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council has approved a comprehensive sidewalk repair plan that calls for spending about $30 million a year for the next three decades to do initial repair work, then return the responsibility for future fixes to property owners.

The council voted 14-0 on Tuesday, March 29, to approve plan that follows a “fix-and- release” strategy in which the city pays for the initial repairs of sidewalks next to both residential and commercial properties.

Council members said the plan will tackle a backlog of damaged sidewalks that has built up over decades.

“Our sidewalks are an embarrassment, and over the course of the last 40 years we’ve had a policy in place that has failed the city, has failed its residents and its businesses,” said Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who co-chaired a joint committee that advanced the plan.

Buscaino said the plan is a “comprehensive approach” that offers various options and recognizes “a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work.”

His co-chair, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, said the most frequent complaint by constitutents has long been the “sorry state of our sidewalks,” and yet past City Councils have let the problem “fester and get worse.”

Under the “fix-and-release” strategy approved Tuesday, the city will repeal a law that made the city responsible for the repairs, but still commit to performing one-time repairs on broken sidewalks next to both residential and commercial properties.

Residential property owners will also have a 20-year warranty in case the sidewalk is later damaged through no fault of their own and needs to be fixed again. Commercial property owners would have a shorter, five-year guarantee.

Krekorian said the plan lays out a way to fix about 11,000 miles of sidewalks, and aims to fix all of the damaged sidewalks in the city. Because the initial fix will be paid by the city, it “makes sure no one will have to dig into their pocket to fix a sidewalk for many, many years to come.”

Krekorian said property owners are technically responsible for the condition of sidewalks under state law, but about 40 years ago, the city decided to take over the repairs of sidewalks damaged by tree roots.

After federal funding dried up for the projects, the city was left with a growing backlog of repairs it could not afford.

The plan comes as the city is preparing next year’s budget, including the first allocation of funds the city agreed to spend as part of a legal settlement.

The city last year agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by disability advocates through spending an average of about $31 million each year for the next three decades on repairing sidewalks and making public walkways more accessible.

Under the sidewalk repair plan, the projects will be scheduled according to priorities set forth in the lawsuit. Sidewalks next to government facilities, transportation corridors and medical buildings are among the top priorities, but other factors could also influence when repairs are scheduled.

Property owners who want their sidewalks to be repaired sooner would also be able to petition City Council offices to expedite their projects, especially if they are hard to access for people who are disabled. Others can also move their projects up in the queue by paying for about half of the average repair cost under a rebate program planned for the first three years.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian said earlier this month this plan is an “important step, but it’s not the final step” toward fixing the city’s many broken and buckled sidewalks.

The plan will serve as a framework for moving forward, but details still need to be worked out, such as where to cap the city’s repair costs, according to Krekorian. The city would be able to pay for the entire expense of the average repair, but some jobs might be more complicated and therefore costlier.

The Budget and Finance Committee and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, co-chaired by Krekorian and Buscaino, met jointly and approved the proposal the plan earlier this month.