Who to blame for LA’s busted sidewalks?

Northern sidewalk on York Blvd. bridge

“Los Angeles followed the state code until 1973, when federal funds became available to repair sidewalks at no cost to property owners. Because of this federal funding, the city assumed responsibility for most sidewalk repairs. Three years later, when the federal funds ran out, Los Angeles was left with no sidewalk repair program. Then, in 1978, California voters adopted Proposition 13, which limited property tax rates, and public funds became even scarcer. By 1980 when the city attempted to reinstate the previous policy of citing property owners for damaged sidewalks and requiring them to pay for repairs, owners objected to the “new” mandate and the city halted citations. Because the city was short of money, it began to make only temporary asphalt patches to cracked sidewalks or — more often — did nothing at all. The resulting sidewalk decay led to the current state of serious disrepair.”
Donald Shoup, “Fixing Broken Sidewalks”, ACCESS #36, Spring 2010

Who is to blame for Los Angeles’ broken sidewalks?

Let’s see, 1973 … Yorty is out and Mayor Tom Bradley was sworn in in July of that year. Bradley presided over this problem until Richard Riordan sat on it from 1993 to 2001 when the reigns were handed over to James Hahn from 2001 to 2005. Now, don’t get me wrong, Villaraigosa saw this issue and kind of, sort of, maybe addressed it by considering doing what the current council is considering: borrowing tons of money to pay for long delayed routine maintenance instead of implementing a Point-of-Sale fee when homes get sold or levying property owners (as the city used to do prior to 1973).

We need to grow up, as a city, and recognize that this is not the kind of situation we should be borrowing on our grandkids future to deal with.

Who do we blame on this one? Who cares! How about we get our act together and find a way to make our city work without generations of debt saddling our future?

Donald Shoup’s recommendation (which has been implemented in several California cities facing a similar crisis) is to implement a Point-of-Sale fee during property sales. When property changes hands, the city charges a fee to the property owner to cover sidewalk repairs. Since so much money is typically changing hands and buyers and sellers know about the fee, it is just another transaction cost covered by one of the parties involved. This POS fee coupled with a more aggressive funding of sidewalk repairs over other types of road repairs would make our city the type of place anyone can go for a safe walk in.

Or we could continue to ignore the problem, focus on borrowing to fill in potholes on streets with ever fewer cars driving on them, and ignore prudence while we drive towards penury. I blame the _________’s!

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