Session 23: Bringing Sidewalk Maintenance Up to Scale

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The presentation highlights costs facing cities who expect property owners to pay for repairs to abutting sidewalks and why such programs are prone to failure.

The presentation highlights costs facing cities who expect property owners to pay for repairs to abutting sidewalks and why such programs are prone to failure.

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  • 1. Sally Flocks President & CEO, PEDS ProWalk / ProBike 2010 Paying for Sidewalk Maintenance Whose Responsibility?
  • 2. Well-maintained sidewalks may be one of the most important ways to keep massive numbers of older people in good enough health to not be institutionalized. Dan Burden Dan Burden
  • 3. By 2030 one out of five people will be over 60. Most will live an additional 20 – 25 years. / Dan Burden / Dan Burden
  • 4. One out of three people over 65 has severe disabilities.
  • 5. Broken sidewalks create tripping hazards and block access to people with disabilities.
  • 6. Public sidewalks . . . are a service, program, or activity of the City within the meaning of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and are subject to program accessibility regulations. Barden v. Sacramento, 2003 Broken sidewalks also put cities at risk of high cost legal settlements.
  • 7.   “ Georgia SW State University . . . was sued by a woman who tripped . . . and broke her jaw and knee. . . .  We'll be working on their sidewalks next month.  A big reason they [settled the lawsuit] was because they didn't have a proactive, documented sidewalk repair program.       Todd Fulk, Georgia Safe Sidewalks
  • 8. Online tools make it easy for people to report broken sidewalks.
  • 9.  
  • 10. Updates from users enable PEDS to track agencies’ response rates.
  • 11. Perhaps because sidewalks fail gradually . . . many cities have neglected sidewalk repairs and have let neighborhoods become less walkable.
  • 12. Does gradual decay explain cities’ willingness to neglect sidewalk maintenance? Or is lack of political will to enforce unfair and unrealistic funding expectations a more accurate explanation?
  • 13. Survey of 82 cities in 45 states Donald Shoup, “Fixing Broken Sidewalks” Access , Spring 2010
  • 14. Sidewalks are public assets. Cities don’t ask property owners to repair potholes on their streets. Why, then do they delegate sidewalk maintenance to abutting property owners?
  • 15. Delegating sidewalk repair costs is unfair to property owners. Property owners lack control over what happens on the public right of way. When sidewalks are on just one side of the street, should property owners on the other side get a free ride? Why should owners of corner lots pay double?
  • 16. Should responsibility for sidewalk maintenance be in the hands of those with authority to ticket parking violators?
  • 17. Pedestrians should not have to endure hazardous sidewalks wherever abutting property owners cannot afford to hire a contractor. Delegating sidewalk maintenance to property owners is unfair to pedestrians.
  • 18. Damaged sidewalks often span multiple properties in the same block. Fixing these in a piecemeal way is far more expensive than repairing them on a block by block or neighborhood basis. Delegating responsibility to property owners increases maintenance costs.
  • 19.   Repairing sidewalks in a timely manner is much cheaper than replacing them.
  • 20.
    • This estimate was based on limited sampling in commercial areas of the city only.
    • Surveys by volunteers suggest that far more sidewalks need repair on neighborhood streets, especially in older parts of the City.
    Atlanta Public Works estimates that 25 percent of the City’s sidewalks need to be repaired or replaced.
  • 21.  
  • 22. Many sidewalks in Atlanta have not been repaired since they were built 60 – 110 years ago.
  • 23. In 2004 the City of Atlanta kicked off a program to educate property owners about their responsibility to pay for fixing sidewalks that abut their property. During the four years that followed, the City collected only $200,000 from property owners to pay for sidewalk repairs. At that rate, it would take 1,600 years to address the estimated $80 million backlog.
  • 24. Based on constituent complaints, we know that many of our sidewalks are in poor condition, yet it is a challenge to estimate what the true capital requirements are.
  • 25. The actual length of sidewalks in the City of Atlanta is unknown. Their age and quality is also unknown.
  • 26. The Commissioner of Public Works is authorized to cite a property owner for failure to maintain a sidewalk and – if the property owner fails to comply – can order the repairs and bill the owner for the cost.
  • 27. However, it has been the City policy not to site property owners unless funding is available to execute the repairs; since funding has not been available in recent years, few citations have been issued.
  • 28. Is this what it takes?
  • 29. “ Atlanta Public Schools is prohibited from repairing and replacing sidewalks on city property due to the constitutional requirement that school funds be allocated only for educational purposes.” What about sidewalks abutting public property?
  • 30.  
  • 31. Nice try, but . . .
    • Decatur uses tax dollars to pay for repairs.
    • Houston’s Safe Sidewalk Program pays for sidewalk repairs as well as new sidewalks.
    • Los Angeles no longer cites property owners and rarely repairs sidewalks.
    • Portland is one of the only cities with an effective property owner-funded repair program.
  • 32. In Los Angeles, 4,600 of the city’s 10,750 miles of sidewalks need some degree of repair at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.
  • 33. Despite this backlog, the city fixed an average of only 67 miles of sidewalks a year between 2000 and 2008.
  • 34. Los Angeles followed the state code [requiring property owners to maintain sidewalks] until 1973, when federal funds became available to repair sidewalks at no cost to property owners.
  • 35. Three years later, when the federal funds ran out, Los Angeles was left with no sidewalk repair program.
  • 36. When the city attempted to reinstate the previous policy of citing property owners, owners objected to the “new” mandate and the city halted citations.
  • 37. Short of money, Los Angeles made only temporary asphalt patches to cracked sidewalks or – more often– did nothing at all.
  • 38. “ Portland’s system is pretty good, but the problem is the funding for sidewalk inspections has been cut and cut and cut, so it is not working like it used to.  But the way it used to work was great.” Ellen Vanderslice, City of Portland  
  • 39. Transportation oversees the maintenance of sidewalks, curbs, and corners, while abutting property owners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks.
  • 40. The City maintains over 37,000 corners and over 3,200 miles of curbs.
  • 41. The City has the responsibility to inspect the safety of over 8,600,000 square yards of city sidewalks. . . . Bureau inspectors assess sidewalks and notify the property owner of needed repairs. In the event repairs are not made by the property owner, Transportation Maintenance hires a private contractor to make the repairs and bills the property owner for the repairs.
  • 42. Billing combined with property tax Provides long-term, low-interest loans Makes repairs prior to billing property owner Rarely/ reactive Notifies property owner of needed repairs Proactive sidewalk inspection Inspects curbs and pays for repairs Code requires abutting property owners to pay for sidewalk repairs Atlanta Portland Identifying, implementing & financing sidewalk repairs Low poverty rate
  • 43.   “ I am really struggling to get communities in Georgia to take sidewalk safety seriously. . . .Their favorite answer is "we don't have sidewalk repair in the budget" or "we have to cut our budget next year; so, we can't add any new items like sidewalk repairs to it.”       Todd Fulk, Georgia Safe Sidewalks How should cities pay for sidewalk maintenance?
  • 44. The ADA will force cities to do what they should be doing anyway: maintain public infrastructure. Donald Shoup, Fixing Broken Sidewalks Are lawsuits the only strategy that works?
  • 45. making metro Atlanta safe and accessible for all pedestrians