For years, the City has shifted the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance to abutting property owners via Council Policy 200-12 ( attached), which relies on language from the California State and Highway Code, Section 5610 (attached). As written, this policy places the responsibility for sidewalk replacement on the abutting property owner unless an unsafe condition exists. The policy outlines six instances in which the City would replace a sidewalk. It also establishes a 50/50 matching program that allows residents and the city to share costs. This policy essentially forces property owners to pay for permanent repairs to damaged sidewalks in most instances. Consequently, very few sidewalks are actually repaired every year, but the City is held liable by the courts if someone is injured. In short, the approach taken by the City on this issue, in particular the 50/50 matching program, has not been effective and needs to be changed.
In a memorandum of law that you released on January 28, 2011, you discuss that the City could adopt an ordinance that would change who is responsible to maintain and repair sidewalks. Given the City's ability to draft such an ordinance, I would like to explore how the City could change Council Policy to ensure that it is the City's responsibility to repair broken sidewalks. This way the City can proactively repair sidewalks instead of waiting for someone to get injured to necessitate that repair.
At a City Council meeting in September of 2015, the City Sidewalk Assessment was discussed and there was interest from multiple City Councilmembers in shifting responsibility for sidewalk maintenance and repair to the City. The Council moved that such a proposal should be heard and discussed at an Infrastructure Committee meeting in January 2016. Although such a discussion has not yet been docketed, I strongly believe that Council Policy 200-12 needs to be revised to shift the cost of maintaining sidewalks back to the City except in cases where it has been determined that an abutting property owner, or third party, damaged the sidewalk themselves. This should also include missing sidewalks in existing neighborhoods within the City. Additionally, the Council Policy should state that if the City is made aware of an unsafe sidewalk condition, that the City should replace that section of the sidewalk, instead of only patching it with asphalt, which quickly deteriorates.
In an effort to revise Council Policy 200-12 in the most straightforward and meaningful way possible, I would request that you review the existing language and provide suggestions as to how it can be re-written to accomplish the goals outlined above.
Thank you for your timely response to this matter.