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L.A. abounds with broken sidewalks: Help us map the worst

October 3, 2012 |  2:25 pm

Click to report a broken sidewalk

Broken sidewalks in Los Angeles are a billion-dollar problem. Or worse. Since there hasn’t been a formal survey, no one at Los Angeles City Hall knows precisely how bad things are.

L.A. officials have spent nearly two months discussing the best strategy for assessing thousands of miles of broken and buckled sidewalks. With that matter unresolved, the Los Angeles Times is offering the public an opportunity to submit its own tips on broken sidewalks -– where they are and what they look like.

DATABASE: Report a broken sidewalk

Readers can submit reports to The Times' database of damaged sidewalks by snapping a picture and uploading it to our online form, sending an email to latimessidewalks@gmail.com with the photo as an attachment, or tweeting a photo with the address using the hashtag #lasidewalks.

If you send an email, please let us know the approximate address of the damage in the subject line, and describe the problem in the body of the message.

With the city’s budget still in crisis, street repair officials contend there is essentially no sidewalk repair program. The last time the city spent money on removing and replacing damaged sidewalks was 2007-08, when $6 million was allocated toward the reconstruction of 26 miles of walkways. Under the current system, construction crews pour hot asphalt into cracked sidewalks after receiving complaints from residents.

The Bureau of Street Services proposed a $10-million sidewalk survey two months ago but soon faced resistance from City Council members who voiced alarm that such an initiative would take three years to complete. Councilman Bill Rosendahl called for the bureau to come up with a “faster and much smarter way” to address the problem, which he said is especially bad in the Westchester section of his district. All four candidates for mayor in the March election said they don’t like the idea.

L.A.'s patchwork of decaying walkways has made the city a target for some 2,500 "trip and fall" claims per year. But city officials contend they are responsible for repairs only in cases in which a city-owned tree has lifted the sidewalk. In all other cases, the responsibility falls to the owner of the property on which the sidewalk is located, according to the bureau's website.

Despite that legal position, city leaders began weighing the possibility of a future sidewalk bond measure, a tax increase that would generate enough money for the city to take on the backlog. Under that strategy, voters would be asked some time around 2017 to increase their property taxes to pay for the initiative.

Street repair officials have until November to devise a strategy for identifying broken sidewalks. In the meantime, budget analysts have come up with a different set of tax hikes for the March election, which are designed to erase an ongoing budget deficit.

Not everyone is sold on the idea of having volunteers put together a list of needed repairs. Cary Brazeman, who is running for city controller in the March election, said in an email to The Times that “the time has long passed for a Mayberry-scale solution to this super-sized problem.”

“This is real infrastructure, not incidental kid stuff, to be taken as seriously by the city as streets and sewer repairs,” he wrote.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: A broken sidewalk on Selma Avenue near Vine Street, in Hollywood. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times