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L.A. Council members criticize proposed 3-year sidewalk survey

August 29, 2012 |  3:07 pm

Buckled L.A. sidewalk near Selma Avenue

Three Los Angeles City Council members voiced alarm Wednesday that a proposed survey of broken sidewalks could take three years, saying they want officials to come up with a faster and cheaper plan for getting their arms around the problem.

Councilmen Eric Garcetti, Bill Rosendahl and Joe Buscaino introduced a proposal calling on the Bureau of Street Services to “go back to the drawing board” on the strategy for assessing an estimated $1.5 billion in damaged sidewalks. The trio said they want to see an approach that is less expensive than the proposed survey, which is predicted to cost "well over $10 million."

Last week, street repair officials reported that the survey would take three years, with specialists spending 18 months walking every sidewalk in the city and another six months developing the software with which the results can be compiled. Such a move could serve as the first step toward asking property owners to approve a tax to finance repairs.

The possibility of such a lengthy survey drew criticism from Rosendahl, who heads the council's Transportation Committee.

"There has to be a much faster and much smarter way to catalog our crumbling and buckling sidewalks,” he said in a statement.  “Why not tap into the networks of thousands of community activists in the city? Why not use cutting-edge technology and smart phone apps?  We have the energy and creativity to do this better and cheaper."

The city has not put any money into the repair and replacement of sidewalks since the 2007-08 fiscal year, deciding instead to pour hot asphalt into cracked pavement when residents complain. The buckled sidewalks produce about 2,500 "trip and fall" lawsuits each year and have sparked federal civil rights lawsuits from wheelchair users.

Street  officials warned last week that their data on the problem is extremely imprecise -- and that the total repair bill could reach $2 billion once a survey is completed.

Garcetti, who is running for mayor, said his office conducts a street-by-street graffiti assessment in his district once a year and completes it in a single day. "We can't afford to wait three years and spend $10 million on a study while our sidewalks are crumbling below our feet right now," said Garcetti.

The cost and time frame also drew questions from Buscaino, who last week instructed street repair officials to seek estimates for a three-year survey. He was the only member of the council committee who showed up for the meeting at which the report on the proposed sidewalk survey was discussed.


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Photo: Buckled L.A. sidewalk near Selma Avenue. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times