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Fixing LA's Broken Sidewalk Problem via the Real Estate Market

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Photo by JoshMcConnell via Flickr
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Los Angeles has thousands of miles of failed sidewalks. Buckled, cracked, missing chunks or completey destroyed, the problem leaves the city paying out $2 to $4 million in trip and fall lawsuits each year. The city's budget only provides for fixing less than one hundred miles a year leaving residents on a wait list for 83 years to have their sidewalk fixed.

For nearly four years, a proposal has been making its way through the bureaucracy and today arrives at a a City Council committee meeting (.pdf) where the City Attorney will discuss amending local law to force property owners to repair sidewalks at point of sale, something various real estate associations oppose (.pdf).

"Half of all properties in Los Angeles are sold at least once every decade. Because the turnover rate is about the same all over the city, sidewalks will be repaired at about the same rate," explains the motion from September of 2005. "In addition, there is a clear economic development benefit to this proposal. It is estimated that in the first year of a point-of-sale program, 460 miles of sidewalks would be repaired, total local wages would increase $102 million, and 2,600 new jobs would be created with average annual wages and benefits of $39,000," it continued as if the recession and "shovel ready projects" were a buzz phrases back then.

A 2007 focus group found (.pdf) that 83% of the city would support such a policy and that 78% would support a bond measure to fund sidewalk repair. A 50/50 program--property owner pays 50 percent, the city of the other half--was popular enough that a wait list was created, but funding was suspended this year.

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For the Record: The original posting indicated that the 50/50 program was still in affect.