Politics

Sidewalk repairs: Here's what $1.4 billion will buy

Benjamin Provo in front of his mother's house on Century Avenue. Her sidewalk was so broken, she was unable to leave through the front door, but Councilman Bernard Parks used discretionary money from his office to cut down a tree and replace the broken sidewalk slabs.
Benjamin Provo in front of his mother's house on Century Avenue. Her sidewalk was so broken, she was unable to leave through the front door, but Councilman Bernard Parks used discretionary money from his office to cut down a tree and replace the broken sidewalk slabs.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

Listen to story

00:46
Download this story 0.0MB

The city of Los Angeles settled a big disability rights lawsuit this week and was ordered to spend $1.4 billion dollars fixing broken sidewalks and adding curb ramps over the next 30 years, in order to make its public pathways accessible to those with disabilities.

The general public will also benefit from repaired pathways.

At least, that's the plan.

The settlement asks City Hall to come up with about $31 million dollars the first year to start - $5 million of which will go to installing curb ramps. This is more than it has ever spent annually on sidewalk repairs. It will go to fixing sidewalks adjacent to city land and along the L.A.'s most-walked streets.

Sounds nice, but how soon?

Last year was not a very productive year for repairs. The city spent $3 million on fixes, a fraction of what the nearly $15 million it spent in 2004, when Los Angeles restored 76 miles of sidewalk.

That works out to about $195,000 per mile. 

Assuming costs haven't changed in a decade, the first roughly $30 million would fix about 150 miles of sidewalks.

But the mayor's office declined to say Thursday what it currently costs the city to fix a mile of sidewalk.

Garcetti spokeswoman Vicki Curry said it's hard to know in part because it has been so long since the city has aggressively pursued repairs.

"You'll never get an accurate number on that," said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who explained costs vary because sidewalks and their problems vary. 

And the city doesn't even have a handle on how many sidewalks need fixing.

Some say 4,600 miles of sidewalk are faulty. But Krekorian has questioned the methodology of that survey.

In 2012, the city got said just getting an inventory of the sidewalks would cost $10 million dollars. So it wasn't done.

Once the City Council eventually has to approve a plan setting priorities for the spending - probably in the second year of the settlement.

In that plan, one-fifth of the money must be reserved for repairs requested by people with disabilities outside their homes and on the routes they use.

This story has been updated.