Politics

LA businesses would pay for sidewalk fixes under proposed plan

L.A.'s plan to repair sidewalks would put the cost of repairs on adjacent commercial and government property owners, but in residential areas, the city would pay the costs.
L.A.'s plan to repair sidewalks would put the cost of repairs on adjacent commercial and government property owners, but in residential areas, the city would pay the costs.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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As part of a $1.4 billion promise to repair sidewalks over 30 years, Los Angeles city officials are considering repairing only problems in residential walkways and requiring businesses to fix their own.

At a joint hearing of the City Council's budget and public works committees Monday, councilmen Mitch Englander and Mike Bonin questioned how the city's chief administrator is making the distinction between business and residential.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana proposed a simple way to determine which residential properties would get city-paid repairs and which would fall into the commercial category: a trash can test.

The city picks up trash from single-family homes, so the sidewalks in front of those properties would be considered residential. Commercial trash haulers collect trash from other properties, including apartment buildings and mixed-use buildings that have ground floor businesses.

Santana says there's just not enough money in the plan to cover commercial property sidewalks. The city has committed to spending $1.4 billion, or about $31 million per year, on the fixes, under terms of its settlement of an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit.

The plan would give commercial property owners a two year-window to repair sidewalks. In the first year, the city would pass a moratorium on issuing citations ordering sidewalk repairs. After that, those cited for bad sidewalks would have one year to fix them.

Santana said commercial property owners have a responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act to make sidewalks and buildings accessible. He also said commercial property owners have options for financing the repairs.

He wants the city to pay for residential sidewalk repairs up front, then transfer responsibility for future sidewalk repairs to homeowners.

Councilman Curren Price Jr. said the $31 million per year the city would be spending on sidewalk repairs presents an opportunity for small businesses to get city-paid jobs.

"It would be a tremendous shot in the arm" to small businesses over the next few decades if the city reaches out to include small businesses as sidewalk contractors, Price said.