HOLLYWOOD —Have you noticed that heaved sidewalks have been patched with gravel and tar?  Not a very attractive solution, but it surely gives the pedestrian plenty of notice that there is “trouble on the sidewalk ahead.”Fixing the city’s sidewalks had been an issue under discussion by the City Council since 2005. They’ve spent $95 million on sidewalk repairs in the last 10 years.  There are 4,600 more miles of sidewalk that need to be fixed ”“ costing  $1.2 billion plus.  “That’s money taken away from street repairs,” they claim.  But apparently in today’s sue-happy Los Angeles, the “trip and fall” litigation has also put a serious dent in the city’s budget.

On Monday the City Council voted out a solution. It’s a gift from your city government. Now it’s your mess.  Even though the city has been generous by repairing and patching our sidewalks, and taken the brunt of the “slip and fall” litigation as well, the legal obligation to repair sidewalks has always rested with John Q. Citizen. Yup, under The State of California Improvement Act of 1911  California cities can require property owners to repair the sidewalks abutting their property.  In Los Angeles there was only one exception – property owners did not have to repair sidewalk damage caused by city-owned trees.

So on Monday April 19, the City Council took care of the whole ball of wax. They voted out a new Ordinance.  It no longer matters who or what caused the damage to the sidewalk.  It is the “duty” of the abutting property owner to fix the sidewalk and keep it in good repair.

The city is not laying any new sidewalks.  If you need to repair your sidewalk remember this is not the Wild West. You’ll have to get a Class “A” Permit [more fees] from the Bureau of Engineering.  If the sidewalk damage is due to tree roots, it gets better. You have to call the Bureau of Street Services’ Urban Forestry Division.  They’ll decide if they will issue you a permit to remove the tree.  Their policy is to preserve all parkway trees.  They won’t let you yank it out unless it’s dead or c annot be trimmed and/or root pruned to be made safe.  You’ll need a Class “B” permit for this project. [Call 3-1-1].

Originally they proposed that all sidewalks had to be in good condition before a transfer of title could be completed.  I can just see the City inspectors pulling this one off. So here’s the nitty gritty of the new law:

  1. You’ll need to get a Safe Sidewalk Certificate from BSS before you can turn on your utilities.
  2. The law will also generously provide property owners 90 days within which to repair defective sidewalks after they receive notice from the City.
  3. There will be a 3-year Moratorium on Notices to Repair, so that everyone can get comfortable with the idea.
  4. If you apply for a Building Permit for over $20,000 in repairs, expect to have to deal with any sidewalk issues.

And remember if you don’t keep up your sidewalk, you face legal liability if there is an accident.  I’m taking money that issuance companies will be adding exclusions to your homeowner’s policy.