LA pledges $1 billion to smooth its sidewalks

A cracked sidewalk in South L.A. is hazardous to pedestrians. | Kate Guarino

A cracked sidewalk in South L.A. is hazardous to pedestrians. | Kate Guarino

Los Angeles will spend more than $1 billion over the next 30 years to repair disrupted sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian crossings and other walkways, according to city officials.

The allocation of funds comes as part of a settlement announced Wednesday in a class action suit against the city. The suit alleged that crumbling sidewalks made it difficult for people in wheelchairs and those with mobility disabilities to access public walkways, thus violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This $1.4 billion settlement is the largest disability access class action settlement in U.S. history,” said attorney Guy Wallace, representing the plaintiffs, in a statement.

“By making the City’s sidewalks and crosswalks accessible, this settlement will make it much easier for persons with mobility disabilities to get to and use government facilities, to find or get to jobs and workplaces, to go shopping, to go to the doctor, to participate in community life, and to be with their friends and families.”

Funds will be available beginning in the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year. The city will invest $31 million annually over the next five years. The investment could increase to more than $63 million in the next 30 years as costs are adjusted to account for inflation.

The Bureau of Street Services estimates that as much as 40 percent of city sidewalks are in need of repair. The settlement did not identify a specific source of funding.

According to a report by the City Administrative Office, L.A. spent $3 million of the $10 million initially allocated for sidewalk repair in the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year. In the following fiscal year, the city adopted a $20 million budget for sidewalk repair in addition to $7 million re-appropriated from the previous period.

In previous years, funds for sidewalk repair were allocated evenly by each council district, which selected locations to repair. From 2006 to 2009, L.A. sponsored a “50/50” sidewalk repair program asking residential property owners to pay half the cost of repairs while the city paid the other half. Once the money in that program was exhausted, districts could allocate discretionary funds for repairs in specific areas.

In South L.A.’s District 8, Councilman Bernard Parks forged a partnership with the Los Angeles neighborhood initiative to repair more than 100 sidewalks. Other city council members have embarked on similar efforts.

City Council President Herb Wesson of South L.A.’s District 10 said in a statement that he hopes the settlement indicates a step toward making lasting repairs.

“After five years of litigation, we can now look to the future and what will be achieved to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the City of Los Angeles,” he said.

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