The city has money to spend, but how much of it is headed our way — and when?
By Gary Walker
Near 77th Street in Westchester, the east side of Sepulveda Boulevard looks more like a series of small ramps than a sidewalk, with tree roots tilting stone slabs at 20-, 30- and even 45-degree angles.
Great for skateboarding.
Bad for walking.
A nightmare in a wheel chair.
As part of an April agreement to settle an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit, Los Angeles city officials are planning to spend $1.3 billion over the next 30 years to fix sidewalks just like this one.
The city’s 2015-16 budget calls for $31 million in annual sidewalk improvements this fiscal year and beyond. There’s also an extra $350,000 in this year’s budget to repair roadway potholes and funding to install 1,200 new public trashcans — a mix that folds into Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Neighborhoods First” initiative to improve quality of life basics.
How much of the city’s sidewalk repair money will soon find its way to Sepulveda, the similarly treacherous south side of Jefferson Boulevard across from Playa Vista or even the parts of Charnock Road in Mar Vista where there isn’t any sidewalk at all?
That’s the $31-million question.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin and members of the council’s Public Works and Budget & Finance committees will deliver a public presentation on implementation of the city’s sidewalk repair initiative at the Mar Vista Recreation Center.
The July 28 meeting is one of five citywide outreach efforts by L.A. officials to inform communities about plans to tackle long-delayed sidewalk maintenance and refurbishment, said Erika Pulst, a city legislative assistant.
In a report to Garcetti and the council, L.A. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommends creating a sidewalk repair trust fund that could be financed in any number of ways, including city bonds or property owner assessment districts.
Sidewalks along major transportation corridors or near government facilities, hospitals and assisted living facilities would receive priority attention, as would highly trafficked commercial zones and some residential areas.
Neighborhood Council of Westchester – Playa Vice President Mark Redick said there are streets in Westchester and Playa del Rey that he feels need immediate attention.
While sidewalks along the west side of Sepulveda were recently repaved with the help of a $1-million federal grant through Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Los Angeles), the east side of the boulevard remains in serious disrepair.
“There are areas on Sepulveda Boulevard where the tree roots have broken into the sidewalk. In some areas, it’s so bad that your teeth rattle every time you drive that way,” Redick said. “The second-largest city in the United States should have an infrastructure that is second to none.”
Broken sidewalks aren’t just unsightly — they can also be dangerous, he added. Redick recently saw a teenager fall off his bicycle while riding over a crack in the sidewalk near the Del Rey Church on the 8500 block of Saran Drive.
“He was lucky that he wasn’t seriously injured,” Redick said.
According to Santana’s report, tree roots are to blame for most of the damage to city sidewalks, “and the majority of street trees are planted in residential areas.”
Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Jonathon Neumann said there are areas east of Lincoln Boulevard and along Centinela Avenue in Del Rey that don’t even have sidewalks.
“We want to make sure that Del Rey gets some of the $31 million a year to take care of some of these items,” Neumann said.
While broken sidewalks may not typically generate the kind of intense debate associated with the impacts of homelessness or new development, frustration has prompted some residents to consider drastic measures.
In 2012 a group of south Mar Vista homeowners, upset about what they perceived to be a lack of attention to their neighborhood’s sidewalks and curbs, floated the idea of seceding from Los Angeles to join nearby Culver City.
The secession plan fizzled out due to a lack of support from the rest of Mar Vista, but several of the homeowners living in the south Mar Vista neighborhood known as the North Oval went on to form an assessment district for certain infrastructure repairs — imposing a tax on themselves to finally get the job done.
North Oval resident Connie Kay is waiting to hear what the city has planned for sidewalks now that curb and gutter repairs are underway in her neighborhood.
During a visit to Northern California, Kay walked on a sidewalk made from the kind of permeable material that is often used in playgrounds.
“It was great to walk on. There’s no comparison to walking on a typical sidewalk,” she said.
The Bureau of Street Services has experimented with recycled plastic materials, rubber panels and permeable concrete, which allows water from precipitation to pass through it and reduce runoff, but “earlier versions of the rubber sidewalk weathered quickly and did not last very long,” states Santana’s report.
“Surfaces of more recent recycled materials wear relatively quickly, leaving smooth and possibly slippery sidewalk finishes when wet,” it continues. Permeable concrete “requires frequent vacuuming to preserve its environmental qualities and its relatively rough texture may not be suitable in all urban conditions.”
Bonin, a member of the council’s
budget and finance committee, did not return calls.
The presentation about sidewalk repairs is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, at the Mar Vista Recreation Center, 11430 Woodbine St., Mar Vista. Call Bonin’s Westchester field office at (310) 568-8772 or visit 11thdistrict.com.