Study finds more than 39K tripping hazards on city sidewalks

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SAN DIEGO -- More than 39,000 tripping hazards were identified in a survey of San Diego sidewalks that is about half done, according to a report presented Wednesdy to the City Council's Infrastructure Committee.

City employees and college engineering students started mapping sidewalks in January, noting and photographing broken pavement, curbs that do not conform to the Americans With Disabilities Act and the like.

So far, about 3,100 miles of sidewalks have been surveyed -- about half of city-maintained walkways, according to the report. Sidewalk crews have concentrated on the city's older neighborhoods.

The survey -- along with assessments of parks and city-owned buildings -- is aimed at giving Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council an idea of how far behind the city is in making repairs. In dollar terms, estimates are in the $2 billion range.

Tripping hazards are defined as cracks or other problems where the pavement is offset at least a half-inch.

Tree roots are blamed for about 3,700 hazards. More than 14,000 curb breaks do not conform to designs for accommodating people in wheelchairs, the report said. Some curbs were poured before ADA was signed into law in 1992, and requirements have since evolved, said James Nagelvoort, the director of public works.

"As ADA has been implemented throughout the country, you have varying moments where they've changed the legislation, or because of court action or lawsuits, it's changed the requirements,'' Nagelvoort said. "I'd say that's the majority of the story ... that the day (the ramps) went in, those individuals thought that they were compliant, that they were meeting the requirements of the day, but the world has changed on them.''

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said she has seen ramps on corners where there are no sidewalks.

Whenever a street with a crosswalk is trenched for water lines or other utilities, ADA regulations are triggered, and the law requires wheelchair ramps to be installed, Nagelvoort said. Public funds for water and wastewater projects, however, cannot be appropriated for building sidewalks that would connect to the new ramps, he said.

City Councilman Mark Kersey said the city is liable if someone should trip and injure themselves on city sidewalks. Although, under state law, homeowners are to blame. The elected officials are ironing out details to make the law more clear.

Until then, city leaders are offering homeowners a way to repair old, deteriorating sidewalks by providing a 75/25 Cost Share Program to homeowners. The city will pay for 75 percent of repairs made to sidewalks in front of homes if the homeowner pays 25 percent of the costs.

The city has designated $300,000 to go towards the share program to fix sidewalks.

Committee members voted to hand up the report to the full City Council.

The survey should be done in January and the final report issued in February.

2 comments

  • Bryan

    I’ve got a huge crack in my sidewalk. I contacted the city and they said it was the builder’s fault. I contacted the builder and they said the city had already signed off on it. So, I guess I’m stuck repairing it.

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