City votes to determine timeline for fixing sidewalks

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SAN DIEGO -- The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to have staff determine a timeline for fixing 85,000 damaged sidewalk locations in San Diego and incorporate them into a multi-year capital improvement program that's being developed.

The final results of a condition assessment of the city's sidewalks determined it will cost somewhere around $46.4 million to make all of the needed repairs.

In the city's 4,500-plus miles of sidewalks, student engineers from San Diego State University and UC San Diego located the problem areas, which consisted of damage from tree roots, cracks, and panels that had settled or been raised by the underlying dirt.

The desire to repair the sidewalks are just a small part in the city's multibillion-dollar backlog of infrastructure needs, which include roadways rated to be in poor condition to buildings in need of repairs.

The issue of how to fix the sidewalks is made murky by long-established state law that places the responsibility for making repairs on the adjacent property owner. However, the City Council in 1974 adopted a policy to have the city split costs 50-50 under certain circumstances that are out of the property owners' control.

“We're kind of in sidewalk purgatory,'' said Councilman Mark Kersey, who chairs the Infrastructure Committee.

Staff was directed to return to his committee in January with a more precise repair plan. Kersey said his goal was to get the sidewalks fixed first, then reconsider the council's policy toward the property owners.

The city not only has the repair cost issue to deal with, but also liability. According to the City Attorney's Office, property owners have used current policy to deflect liability onto the city in trip-and-fall cases.

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