SAN DIEGO — With the San Diego City Council’s approval of the new “Safe Sidewalks” program earlier this week, thousands of property owners may soon be receiving notices that they need to start working on sidewalk repairs.

The program, which was approved by the City Council in a 5-3 vote on Monday, adjusts the permitting process to make it cheaper and faster for people to make repairs to uneven or damaged walkways in front of their property.

Officials estimate there is a backlog of more than 85,000 locations on sidewalks across San Diego in need of repairs. Meanwhile, the city has spent millions over the last decade in injury lawsuit settlements. According to officials, the average claim is about $46,000.

Under state law, most owners of properties adjacent to a public street are required to maintain those sidewalks in a safe condition for the public, including repairing damage caused by private trees, deteriorating concrete, weather conditions, or normal wear and tear. 

About 5,000 of the spots along the city’s sidewalks where repairs are needed are considered the property owner’s responsibility, according to San Diego officials.

With this type of damage, private property owners could bear civil liability for any injuries that may occur due to damage along that walkway.

The Safe Sidewalks Program aims to help make those repairs easier for people to take on.

Here is what to know about the program’s roll out:

Starting later this month, the city says that they will be sending out letters to San Diegans who have forward-facing property nearby one of the 5,000 locations identified as in need of work.

These locations do not include sidewalks on public property, as well as damage caused by heat expansion, trees within the right of way or any utility work. Damage that falls under these categories are considered the city’s responsibility under San Diego’s City Council Policy 200-12.

According to city officials, this letter will contain a “Notice of Responsibility” letter, a sidewalk maintenance infographic, a right-of-way permit that includes the conditions to perform the work and a self-certification form.

The letter will also walk property letters through how to complete the repairs. This includes selecting a licensed contractor, obtaining a “Private Property Owner Sidewalk Repair Permit” and completing the Transportation Department’s self-certification form after the work to attest that it was done in compliance with San Diego’s construction standards.

More information about the sidewalk repair process can be found on the City of San Diego’s website.

Under the Safe Sidewalks program, there will not be a permit fee for repair projects on private property, shaving off about $2,100 from the cost of maintenance. The process to obtain permits will also be expedited.

For property owners in underserved communities, San Diego will be allocating $300,000 per year to cover the costs of sidewalk repair projects near private property in these areas.

According to city officials, work on eligible locations will be performed by Transportation Department crews, starting in locations that have heavy pedestrian traffic.

“With limited funding and crews, this approach will allow the City to quickly repair the highest priority locations while eliminating barriers for other private property owners to make repairs that will keep their sidewalks safe and accessible for all users,” city officials wrote in a release.

All changes implemented under the program will remain in place through the 2026 fiscal year.