Burlingame to keep footing sidewalk bill

In response to a growing number of disgruntled residents billed by the city to repair damaged sidewalks in front of their homes, the City Council voted 5-0 Monday to delay implementing a sidewalk-repair program, which charges hundreds of dollars to fix the city’s walkways.

The program will be delayed by a year; residents will not be charged for sidewalk repairs this year.

City Manager Jim Nantell on Monday requested the delay in collecting funds from residents because of a proposed state constitutional amendment, SCA 12, which would allow cities to collect fees for storm-drain maintenance. Currently, cities can collect fees for only garbage and sewer costs.

The proposed amendment — authored by Sens. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, and Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch — would give cities the means to pay for aging storm-drainage systems. The millions spent on system repairs paid out of the city’s pocket could then be spent on other needs, such as sidewalk repairs. The amendment is on the Senate floor; it is unclear when a vote will take place.

If the amendment does not pass, City Council members said one option to raise funds for sidewalk repairs would be to increase the hotel tax. A decision, however, would not be made till 2008.

Although residents acknowledge that most Peninsula cities bill residents for sidewalk repair, they add that Burlingame trees are the culprit for mangled sidewalks and are the city’s responsibility.

“Ninety percent of the trouble is that the trees that belong to the city — their roots are causing the sidewalks to buckle,” said Scotty Morris, a Ralston Avenue resident.

Sidewalk repair fees began in 2004, with the city billing residents on a year-by-year basis. In 2005, residents paid a total of about $80,000, either to the city or through a private contractor, Nantell said, with most residents paying about $400 per repair job. In 2006, the city did not issue any bills. This year, however, residents have been asked to pay about $600 for repairs. Corner houses would pay significantly more since they have a larger sidewalk area to contend with.

Jean, a resident on Clarendon Road who declined to give her last name, said the idea of charging homeowners is “a bunch of crap,” she said. “I’m afraid someone will trip out here. I have no idea who they would sue. They would probably sue me.”

bfoley@examiner.com


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