City Council rates sidewalk repairs a top priority

City Council members vowed recently to pay for sidewalk repairs — a major issue for the tree-heavy city — likely by adding another bond measure on the November ballot or increasing the city’s hotel tax.

Council members called sidewalk repairs, which have been the responsibility of residents for a few years, a top priority and said the only question left is how to pay for them. A flood-protection bond measure that would include earmarked sidewalk-repair funds has a good chance of being added to the November ballot, members said.

The city is also researching increasing its transit occupancy tax — or hotel tax — from 10 percent to 11 percent, to allocate funds for repairs.

The council expects to vote on funding options soon. From the city staff’s standpoint, the bond measure is a better bet to become a reality at this point than increasing the city’s hotel tax, city engineer Victor Voong said.

Vice Mayor Ann Keighran and Councilmembers Terry Nagel and Jerry Deal all said the hotel tax was a viable and realistic option. Mayor Rosalie O’Mahony, who controls what items are put on the agenda, said she favored a bond measure when she was sworn in as mayor last week. Councilmember Cathy Baylock could not be reached for comment.

Many cities in the county face the issue of sidewalk repairs. But council members said the issue is especially important in Burlingame because of its abundance of trees, many of which are very old. They’ve also said that the city is a “walking community.”

“This is a major priority; it’s a big issue with a lot of people,” Deal said. “I would like to see it done soon.”

Nagel said she was “totally committed” to funding repairs and also wants to refund residents who have paid for damages in the last few years.

The problem with a bond measure, they said, was risking the money associated with the election with two-thirds approval needed. Measure H, the similar bond from 2006, received 64 percent approval.

The city also has a few other more unlikely options to fund the repairs, such as raising the annual $100 business license fee or starting a “pay-as-you-go” policy to fix cracks.

As for long-term solutions, Parks and Recreation officials are planting smaller trees that would be less likely to put cracks in sidewalks.

San Mateo County sidewalk repairs

» South San Francisco, Palo Alto 100 percent payment for repairs

» San Mateo $3 million earmarked in Prop. 1B funds for street repairs

» San Bruno Measure F sales-tax increase for repairs failed Nov. 6. Recently approved $185,000 for repairs

» Redwood City Weighing repairing sidewalks in Middlefield Road area

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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