Sidewalk-fixing plan riles supe

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to beef up enforcement of sidewalk maintenance at the expense of property owners has come under fire by one city official.

In the coming months, the Department of Public Works may force hundreds of property owners to pay for repairs to damaged sidewalks adjacent to their properties, as required by state and local laws. Repair costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The sidewalk law “has been on the books forever and they have never really enforced it,” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said. “Now, subsequent to the mayor’s State of The City address, all of a sudden this is becoming a major priority, but it needs to be done in a responsible way and it’s not right now.”

Newsom announced plans for ramped-up enforcement during his Oct. 26 State of The City Address, which focused primarily on quality-of-life issues. Of the 5,298 city blocks of sidewalk, only 106 are The City’s responsibility, with the rest falling to property owners to maintain.

Newsom and DPW are asking the Board of Supervisors to appropriate $1.3 million in funding to beef up enforcement, which is now only complaint-driven. The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote today on the funding request.

Elsbernd, who said he has receieved a lot of complaints from residents who have already been cited, introduced a resolution Tuesday blasting the Department of Public Works for a “clear misapplication of the Public Works Code.”

The city law requires property owners only to begin work on the sidewalks within 30 days, not complete the work as the notices state, according to Elsbernd.

“The bedside manner of the Department of Public Works on this has been atrocious,” he said.

DPW spokeswoman Christine Falvey acknowledged that “we probably need to amend the language” if property owners are under the impression they only have 30 days to repair the sidewalks. “[The notice] is really meant to get property owners to call us and start this process,” she said.

The new program, which the Board of Supervisors has yet to approve, would provide more public outreach and is designed to make it easier for property owners to repair the sidewalks and to make sure city sidewalks are safe, she said.

If the funding is approved, the department would, within six months, inspect 31 miles of sidewalk near schools, Muni routes, hospitals and transportation corridors. The cost to property owners is expected to total $1.5 million.

“It’s somewhat troubling to me that The City decides to enforce the quality-of-life crimes where they can pass the buck on to property owners but don’t enforce the quality-of-life violations that require city resources,” Elsbernd said.

IN OTHER ACTION

MAYORAL PICK NIXED: In a 6-4 vote, Newsom’s appointment of Benny Yee to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency was rejected.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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