Plans to ramp up enforcement of sidewalk maintenance, championed by Mayor Gavin Newsom during his State of The City address in October, continue to move forward despite lingering concerns.
Property owners are responsible for the sidewalks adjacent to their property, according to state and city laws, and of the 5,298 city blocks of sidewalk, only 106 are The City’s responsibility, with the rest falling to property owners to pay out of pocket to maintain.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd first raised concerns last week that the Department of Public Works, the city agency charged with sidewalk enforcement, was inappropriately enforcing sidewalk laws in the wake of Newsom’s address.
Elsbernd said the violation notices that were sent last month to property owners misstated city code, which says that property owners have 30 days to begin work on fixing sidewalks when told to do so. The notices that went out, about 300, said property owners had to fix their sidewalks within 30 days.
Since the concerns have been raised, more than 300 letters of apology were sent out to the property owners who received violation notices and the notice language has since been corrected, according to DPW spokeswoman Christine Falvey.
As part of Newsom’s plan to beef up sidewalk enforcement, Newsom and DPW are requesting the Board of Supervisors approve $1.3 million in funding to inspect city sidewalks on a proactive basis. DPW only responds to complaints about sidewalk conditions. They are also asking the board to approve an enforcement program aimed at streamlining the process by allowing DPW to bill property owners for sidewalk repairs on their tax bills. Residents would be given the option of using a city contractor to do the work or doing it themselves.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee sent the proposal to the full board without recommendation, and the board could hear it at a possible special off-site meeting on Jan. 13, or the regularly scheduled board meeting on Jan. 23.
The supervisors also requested The City’s Capital Planning Committee to review the proposal and that DPW develop a better standard for determining whether a property owner must make repairs.
Elsbernd said he has not made up his mind whether to support the proposal. “The problem is we have a limited source of funds and all our priorities don’t fit,” Elsbernd said. “I want to hear what the Capital Planning Committee says.”
If approved by the boardnext month, DPW would begin active inspection in February of 31 miles of sidewalk adjacent to private property near schools, transit routes and hospitals. The cost to property owners is expected to total $1.5 million.