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Where the Sidewalk Ends...In a Tree Root-Related Lawsuit

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A dual committee of the City Council's Public Works and Budget and Finance committees is working on a plan to make homeowners liable for sidewalk repairs in front of their properties. Owners are already responsible for some types of sidewalk damage, but the city has been responsible for damage caused by tree roots. According to the LA Daily News, one of several proposals before the two committees yesterday would shift responsibility for damage caused by tree roots to homeowners. Then there is this gem: "Homeowners would also take legal liability for trip-and-fall claims filed because of damaged sidewalks. Along with that was the possibility of stepped-up enforcement, with inspectors hitting the streets to check sidewalks, write citations and order repairs to begin within 90 days."

Three (out of about six) of the options discussed yesterday would in some way make property owners responsible for tree roots. Ideas included creating sidewalk assessment districts (under which a group of homeowners could vote to pay the city for maintenance), a bond issuance (city voters rejected a similar bond in 1998), and requiring safety certification at either point of sale, when utilities are connected, or when building permits are issued.

To get an idea of the scope of the problem and why the city is so actively trying to wash its hands of it: The city has nearly 11,000 miles of sidewalks; 4,700 of those miles are in disrepair. The city spends about $4 to $6 million a year on liability claims. The cost estimate to repair all of the sidewalks is between $1.2 and $1.5 billion.

The two committees have asked for more information before they act. They'll hear back in one month.
· City considers making homeowners responsible for sidewalk repairs and legally liable for mishaps [Daily News]