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LA's Busted Sidewalk Problem Not Going Away

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The litigious situation surrounding the state of repair (or lack thereof) of LA's sidewalks is getting the major media treatment today-- Several civil rights lawsuits are charging the city with neglecting the Americans With Disabilities Act by allowing so many of its nearly 11,000 miles of sidewalks to fall apart. The Los Angeles Times reports that the city has settled two cases for about $85 million: "That money will be used over the next two decades to build thousands of sidewalk access ramps at curbs." But the city is still facing four other cases that could add up to "hundreds of millions of dollars" in repairs. The total price tag for repairing the city's sidewalks has been estimated to exceed $1.5 billion, but considering that the city is already facing a $72 million budget shortfall, it might have trouble coming up with the money. Surisa Rivers, an attorney with the Disability Rights Legal Center, doesn't think money is the biggest problem, however: "The city has never developed a comprehensive plan to address this issue, even when economic times were good...Such failure hasn't been a story about the city's inability to finance disability access, but the lack of political will to do so." Meanwhile, pedestrian advocates like Deborah Murphy of LA Walks say it's more than just a disability issue: "We need to think of our streets as a place that we move people not just in their car, but on their feet, on a bike and on a bus."

Back in October, a joint City Council committee was considering transferring responsibility for sidewalk repairs (including liability) to property owners--that arrangement was in place in LA until 1973, when the city got a federal grant for repairs.

Previous ADA lawsuits have forced public sector entities to repair sidewalks. Besides LA's $85 million settlement, a 2009 settlement compelled the California Department of Transportation "to spend $1.1 billion over 30 years to fix state-controlled sidewalks, crosswalks and park-and-ride facilities." Large image via Kallifornia
· Suits could force L.A. to spend huge sums on sidewalk repair [LA Times]
· Where the Sidewalk Ends...In a Tree Root-Related Lawsuit [Curbed LA]