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San Diego's Sidewalk Problems, By the Numbers

The city receives 200 requests to fix a busted sidewalk every month. It takes two years to get one done – and that’s if the city agrees it’s responsible.

Monday’s long-awaited discussion on San Diego’s illogical sidewalk rules ended with a promise for another long wait.

Council members on the city’s infrastructure committee pledged to deal with the policy once a team of engineering students finishes walking San Diego’s 5,000 miles of sidewalks to evaluate their condition. Currently, the sidewalk rules give neither the city nor property owners incentive to fix busted sidewalks. The evaluation hasn’t started yet, even though $1 million was allocated in June, and is expected to take a year to complete. Final recommendations on policy fixes won’t come until early 2015 either, Council members said Monday.

In the meantime, city transportation staff gave Council members a three-page report on how screwed up sidewalks are. Here are five of the most eye-popping numbers from the report and Monday’s committee discussion:

200

This is the number of sidewalk repair requests the city receives every month. Most of them are for sidewalks damaged by tree roots, and these repairs cost about $2,500 a pop. Assuming all the sidewalk requests were to fix these problems, it would cost $6 million a year to do it.

$400,000

The amount of money the city currently spends annually on fixing sidewalks damaged by tree roots.

2

Councilman Scott Sherman wanted to know what happened when a resident requested a sidewalk repair for a tree root-damaged sidewalk – unlike other sidewalk problems, the city fixes those caused by trees in the public right of way. The city often will immediately throw asphalt over the sidewalk to limit its liability if someone trips and falls. But permanent fixes don’t happen for a while.

“So if I called in my raised sidewalk in front of my house tomorrow it would take two years before somebody got out there?” Sherman asked John Helminski, a deputy director in the city’s street division.

“It would,” Helminski said.

677

The city has a cost-sharing plan to give homeowners the incentive to repair their sidewalks. In the recent past, it hasn’t been used much. From 2011 to 2013, only 13 property owners used the city’s program, which cuts in half the estimated $10,600 price tag of making sidewalk repairs.

Now, though, the number of people is surging. This year, 14 property owners have already participated in the program and another 87 are on the list. That’s a 677 percent increase this year compared with the last three years combined.

Committee Chairman Mark Kersey credited the uptick to his committee’s efforts to spread the word about infrastructure as well as our blog TheStumblr, which documented busted sidewalks citywide.

$170 million

Broken sidewalks aren’t the only issue. Currently, the city has 425 requests for new sidewalks, like the one outside a San Ysidro high school, on its unfunded needs list. The city estimated it would cost $170 million to install all of them. That number is expected to go up once the sidewalk assessment is done.

No sidewalk fixes or new installations are on the city’s nearly $1 billion estimate of streets, storm drains and buildings in need of repair.

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