Los Angeles Program Pays Homeowners to Repair Sidewalks

Photo: Flickr user Ariel Schlesinger.

Starting this month, Los Angeles residents and property owners can now get up to $10,000 from the city’s Safe Sidewalks’ rebate program to repair their sidewalks. That’s a substantial jump from the $2,000 homeowners and $4,000 commercial property owners could get previously through the program, according to a release from the city.

“The Rebate Program is an important part of the City’s commitment to make sidewalks accessible to all Angelenos,” said Gary Lee Moore, City Engineer, in the release. “By creating a partnership with property owners the City is helping increase mobility throughout our city and make communities more livable for everyone.”

Though the Safe Sidewalks program has been around for 30 years, the rebate program was only introduced at the end of 2016. The city has received more than 1,000 applications since its launch.

“The new cap should entice and empower more property owners to partner with the City, and the result will be more sidewalks repaired quicker, less liability for the City and property owners, and happier constituents,” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, new chair of the Public Works Committee, in the release.

Other cities offer some version of this. In Chicago, the Shared Cost Sidewalk Program offers homeowners the chance to shares the cost with the city to repair their sidewalks. On the program’s website, the city writes that the “cost per square foot charged to property owners is well below what a private contractor would charge” and adds that “senior citizens and persons with disabilities may qualify for a further discounted rate.”

In 2015, Atlanta tried to take a step forward on the issue with an ordinance that would help the city pay for sidewalk maintenance, if funds are available. But pedestrian advocates have been critical of its impact.

In Houston, property owners are largely responsible for their sidewalks, with some exceptions under the city’s Safe Sidewalks program. Under then-mayor Annise Parker, the city worked to create a list of pre-vetted contractors for property owners seeking to do repairs. But advocates have pushed for more as walkability becomes an increasingly visible issue in Houston.

In an interview before being elected mayor, Sylvester Turner said, “I believe the city should take more responsibility for sidewalk repairs. Leaving it up to property owners is not getting the job done.” But he quickly added, “with current limitations on revenue, transferring responsibility to the city in the near term is not feasible.” Even as the city’s Walkable Places Committee continues to meet and the officials and advocates alike talk about changing the built environment, there aren’t any plans as of now for a rebate program like the one in Los Angeles.

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Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is Senior Editor with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

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