What's bugging you? Broken sidewalks

ABC7 Eyewitness News: What's Bugging You?
LOS ANGELES You probably don't notice it much -- until you look down -- or until you trip. The sidewalks in Los Angeles have lots of cracks and patches. It's not a smooth ride. Some look more like speed bumps than sidewalks.

"Someone is going to get seriously hurt one day," said L.A. resident Renita McDowell.

McDowell says it bugs her. So much so that she sent ABC7 an e-mail. That's because the city trees in front of her house are ripping up the sidewalk. And she claims the city just pours asphalt to try to even it out.

"Every time I call they come and put a little more asphalt but no one has addressed the fact that this is about to lift everything onto my property," said McDowell.

Several members of her family need help to walk, and they can't get around on the sidewalks.

"Even with the walker, it's not good," said Robbie Kines, who uses a walker. "Because you're balancing like this and it's going back and forth, and if it's going to go back and forth like that, I can't handle the swing."

Melissa Kasnitz, managing attorney at /*Disability Rights Advocates*/, sued the city of Sacramento and settled a landmark case that forced the city to make repairs.

"The specific remedy adopted by the city of Sacramento in response to the settlement from Disability Rights Advocates was to take 20 percent of its annual funding used for its streets and dedicate it to sidewalk upgrades," said Kasnitz.

Now, the city of L.A. faces a similar suit as disability advocates allege sidewalks don't comply with the Americans with disabilities act.

"It's widespread. Cities have been delinquent in installing curb ramps as rapidly as they should, and cities aren't always as diligent as they should be about fixing cracks and maintaining their sidewalks," said Kasnitz.

How bad is this problem? According to a UCLA study, in Los Angeles 4,600 miles of sidewalks are broken. Repairing them would cost more than a billion dollars.

There are so many broken sidewalks the city simply can't keep up. Officials say they're trying to repair them as quickly as they can, but some say at the pace they're going, they won't be finished with this job for 70 years.

So what can you do? In the city of L.A., cracks caused by city-owned trees will be repaired by the city if you call City Services. But they've only got enough money to fix 45 miles of sidewalks. And that's for the entire city.

Renita McDowell is still dealing with the city, and she might end up footing the bill.

But every city has its own policy. For example, Pasadena will temporarily patch it with asphalt for free, but you'll have to pay for a permanent fix.

Most cities, like Manhattan Beach and Burbank, say it's the homeowner's responsibility.

If in doubt, call your Public Works Department. They'll send out an inspector, and depending on the cause of the cracks, determine who has to pay.

You may want to get your neighbors involved if the problem is widespread enough. And if there are disability issues, you should consider getting legal advice

The bottom line, unfortunately: if the cracks are in front of your house, the money for fixing them will probably come out your wallet.

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