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Petitioning San Carlos City Council

Stand Up Against Unfair Sidewalk Repair Costs!

Stand Up Against Unfair Sidewalk Repair Costs!

The City of San Carlos currently requires 100 percent of the cost of sidewalk repairs be paid by the property owner adjacent to the sidewalk.

Offloading the entire cost of these often costly repairs onto property owners is unfair. Safe sidewalks offer many public benefits, and for decades they were repaired at public expense.

We therefore urge the City Council to change the City's policy, and pay at least 50 percent of the cost of repairs.

Background

San Carlos, like many California communities, requires property owners to pay 100% of the cost of repairing and maintaining sidewalks. The City monitors sidewalk conditions and, when repairs are needed, notifies the property owner to do the repairs.

If the property owner wishes to have the City do the work, or declines to do it, the City does the repair and sends the property owner a bill. Unpaid bills are almost always added to the owner’s property tax bill, and become subject to the property tax collection process. Failure to pay such fees can cause problems, including a default on a mortgage.

Charging all the repair costs to the property owner is a choice communities make under State law.

For many years, that choice was based on the belief the City could assign 100% of the liability for any trip-and-fall lawsuit to the property owner. The logic was, if the property owner is 100% responsible, the property owner should pay all the maintenance costs.

However, in 2005 a California court came to a different conclusion: cities are potentially liable for up to half the cost of trip-and-fall liabilities, because of the public benefit provided by sidewalks. Given that change, the allocation of maintenance costs should be revisited.

The impact on the City’s budget from sharing sidewalk maintenance and repair costs will vary depending upon how many repairs need to be made in any given year. City staff estimated, for the 2016/2017 budget year, that the impact of splitting the costs 50/50 would be about $60,000.

To put that in context, the City’s general fund, its primary budget, is about $28,000,000 per year, and the City has run multi-million surpluses for a number of years.

The petition sponsor currently serves on the San Carlos City Council. You can read more about his perspective at http://council.olbert.com/2016/09/07/change-sidewalk-repair-policy-petition/

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  • San Carlos City Council

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