Should Citizens Be Enlisted to Document L.A.'s Sidewalk Shortcomings

Following up on a recent LA Times editorial arguing for a "citizens sidewalk brigade" to document the state of every one of the city's sidewalks, rather than a proposed $10 million three-year survey, columnist Steve Lopez registers his approval.
September 18, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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L.A.'s sidewalks are a disgrace; that's something every City Council member, Bureau of Street Services official, and pedestrian in the city can agree. But, as a prelude to drafting a proposed sidewalk repair bond measure, what is the best way to catalog the estimated 5,000 miles of cracked and crumbling sidewalks throughout the city?

The city's Bureau of Street Services has proposed a painstaking three-year survey of every sidewalk in the city, at a cost of $10 million. According to the Los Angeles Times, some City Council members have suggested that such a survey, "could be done faster and cheaper with residents, community activists and nonprofit groups doing the work of counting and cataloging the damaged sidewalks."

However, as Lopez notes, "A Department of Public Works representative told me that using volunteers could get complicated for many reasons, including lack of expertise on the part of volunteers and the challenge of evaluating the information they submit. But the department hasn't ruled out some form of public participation."

Whatever pathway is finally chosen, it's clear that Lopez, and the public, are clamoring to get the job started. 

"You pay your taxes and that seems to be the most elementary thing you would want taken care of, that they keep the sidewalk clear and safe. It seems like a basic government function," said Marina del Rey resident Jason Sharman.

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Published on Sunday, September 16, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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