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REALTORS® Fight to Protect L.A. Property Owners From Sidewalk Repairs

By HOM Editorial Team
July 2015

The City of Los Angeles maintains 10,750 miles of sidewalks.

In Los Angeles, over 40 percent of the city’s 10,750 miles of sidewalks are in disrepair. It’s a big problem that the city has tried to push off onto property owners, but the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® is helping to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In 1973, Los Angeles voluntarily undertook responsibility for maintaining the city’s sidewalks. The city has largely failed to live up to this responsibility. Buckling, cracked sidewalks are now commonplace. Much of this damage was caused by roots from trees the city planted. The city’s neglect has caused repair estimates to skyrocket to $1.6 billion. In addition, the decrepit walks have increased the potential of slip-and-fall lawsuits, as well as civil rights claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In search of a solution, a Los Angeles City Council committee proposed shifting the burden to property owners at the point of sale. According to the proposal, before a property owner could sell their home they would have to fix the sidewalk bordering their property. The cost per property owner would have averaged between $3,500 and $7,500. With many homes “underwater” — worth less than the mortgage — this added expense would have made it even more difficult for financially strapped homeowners to sell their properties. The proposal would also have unfairly required property owners to pay for fixing a problem created by the city’s neglect and which impacted all residents, not just property owners.

The Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® jumped into action to fight the proposal. The two-year campaign by the REALTORS® educated residents about the issue, with a focus on reaching residents who sat on neighborhood councils and members of volunteer citizens groups that advise their respective council members. The advocacy campaign also included public announcements on multiple media outlets.

The combination of these efforts put sufficient pressure on local officials to table the measure before it could be sent to the full City Council for a vote. The REALTORS® association is monitoring the situation. The city’s mayor has pledged to prioritize sidewalk repair, and the REALTORS® are optimistic that the city will find the funds to do so without unfairly penalizing property owners.

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