Gilroy’s cracked sidewalk policy

The City of Gilroy should not create a new law that would make
homeowners liable for buckled sidewalks damaged by city-required
street trees, nor should it make homeowners pay any portion of
repairing the damaged pavement.
The City of Gilroy should not create a new law that would make homeowners liable for buckled sidewalks damaged by city-required street trees, nor should it make homeowners pay any portion of repairing the damaged pavement.

It’s bad enough that the city’s sidewalk repair program that splits the cost of sidewalk repair with homeowners is chronically underfunded and backlogged.

It’s unconscionable to require that homeowners stuck with trees the city insisted that they plant in city-owned strips between the sidewalk and curb foot the sidewalk repair bills.

Not only should the city pick up 100 percent of the tab for these homeowners, it also ought to pay to replace the trees, often liquidambars, whose roots are the cause of the sidewalk problem.

These sidewalk repairs typically cost between $3,000 and $4,000, not an insignificant sum, but can reach $30,000, according to city engineer Albert Signorotti.

The city’s halfhearted, underfunded sidewalk repair program is emblematic of the laissez faire approach the city has taken with this problem, and it has failed miserably. That procrastination has led to the current situation where more than half of the injury claims filed against the city are for “trip and fall” injuries.

Let’s not allow city leaders to keep their heads in the sand any more, and let’s not allow them to get away with shifting the liability to homeowners.

Gilroy’s City Council should force the issue and demand that the city administration come up with a five-year plan to correct every sidewalk problem caused by the city. The excuse that it’s a burden on the budget should simply not be acceptable. Every expense is a burden, but this is the city’s mess, and the city should clean it up.

Creative thinking should be encouraged. Could some community development block grant money be used? How about projections for attorney expenses for trip-and-fall lawsuits? The point is that the directive must be: Find a solution.

Anything less and the city will be guilty of invoking its authority on one end of the problem and then abdicating its responsibility at the other. That’s a textbook example of bad government. And that’s not how we do business in Gilroy.

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