Gilroy residents have complained for years over the state of the city’s crumbling sidewalks, saying they pose a tripping hazard that could cause injuries to unsuspecting pedestrians.
The city also finds itself occasionally involved in personal injury claims related to its sidewalks. According to a claim filed in March and rejected by the city council in July, a San Jose resident stated that she tripped on a raised sidewalk on Benassi Drive and suffered a radial neck fracture.
Gilroy’s sidewalk repair program, which began in 1994, assists property owners with the cost of maintaining their sidewalks. But as city engineer Gary Heap pointed out, the program has its limitations, namely the fact that residents have to pay for the repairs up front and later be reimbursed by the city for the costs.
To begin to curb the problem, the city council entered into a contract with a consulting firm that will map out the condition of every sidewalk in the city. But some council members balked at the $142,890 price tag, and the contract passed with a split 4-3 vote on Aug. 17. Councilmembers Dion Bracco, Carol Marques and Fred Tovar cast the dissenting votes.
According to Heap, StreetScan Inc. will use video and artificial intelligence to assess sidewalk and curb ramp conditions throughout the city. The project will assist the city in developing a sidewalk management plan to determine the order of future sidewalk repair.
Previous sidewalk surveys were conducted by interns, volunteers and staff, but were limited as they only assigned a “pass/fail” grade, Heap said.
Marques said she couldn’t support the contract during a time when the city is laying off and furloughing workers due to budget cuts prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s not the $142,000 that I’m squawking about if I knew that money was going to be put into sidewalk repair,” she said. “What I’m squawking about is that it’s going to a consultant to tell us what we already know. We know that the sidewalks, driveways and curbs are dangerous.”
The contract is being funded by the city’s Vehicle Registration Fee, which is used to pay for road and sidewalk projects, according to Heap, adding that the $142,890 could instead be used for sidewalk repair.
Mayor Roland Velasco said the consultant will give the city a comprehensive report on the state of the sidewalks, which is something the city cannot currently do with its limited staffing.
“It’s naive for us to say we know where the problem is,” he said. “We don’t know where the problem is. To simply say this is too expensive, let’s not do it, I think is the wrong approach for the council to take.”
Gilroy’s transportation network consists of 125 lane-miles of roads and sidewalks, and is considered the city’s largest asset with a value of more than $220 million, according to the Public Works Department.