Thu, Aug

Trees and Sidewalks for the People? Let Them Eat Churros

CORE SERVICE CRISIS -- Los Angeles, the city that has stopped trimming trees, is now considering sloughing off sidewalk repair on homeowners — even damage due to tree roots — which could cost thousands of dollars a pop to fix. Not to be cynical, but this is apparently the next step in our rulers’ Los Angeles Middle Class Eradication Program. You know, I like a good piece of cake, or churro, as much as the next guy, but churros are no substitute for trees and sidewalks.

The problems didn’t happen overnight, not by a long shot, and they can’t be solved overnight. But they can be solved. Last week, LA Neighbors United, a community group, published a short white paper on tree trimming and sidewalk repair that asked the question, “How did we get in this mess?”.

The report comes as the City Council is considering an ordinance that would permanently shift to homeowners sidewalk repair responsibility for damage due to tree roots. The Council’s Budget and Finance Committee and Public Works Committee could take up the measure at any time. Read the proposed ordinance and learn more about the sidewalks issue at www.LAneighbors.org. (Click on “City of Broken Sidewalks” under “Hot Topics”)

Change is constant, the report says, and most people accept the notion of “shared responsibility,” but there’s nothing shared about shifting the entirety of responsibility for tree trimming and sidewalk repair to homeowners. That means the city is no longer in the city business, and that’s not acceptable.

The LA Neighbors United report lays out five principles for “constructive action” on tree trimming and sidewalk repair. In brief, here they are:

● Solve the tree trimming problem first.

The city should identify a revenue stream to fund tree trimming through a regular system. The burden of tree trimming, including root pruning, combined with sidewalk repair, is large … too large for many homeowners, who didn’t bargain for such responsibility when they bought their homes. The city should remain in the tree-trimming business, and fix today’s mess.

● Ensure there is no net loss of trees in the urban forest.

The city’s commitment to tree trimming is critical to ensure there is no additional loss of trees in our urban forest. There is concern that if tree trimming and sidewalk repair responsibilities fall entirely on property owners, many will choose to eliminate trees versus accepting the responsibility for their care, including potential sidewalk conflicts.

● Fix the sidewalk problem within a generation.

Any sidewalk improvement program should ensure that all sidewalks are repaired within a generation. That said, the local economy would benefit significantly if the investment in sidewalk infrastructure could be accelerated. Likewise, the personal safety and reduced liability benefits would be realized sooner. Dangerous sidewalks should be repaired first, regardless of when properties are next sold.

● If the city assumes responsibility for tree root pruning, as Pasadena does, some shared responsibility for future sidewalk repair costs is reasonable.

The city should fix the current mess. Once the problem is addressed, and if the city takes responsibility for tree root pruning going forward, some shared responsibility for sidewalk repair costs is reasonable.

● Any new sidewalk repair program that places even some responsibility on property owners should be accompanied by a financing mechanism that allows repair costs to be paid over time, such as through on-bill financing (property tax bill, utility bill).

You can read the full LA Neighbors United report, perhaps over coffee and churros, while your sidewalk and trees continue to deteriorate out your front door.

Will the last middle-class person left in Los Angeles please remember to turn out the lights? Thank you very much.

(Cary Brazeman, a CityWatch contributor, is a neighborhood council board member and founder of LA Neighbors United. Contact him at [email protected] or through www.LAneighbors.org .) -cw

Tags: core services, trees, tree trimming, sidewalks, sidewalk repair, Los Angeles, City Council, Budget and Finance, Public Works, Cary Brazeman, middle class

Vol 9 Issue 77
Pub: Sept 27, 2011