Frequently Asked Questions About Streets and Sidewalks
Previously, vehicle dwelling was prohibited by law everywhere in Los Angeles. A court case forced the city to open up non-residential areas to vehicular living, please read about this via this link. You can see the map of streets where vehicle dwelling is allowed with this link. A street is designated as a green zone because the adjacent properties are zoned as commercial or industrial lots, not because they have been chosen as a good location for vehicle dwelling. Since the development of residential buildings in commercial and industrial areas is happening to help address the housing crisis, I am pushing to have the next iteration of this parking map take into account such development, rather than merely extant zoning alone. The overwhelming majority of our community is residential and these vehicle dwelling maps were designed to prohibit vehicle dwelling in our residential neighborhoods. You will also see this reflected on the map where most streets are red or yellow, meaning vehicle dwelling is either prohibited or restricted by parking regulations that are applied to all vehicles.
Now, it is possible to place parking restrictions on a green zone street, however, this will need to be supported by crime statistics provided by the LAPD. If enough crimes are reported to the LAPD then a case can be made to place parking restrictions for the sake of public safety. It is not legal to base parking restrictions on homelessness, so it is important never to even attempt to justify such a restriction on such grounds. Such a restriction would get overturned by the courts.
Any vehicle parked on a public street is required to move every 72 hours. We do have a problem with parking enforcement resources. I am told the West Valley Parking Enforcement office receives several hundred requests per day and there are not enough inspectors to manage all of the cases immediately – this is not acceptable. I am working with the Department of Transportation to increase patrolling in my district on a more regular basis. During deliberations for the 2019-202 fiscal year budget I was a strong advocate to provide more resources for the Department of Transportation, including parking enforcement. As a result, the Department of Transportation is receiving an additional $20 million which will help alleviate the problem.
Also, if you know of vehicles which have been reported and marked, but have not moved within the time limit, please notify my office at (818) 774-4330. The problem is compounded because many RV owners ignore these tickets until enforcement is escalated. And, unfortunately, the City does not have enough towing companies as contractors to enforce all of those who flout repeated citations. Further, if vehicles are moving even a little bit, they are not considered abandoned even if they appear as run down. I am pushing the Department of Transportation to use available technologies that could enable them to enforce much faster and at a lower cost.
The Sidewalk Repair Program (SRP) is tasked with evaluating and repairing sidewalks. Currently, there are over 30,000 service requests for sidewalks across the city and approximately 11,000 miles of sidewalks. To manage the evaluation and prioritization, the SRP schedules sidewalks with request for ADA improvements first. Residents in need of ADA access can make a request.
You can request all sidewalk repairs through the MyLA311 app or by using this link. The Access Request Program is specifically for people with, or on the behalf of people with, a mobility disability who encounter issues caused by broken sidewalk and barriers. This is the type of request prioritized by the SRP. The general sidewalk repair program is also available for reporting non-ADA issues with our sidewalks. Also, the City’s Sidewalk Rebate Program provides reimbursement for property owners who fix their adjacent sidewalk, however, at this time the application period is closed due to the immense number of applications.
After a sidewalk request is made, the SRP will evaluate and assign a score to the sidewalk. This score is based on several factors including damage severity, ADA compliance, and the volume of pedestrian traffic, among other factors. A maximum score of 45 indicates a sidewalk is in need of immediate repair. Due to the overall backlog of requests, sidewalks with a score of 45/45 are prioritized first. To learn more about the scoring system check out the Council Report on the prioritization and scoring system for the Sidewalk Repair Program.
As Chair of the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee and a member of the Budget Committee I have been advocating for increasing funds for sidewalks and maintenance and will continue to search for creative solutions to address the issue of broken sidewalks. Creative solutions include meandering sidewalks that avoid the problem of overgrown roots, sidewalks constructed with alternative materials, removable tile sidewalks etc. Also, I successfully pushed for additional funds in the 2019-2020 City budget which would be allocated to the general sidewalk repair program – above and beyond the $30 million per year for the ADA-related repairs which the City has committed to fund for 30 years.
These general sidewalk repair funds enable the City to use techniques such as diamond cutting, concrete grinding, and apply other technologies to repair sidewalks quickly without rebuilding them to full ADA standards. This will expedite simple sidewalk repairs, improve the passability of many sidewalks, and allow the City to maximize efficiency.
In May 2015 the City Council approved a ‘Fix and Release’ new policy which accelerates sidewalk repairs and makes the repair process permanent and ongoing. After the City repairs a sidewalk it will give the property owner a 20 year warranty, then release the responsibility for that sidewalk’s maintenance and future repairs reverts to the property owner.
For the last decade most sidewalks have not been getting repaired, in part because the liability for repairing was ambiguous. Most cities place the burden for maintenance and repairs on the property owner. Los Angeles used to do this, but began repairing sidewalks in the 1970s when federal money was available to do so. Also, the City permitted developers to plant ficus and other trees that rip up the sidewalk and therefore many felt the City should be responsible for the repairs. In 2012, the Council proposed that property owners be responsible. I did not think that was fair to change the rules mid-stream to the detriment of unlucky property owners who had a broken sidewalk because of a street tree and authored state legislation to prevent this. Upon becoming a councilmember I worked to create a compromise. This compromise is known as ‘Fix and Release’ and it allows homeowners to get their sidewalks fixed, maintained, and warrantied for 20 years. Ultimately this removes the ambiguity by giving responsibility back to the adjacent property owner after the sidewalk has been properly repaired.
When it comes to actual potholes – holes in the street that can be repaired with an asphalt patch, the City’s record is actually very good. I helped champion and push for a grant through the Innovation Fund (the Innovation Fund is a program run through a committee I chair) that provides the repair drivers Ipads. That, along with significant improvements in our MyLA311 system, resulted in the fact that potholes are now fixed on average, when our weather is not inclement, within 48 hours once they are reported!
When you report the pothole using your smart phone and the MyLA311 app, you can send the geo-location or nearest address of that pothole to the City instantly and it gets integrated into the repair driver’s route in real time. This has resulted in the remarkably fast repairs we are now seeing.
Of course, the clock only starts ticking when someone reports the pothole. That is why I always encourage members of our community to use the app and make a report.
Tri-annually the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) conducts a survey of our streets. The resulting score is known as the pavement condition index (PCI). This score takes into account several variables which include visible street condition, the frequency of traffic, and the weight of traffic loads. Typically, an asphalt road on a major street is expected to last 15 to 20 years. For residential streets, the life expectancy is between 30 and 35 years. This life expectancy requires ongoing maintenance and is negatively impacted when utilities cut into the road.
The PCI score is important because it determines which solution is appropriate for a repair. For moderate and high scoring streets, a slurry seal will likely restore the street. Most instances of resurfacing are, in fact, slurry seals. The seal is not as invasive as a resurfacing, yet, it provides more years of passability and resolves many of the immediate safety concerns. The BSS spends approximately 80% of their resurfacing funds on normal resurfacing projects and 20% on failed streets. This allocation helps promote the longevity of more streets and prevent them from becoming failed streets. However, to address the large number of failed streets in the West Valley I have worked with BSS to address more of the failed streets in my district. As a result, in 2018 approximately 51% of the funding for my district went to fix failed streets.
The estimated cost to repair all of the streets in the city is approximately $4 billion, whereas the City has a budget for street reconstruction and resurfacing of approximately $180 million per year spread out across all Council districts and 6,500 miles of streets. Unfortunately, the Great Recession reduced the amount of resources the City had, including for street maintenance. This caused a backlog of deferred maintenance that the City is allocating more resources each year to address. Thanks to the voters’ decision to fund Measure M, the City now has additional funding to pay for road repairs. Some of these additional funds include the gas tax (also called SB 1) and sales tax (from country measures M and R). As chair of the Public Works and Gang Reduction committee, I am working to ensure that these funds are spent effectively to address the backlog of deferred maintenance, including your street.
At the start of 2019, I met with the City of Los Angeles’ Standards Division where our engineers test new materials for use on our streets. Specifically, I was speaking with the engineers and scientists who have been testing the efficacy of an innovative new material called “1781” that will dramatically lower the cost to repair poor or failed streets by approximately ten times. You can read more about the “1781 mix” in this report from the Bureau of Street Services. When we repave smarter and more cost effectively we can repave more of our streets.
If you want to know the PCI score of your street, want to find out if it is on the list of streets to be repaired this year, or want to urge that your street be on a future repair list, please contact Mirna Esquivel in my office at Mirna.Esquivel@LACity.org or call 818-774-4330.