SAN DIEGO — The city of San Diego never waived permit repair fees for sidewalks, despite a January announcement from the mayor's office saying it would do so throughout 2020.
A homeowner pays the fees, which total to just over $2,000, when he or she elects to repair the sidewalk in front of their home. A spokeswoman for the mayor says, however, that the city had to delay the fee waiver program once the coronavirus outbreak hit. The city instead was forced to cut upwards of $50 million from the general fund budget.
"The City continues to prioritize sidewalk repair amid the uncertainty and budgetary impacts that COVID 19 has brought," city spokesman Anthony Santacroce said in a statement. "While COVID-related holds slowed repair down for a few months, we estimate another 10,000 locations will be repaired with concrete slicing this (fiscal year 2021) and we are off to a great start."
The news release announcing the fee waiver, however, is still on the city's website.
Marie St. George, a Mission Hills resident, saw that announcement and contacted the city. She wanted to spend upwards of $7,500 to repair the crumbling sidewalk in front of her home. That sidewalk, laid down in 1922, is likely one of upwards of 81,000 backlogged locations the city has marked for repair.
"I actually am afraid now," St. George said. "People could trip. It's become sort of a hazard."
The city has a program to split the construction cost with residents, as both the city and homeowners can be liable for the condition of the sidewalk. St. George, however, was willing to pay all of the cost because she wanted it done faster. However, when she called to get the permits, the city representative said she couldn't waive the fees.
"I thought based on the mayor's announcement that it would be waived, so it was pretty shocking," she said.
Councilman Mark Kersey, who heads the Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which was moving the fee waiver program forward, said in a statement that he hopes this will be prioritized as money comes available.
“Repairs on sidewalks are even more important in the pandemic since so many people depend on them every day," he said. "Programs like the fee waiver can keep residents moving safely and save valuable City dollars by preventing trip-and-fall lawsuits."
The city says it also repaired or replaced more than 7,500 sidewalk locations last fiscal year. The mayor's spokeswoman says the hope is to get the fee waiver program to the full council by the end of the year.