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Costs to repair San Diego sidewalks skyrockets as backlog increases

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 21:22:36-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Despite a concerted effort to repair San Diego's crumbling sidewalks, a new report by city staff details the vast number of areas in desperate need of repair, as well as the skyrocketing cost to get them fixed.

"We're repairing more now than we ever have, but it continues to be a source of frustration," City Council member Mark Kersey told 10News in an interview Wednesday ahead of a City Council meeting on the matter.

The new data shows that crews have repaired or replaced more than 27,000 sidewalks since the last major assessment was completed in 2015.

However, more than 81,000 sidewalks still need attention. And while an estimate in 2016 put the costs to complete the work at $40 million, that number has now jumped to $90 to 100 million.

"The way it's set up right now is the sidewalk is the property owner's responsibility," Kersey explained. "They own it and they're supposed to maintain it. But because it's in the public's right of way, if someone trips and falls and hurts themselves, the city is the first one to get sued."

Kersey says the repair process is far more complex and time-consuming than simply seeing a problem area and fixing it. Much of this stems from trying to prod property owners into making the repairs.

However, Kersey says the costs of getting the right permits can be prohibitive, even sometimes matching the actual cost of the work.

There is a city program which offers to bypass permitting and have the city do the work for half of the cost, though only a few dozen repairs are processed through the program each year.

Another concern is mounting legal costs. On top of the cost of the actual repairs, the city has spent millions of dollars settling lawsuits stemming from dangerous sidewalks.

"I would much rather put those millions of dollars into fixing the problem than paying out legal bills," said Kersey.