Cities used to repair sidewalks out of their own budget. But years ago the California Legislature gave cities the option of assigning that obligation to the adjacent property owners. San Carlos, like many cities, made that choice.
I was okay with that for several years as a Council member, because the legal advice I was given was that the adjacent property owners were 100% liable for trip-and-fall hazards. If they were 100% liable, it seemed reasonable for them to pay to maintain and repair the sidewalks.
But last year our City Attorney told me about a 2005 court decision he’d just come across. In it, cities were held to be potentially liable for up to 50% of trip-and-fall costs, depending on the precise facts and circumstances.
This caused me to change my mind about how we “share” the cost of repairing and maintaining sidewalks. I believe the city should pay for half of the cost of repairs.
I brought this matter up before the Council, but I couldn’t get two other Council members to agree to discuss the matter (we currently use a “rule of three” to add things to the agenda…which I think is silly, since three members is enough to act on a matter, not just discuss it).
I was going to bring it up as a budgetary amendment when the budget was approved in June. It only requires two members to make a motion, and Matt Grocott has supported the change.
Unfortunately, the budget was moved, seconded and approved while I was out of the room… for two minutes, going to the bathroom. A bizarre breach of etiquette by Mayor Johnson — budgets are kind of important, and in every other case I’ve seen, the meeting is delayed if a member steps out of the room (mayors, including Cameron, have been known to send out staff to locate missing members…but not in this case).
Mayor Johnson also subsequently turned down my request to agendize the item separately, using a two person rule, since it would’ve been brought to a vote during the budget approval if he’d delayed the meeting for a minute. He declined that request.
But that’s all background. This isn’t about Council etiquette, or choices made by the mayor.
It’s about whether or not you think the City should share in the cost of repairing public sidewalks.
You can read an earlier post I wrote on this subject at http://council.olbert.com/2016/06/10/tripping-over-sidewalk-maintenance/