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Proposal to shift sidewalk costs hits wall

Original post made on Apr 18, 2008

Met with widespread opposition, City Manager Frank Benest's proposal to shift some of the costs, and liability, for Palo Alto's sidewalks to property owners may be dropped.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 18, 2008, 4:18 PM

Comments (22)

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Posted by An F grade Manager
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2008 at 5:57 pm

While we are at it - I recommend we pay for the road in front of our houses.

Palo Alto Suckers !!!

Benest is leaving right ? !

I also want to pay for the planes flying overhead as well. Benest will figure out how.

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Posted by logical
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm

If I pay for the sidewalk in front of my home, then I determine who uses it....

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2008 at 6:35 pm

We seem to have slipped into panic mode.

If the City can fund Destination Palo Alto, among other extravagencies, and can't afford to keep up its sidewalks then there is something intrinsically wrong. In my home, we pay for the essentials before wondering if there is something fun to do, the City must do the same.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2008 at 11:06 pm

This is a tax increase and so, I assume, requires a 2/3 vote.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2008 at 7:52 am

Sharing sidewalk costs will generate $600,000; here's some spending that could also generate $600,000:

Destination Palo Alto - $240,000, environmental coordinator-$181,000, city council trips, website-$250,000,city manager communication-$250,000.

$10 million are spent on consultants.

There are 10.5 full time equivalents in the City Manager's office!

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2008 at 9:08 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Senor Blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:04 am


The City owns the trees on my street. I will not pay anything to repair a sidewalk that is destroyed by City Trees.

If the City wants to save money, Don't replace the 4 or 5 senior City Managers and Directors who are retiring soon......

Senor Blogger

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Posted by corner house owner
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:26 am

It is a bad idea. Especially for those of us who own a house on a corner where we have a lot more sidewalk than others.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:34 am

We are already paying for this. It is included in our property taxes. It is a charge that is equally calculated into every individual property tax. What is being proposed is an extra charge disproportionate to some. I doubt very much that those who live on flag lots would get a discount, therefore some would pay disproportionately more than others. Ridiculous.

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Posted by Tom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

The city-owned camphor trees have uplifted the walkway into my home and seriously cracked the driveway. The city owns approx. 4 feet of the property line beyond the sidewalk. It is the city's tree, but I have to foot the repairs! Big money for pavers or whatever. And the city wants to buy a $180K new statue for California Avene and $250K for this ridiculous Destination Palo Alto?? How many of the locals bother to go downtown now? We go to Los Altos and Mt. View and Menlo Park to shop. Much more peaceful.

Like this comment
Posted by Living in Paradise
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2008 at 11:37 am

I want to pay very low property taxes.
I want the city to pay for everything that benefits me.
The city budget can be slashed by cutting all services that do not directly benefit me.

Like this comment
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Councilman John Barton said the proposal made him "squirm." Council members Yoriko Kishimoto and Pat Burt said they also oppose the idea.

The current city-pay-all system is "embedded in the Palo Alto culture," Mayor Larry Klein said.

He's been getting calls about the proposal.

"I've been telling people who use extreme language that this wasn't a crazy idea submitted by the city manager because most communities do it this way, but that doesn't mean we should do it," Klein said.

Maybe the Council Members who voted for the 2007-09 Adopted Capital Budget have forgotten that they approved the Sidewalk Repairs capital project which reduced $250,000 from contract construction by permitting the City to only replace sidewalk damaged by tree roots, and make property owners responsible for paying to replace sidewalks not caused by root damage. At the time staff failed to mention that property owners would have legal liability if they did not replace the damaged sidewalk they are responsible for. See page 94 of the capital budget, or page 126 of 354 at Web Link.

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Posted by Senor Blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm

The link wouldn't work for me, but if what you say is true; that the City passed a new law in the guise of a budget, and that liability issues were set, in the guise of a budget, then this issue needs to be re-visited by the Council immediately.
Senor Blogger.

Like this comment
Posted by Risky Sidewalk
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 21, 2008 at 5:57 pm

I suggest every homeowner put up a sign on their portion of the side walk saying:

"This portion of sidewalk can be hazardous to your health, walk at your own RISK"

I am sure this kind of legislature will be picked up by some "National Newspaper" and it will be put to rest for good - additionally putting the people who suggested it to shame.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

Risky Sidewalk:

To be a member of the CITY COUNCIL, CITY STAFF, or to be City Manager, City Attorney or other high positions in the City of Palo Alto

You first must prove that you have no shame....

Would you ask the people who gave you 1.4 million in perks, at one time. 8 years ago for more money? After the type performance he has give or condition the City will be in once that person is gone, for real.?
Remember for now he has only promised to leave?? And we know how good a promise from him is????


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Herb, thank you for the link to the capital budget. I see the shift of costs from City to property owners, but I don't see any mention of liability. How is a property owner liable for accidents on a City-owned sidewalk on City-owned property. I own neither the sidewalk, nor the property on which it sits, nor the City tree that is causing the damage.

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Posted by Andrew L. Freedman
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Hi folks,

I'm a law school drop-out from years back, but this would have made for good classroom discussion in torts.

If the property owner becomes responsible for sidewalk repairs and there was a slip and fall case surrounding the sidewalk, would the homeowner then be liable for damages? Would the city? Both.

And to give this "case" more facts, say the city notified the houseowner that repairs needed to be made, but the homeowner waited 2 months to have the repairs done because they didn't have enough funds at the time of notification. In between that time is when the plaintiff suffered damages because of the faulty sidewalk.

(Dang, this makes me want to go back to law school.)


Like this comment
Posted by The Lorax
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Here is how Gilroy's sidewalk program works: Web Link

They do 50/50 cost share. Basically, State law covers this issue and property owners ARE ultimately responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, curb, gutter and park strip along their property frontage. Corner lots get a bad deal, while flag lots get a great deal.

In places where it snows, property owners are also responsible for clearing the sidewalk of ice and snow. My Parents were sued because someone slipped on "their" sidewalk. Their homeowners insurance paid the claim ($50K). The person who slipped was an older woman walking in a housecoat and slippers in a snowstorm.

Palo Alto has a really good deal right now. The cost of the program is partially funded by the utility users tax through an unofficial earmark of the funds. I personally think it is a nice program that keeps property owners from hating the street trees that cause much of the damage.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrew L. Freedman
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Hi The Lorax,

Thank you for your post. I had no idea that CA statutes addressed this and that homeowners are indeed responsible. After reading your post, I did some quick research as follows (link is at the bottom) This is from the City of Burlingame:

"A recent survey shows that 10 out of 11 Peninsula cities require that sidewalk repairs to be the responsibility of the adjoining property owner including:
• Pacifica
• Daly City
• San Bruno
• Millbrae
• San Mateo
• Foster City
• Belmont
• San Carlos
• Redwood City*
• Menlo Park*

*Menlo Park and Redwood City require that property owners pay 50% of the repair costs. South San Francisco does not require the adjoining property owners to be responsible for sidewalk repairs.

Here's the link:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2008 at 5:02 pm

That's incredible. In New England, where I retired to and previously grew up, I have never heard of the homeowner being responsible for sidewalk repairs. Clearing off snow, yes. Anything else, never.

What are there companies you hire to fix sidewalks? This is nuts.

Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2008 at 6:59 am

Janet. Welcome to the GOLDEN STATE,, Where upper level Employee's get paid in gold.

Citizens and lower level employee's get the lead for there work..

In New England did the City Manager get 1.4 million in peeks and 200,000.00 + a year to run a city like this... Nice job??? they are doing..

If you believe Frank. And this one of the richest city's in America has so much trouble , How do the little ones ever get bye??? I guess they do not have baby boomers Frank..??

Like this comment
Posted by puzzled
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:02 am

What are they paying taxes for then ? Its each city's own responsibility to maintain thier property .I am shocked how Calif can adopt new things to suit it. Being from the midwest originaly Ive never heard of this going on there.
Wouldn't this leave the city open to a lawsuit for not using thier funds apropiately ,and causing extra burden on people finances.That is what your sales tax goes for to help the city maintain thier roads and property.I could see uping the sales tax to help fund the repairs, But not cost sharing. Is the city going to cost share on your property taxes ?
I am shocked so many citys have this in California

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