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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tell City Council Candidates - We Want Safe Sidewalks Everywhere

In the Friday Open Thread, I mentioned how difficult it is for students and adults with disabilities during big weather events.  
We are going into an election season for City Council that will see many new members.  I urge you to bring this up with candidates - all parts of the city need sidewalks and they need to be ADA accessible.
Here are the comments from that thread that I found compelling.

I can tell you that as a disabled person it's very had on me when it snows but it's not just that. When there's a fire alarm drill at my work, I'm forced to wait in the stairwell until the firemen arrive and remove me in a gurney. Your trash cans put out on the sidewalk block my access to my bus stop. I won't even start with the short comings of metro. Even with the ADA and it's laws a disabled person can not receive compensation over violations of the ADA, only lawyers can.

Please try

Street Walkers said...
I've been digging and digging looking for sidewalks under all this snow, and do you know what, Mayor Durkan? There are no sidewalks down there! That's right, 26% of the city has no sidewalks. In my neighborhood the students (and everyone else) are all walking IN the roadway. We normally walk on the shoulder, but in weather like this it's covered with weirdly parked cars, a mountain of plowed ice, and 8 inches of old snow. Kids are walking in the street.
Anonymous said...
Every time it snows in Seattle and shuts down the schools, I inevitably have Midwestern trolls on Facebook ("friends") who harp on how weak and pathetic Seattle is. These friends live in flat, low, well-plowed neighborhoods I might add. But I agree there are real issues for many, many people having a really hard time getting around in snowy, icy, and slushy conditions who are invisible to the rest of us.

In SE and N and NNE Seattle there are a lot of kids who just don't have good shoes for weather like this, and I see many kids walking into school either without coats or with only a thin hoodie. When parents complain about indoor recess on snowy days, they bristle when remindeded of kids without those clothes, as though they don't matter. I can't quite understand that.

We have a lot of schools that don't lie on arterials whose streets and parking lots didn't get plowed until last Wednesday night. I'm sure the schools in NW Seattle and Madison Park were accessible before that, but "forgotten" schools need the attention of the city for access too. And, yes, 26% of Seattle has no sidewalks, so you find kids walking to school in the middle of the road, the only place it's clear, sharing it with cars heading to their same school. Many of even the plowed roads were plowed only one lane wide, so if there's twoway traffic it just compounds the hazard. It's incredibly dangerous. Having a car is not a requirement to attend public school, and not every family has a car or enough cars for one parent to make it to work and the other to get kids to school.

Special education buses don't run even on late-start days, so those kids have to be driven by parents or stay at home when parents can't drive.

Another invisible population are kids who rely on parents to get them to school, but the parents have mobility issues or have other disabilities (MS, diabetic issues with feet, asthma - I could go on). More than a few kids at are school are living with and being raised by grandparents, who in many cases are wise not to want to break a hip walking a child to school. Snowy, slushy, and icy conditions are real mobility challenges for parents, even if the kids could fare alright on their own.

But if your child is younger than 8, you risk having someone call CPS if you let them walk to school alone - especially brown and black kids. It's something majority families probably never pause to think about.

Snow days are a hassle, but many don't realize what the mere act of getting to school entails for our neighbors and classmates. I wish not only that the mayor and superintendent could gain clarity on this, and I will tell them to, yes, but also that the able would remember to chip in for the disabled if they can.

Invisible Disabilities

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why? so more homeless camps can be setup on them. I have a sidewalk in front of my house because I paid for it. Are you suggesting I now pay for sidewalks in front of houses who owners refuse to pay for sidewalks. Are you the new Mike O'Brian?


Stop stealing

Melissa Westbrook said...

StopStealing, most sidewalks were built by the City. How you paid for yours is not really the point. I think many homeowners would put in some money if the bulk of it was paid for by the City.

Given we are talking about children and adults with disabilities having public access to moving about safely in a city, your tone is unpleasant.

Shoveler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Dark money right funded wing proselytizers are working overtime I see.

-Cynic

Anonymous said...

Dark money-funded propagandists I mean to say!

-Cynic

Anonymous said...

First: Where have all of these unpleasant trolls come from? Calling MW a multi-millionaire is just crazy talk and you know it. This is a very important topic as we all look out our windows and STILL see white stuff on the ground well past its expiration date IMHO.

Now for some facts—remember those? Here's some info on sidewalks straight from the City: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/pedestrian-program/sidewalk-development-program

And one talking about residents taking matters into their own pocketbooks:
https://crosscut.com/2018/11/unwilling-wait-1800-years-sidewalks-seattle-residents-experiment

And finally:
https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/05/21/seattles-sidewalk-plans-air-levy-reset/

Now, can we stop with the ridiculous name-calling and uncited "facts" and start serious discussions again? This blog used to be filled with productive conversation. Now it's been waylaid by a bunch of trolls just looking for a fight. I refuse to play.

SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

It's very simple, the city has the authority to tax homes without sidewalks and use the funds to build sidewalks, just like they are taxing owners of properties for the waterfront park. That's the solution, but don't come banging on my door for more money. I'm done and I'm hearing that from most of my fellow neighborhood PROPERTY OWNERS.

Those articles you cited do not tell you the real story (who parks a motorcycle on their front porch and complains about the lack of sidewalks) The city is responsible for the street intersections and the city has been building out ADA compliant street transitions on 3rd Ave NW for the last year, but you will notice that no sidewalks have been built other than the 6 feet for each side of the transitions. There are several reasons for this none are due to lack of funding. CrossCut is well known progressive mouth piece for all things liberal, so take what they publish with a gain of salt.

The city has already installed yet another traffic light an 3rd ave NW for bicycles that no one rides. All the while ignoring the need for turn lanes and signals at the Holman road and 3rd intersection. The city allows heavy buses to crush 3rd ave and that creates large pot holes that never get filled. The city allows the 28 bus to crush the street edges of 3rd ave NW causing hazards so foolish bike riders using the busy road must swerve into traffic to avoid the washouts.

These the same city folks who almost got away with demolishing the Holman road pedestrian overpass if not for the threat of a huge lawsuit by parents.

So chew on those facts and feel free to call me out if you think you know better.

Stop Stealing

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say how the City should come up with the funding (I surely don't believe it should all come from home owners and I'd like to see how that happened in the past).

Those of you that cannot make a comment without personal attacks are not welcome here.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There are several ways to add to walkability without full out sidewalks per the City.

https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/pedestrian-program/sidewalk-development-program

Anonymous said...

It’s my understanding that building codes usually required developers to provide sidewalks in new neighborhoods. Whether a neighborhood has sidewalks would depend on the building code in place at the time houses were built. Many neighborhoods in the north end were not inside the city limits when they were developed and would have been subject to different building codes.

I think property owners should pay 100% of the cost of new sidewalks because they will be receiving the benefits of increased walkability and increased property value.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

@Fairmount Parent

Then I'm charging you a toll to use the sidewalks should you come visit anyone in my sidewalk-less neighborhood.

I say that facetiously, because sidewalks are obviously a community expense, not and individual expense. I don't need a sidewalk in front of my own house to get anywhere; I need a sidewalk in front of other people's houses (and businesses) to get anywhere. Street lights, cross walks, curbs, gutters, signage: these are all infrastructure costs borne jointly by every member of the community as taxed. Yes, even people who already have sidewalks. We can't live in a society where everything is à la carte and individual. Even the new seawall downtown, which is being paid for by a tax on property owners downtown, is passed on by businesses downtown to customers in parking fees, surcharges, tax breaks, etc.

Tolling All

Anonymous said...

When the city annexed the area north of 85th, the area was promised sidewalks. It was part of the annexation deal. Where are our sidewalks?

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not sure how you "make" owners of newly built houses pay for a piece of sidewalk. It would seem weird that the older houses would have no sidewalk but there would be a strip in front of a new house.

EVERYONE benefits from sidewalks so saying owners should pay because they get the most benefit just isn't true.

Anonymous said...

@HP where's your proof?

We paid to have our sidewalk and driveway install in 1969. The people on Dayton all opted out of the group buy in.

I think sidewalks are nice however very few people use them maybe 10 people a week walk on ours. I haven't walked on it for years.

I could really use the $8k we paid returned in a property tax credit.

No beef

NNE Mom said...

I want sidewalks between my house and my kids' elementary school - so that my kids don't have to walk in the streets to get to school. There aren't even sidewalks on many of the arterials north of 85th. Lake City Way NE, south of NE 95th Street, is one of the top 10 city arterials by volume in the city. 42,194 average week day traffic trips. Aurora Way N measured at N 112th has terrible speeding problems and sidewalks that are there one one block not on the next, there on one side then on the other. These are all massive arterials within school walk zones. You would think we could get state funding for sidewalks on 99 or 522 (they're state highways)? Bicycle collisions are off the charts on Linden Ave N by Bitter Lake, a few blocks from a title one K-8 school.

This is a civic, community issue for children growing up in the city. But not just children, other human beings as well. And it's also a public education issue because it effects schools.

Anonymous said...

No beef, are you north of 85th?

On my street north of 85th, there are many walkers from other micro-neighborhoods passing through in the street to get to the Burke Gilman. One lane of our side street major connector street was finally/first plowed the night before or early morning the day school restarted. One lane available; a garbage truck stopped; two or three cars behind and in front of garbage truck; on the sides of the lane a 2.5 ft high ribbon of crisp slush, bordered by a ditch that is running full now of melt. Do we need a sidewalk? I think it would be a very epensive engineering project to handle storm drainage. The walking path that needs improvement is on NE 95th going from 35th to Sandpoint. That is an arterial with fast cars that bus riders need to walk on. The walking path is level with the driving lane. The paint and signage is not sufficient.
NESea mom

Penguin Park said...

NE 95 needs serious help the whole way from Lake City Way to Sand Point Way. There aren't even crosswalk stripes at most intersections. That's just paint. That road gets 9100 cars between LCW and 35th on an average weekday and 7600 cars a day between 35th and Sand Point Way.
https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/About/DocumentLibrary/Reports/2018_Traffic_Report.pdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Beef, I having a hard time believing your story. Who did you contract with to build the sidewalk and who did you pay? Did you need a permit from the city of Seattle? I have to wonder about someone with a sidewalk in the front of their house that you haven't walked on in years. You never use it to put out trash or recycling?

I'm not trying to be difficult but it doesn't all add up.

Anonymous said...

Olympic Manor in Crown Hill area paid privately for the sidewalks there when the area was developed from a golf course in the mid-1950s (and to bury power lines). It was and still is considered “built in” to the price of the home. It’s the reason many people from surrounding neighborhoods come to walk their dogs and drive their kids there for trick-or-treating.

NW Parent

Anonymous said...

The blocks between North 92nd and 99th on Fremont, we opted in around 1968 to build sidewalks and concrete driveways. Take a look around and ask yourself why the random build out of the concrete streets and sidewalk with storm sewer and curbs? Why? because the city offered to build those in exchange for an additional property tax levy or you could pay a % up front.

The levy expired in 1979 unless you paid money down then it expired sooner. The program ended in 1973 because of the recession in Seattle you know that recession which lasted well into the late 80s. You newbies can't relate to good old Seattle when the 3Rs mattered and Metro sports ruled.

When qualifying for the program you had to have 100% of the properties on your side of the street opt in plus have a contiguous connection to at least one end of the street.

There is a new chicken box home that went in up on north Fremont and the developer was forced to build out the whole sidewalk end to end on that side of the street and the other homes worked it out to get their driveways for only the cost of the concrete.

So you could drive over to north Fremont and ask the owners if the city paid for their sidewalk and driveway. Or you could look up the permits for the contractor and you will see they built the sidewalks and driveways not the city.

So feel free to contact the city and ask them to resurrect the sidewalk levy program because that's the only way new sidewalks are going to happen in residential areas.

No Beef



Anonymous said...

Don’t current house prices, and thius also property taxes, kind of take this into account as well? We chose to live in an area closer to the Core, in an area with sidewalks and a high walk score. It was more expensive than many of the outlying areas with no sidewalks, but we prioritized wallability over many other things.

When it comes to the possibility of the city funding these improvements, it’s another question of priorities. Seattle has any other needs, too. Even with sidewalks, my child does not feel safe walking to/from school—there are too many people sleeping in nearby doorways and walking around loudly talking to themselves. Housing and mental health seem like more urgent priorities than sidewalks in outlying neighborhoods to me. Paint and crosswalks and maybe better signage could be a short-term fix until sidewalks are the most urgent need.

HF

Anonymous said...

@HF In contrast to other states (such as NY etc) I believe in WA state it much harder to get someone into either short or long term mental health treatment. It's more than a funding issue. That is a big barrier IMO. It's one reason we see so many mentally ill people on the street as compared to other cities.

JK

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle does have a plan:

https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/pedestrian-program/sidewalk-development-program

It's just slow, slow, slow. Again, I have no problem asking people to contribute to sidewalks but pay all of it? That would depend on the cost.

As well, we have a levy for everything else and we all say yes, why not sidewalks?

HF, good points but I still think everyone deserves sidewalks. We seem to spending a lot on homeless issues (which I do not begrudge).

Anonymous said...

Ironically we bought our house so the kids could walk to school. At the time, everything for Seattle Public Schools was lottery so we opted into a private school for K-8 for one kid and K-12 for the other. By the time my youngest went to Hale, it was now neighborhood schools and not a lottery. We chose to stay there with no sidewalks because it was in Hale's neighborhood. I would have gladly paid more for sidewalks. At the time we bought our first house, the realtor told us that the city had promised sidewalks for the area annexed north of 85th but that the city have never honored that. The realtor also told us that people preferred the country feel of the neighborhood. Personally, I would have preferred to move south of 85th and have sidewalks but then we wouldn't have been in Hale's neighborhood.

HP

Anonymous said...

I was mixing up HF and HP above with who has sidewalks...Even with no sidewalks, we have very high property taxes now... north of 85th
NESea mom

Anonymous said...

HP is short for Hale Parent. :) Yes, we pay a lot in property taxes already. I'd like to see more sidewalks at least on one side of the street. I think they are more important than bikelanes, because everybody walks.

HP

Grouchy Parent said...

If you wanted to live somewhere with sidewalks, you should have bought a house somewhere with sidewalks.
If you wanted to live somewhere with a professional basketball team, you should have bought a house somewhere with a professional basketball team.
If you wanted to live somewhere with a school board director who actually holds public meetings, you should have bought a house in a neighborhood with a school board director who actually meets with the public.
If you wanted to live somewhere where there wasn't a title one school, you should have bought a house in an assignment area with a school that wasn't title one.
If you wanted to live somewhere where your student's principal wasn't incompetent, you should have bought a house in a neighborhood assigned to a school where the principal wasn't incompetent.
If you wanted to live somewhere where ethnic studies is taught in schools, you should have bought a house somewhere where ethnic studies is taught in schools.
If you wanted to live somewhere where child rapists don’t work as teaching aides or coaches, you should have bought a house somewhere where the district doesn’t employ rapists.

These are all ridiculous arguments. Cities change. Bye bye Kingdome, Sonics, Viaduct.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Grouchy, I find your argument hard to follow.

Grouchy Parent said...

I'm basically saying this: The idea that the answer to life's problems is buying just the right house is privileged and just not true. The median home ownership is something like 9 years. A lot of things can change even in that amount of time, things that will make a homeowner's happiness with their neighborhood go up or down. But people can improve a lot of things for the better (whether they own a house or not). Sidewalks can be added. Criminals can be fired. Politicians and school board representatives and superintendents and principals come and go. Public works are accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Grouchy Parent, it is not easy to move once you've settled somewhere. And in a minute things change. Like the city council, or the school board, or the principal.
NESea mom

Anonymous said...

These are such problems of the privileged. Sidewalks. What about basic school funding? Quality water? Heat? School buildings? What about all th challenges of kids and families - who also deserve sidewalks - south of the ship canal?
-South End Teacher

Anonymous said...

Why are people spreading mis information? There are plenty of sidewalks north of 85th in Seattle. There many areas in west Seattle that do not have sidewalks. I think you want to say north of 110th at least in NW Seattle. OMG did you know there are no sidewalks in the Highlands?

Look around

Anonymous said...

Yes we are aware that there are other areas of the city with no sidewalks. It is mostly the areas that were annexed later like north of 85th. I work in Georgetown and there is a definitely a lack of sidewalks here too.

Grouchy's arguments are spot on. It is very privileged to say, buy a house with sidewalks near a school that you like. Most people buy what they can afford and then stay put. We've been north of 85th since Clinton's first term and don't plan on moving anytime soon unless it is out of town.

HP

Anonymous said...

Sidewalks generate this much debate, disagreement, naecalling and anger. We are going to solve global warming? Schools are going to be equitably funded? Acheivement gaps closed? No, these things aren’t going to happen because people can’t even be civil about sidewalks after a fifty year snow storm.

Melissa Westbrook said...

South End Teacher, we discuss those issues all the time. This particular thread is about the inequities for disabled children and adults to be able to navigate this city and particularly to get to school safely.

That the discussion is about the north end doesn't mean no one doesn't mean the south end. I mean the whole damn city.

Anonymous said...

The City is asking for ideas on for parks and street improvements projects. The criteria are that costs should be below $90,000.

I assume this is similar to the old neighborhood grant programs that we used to help renovate our playground at Graham Hill Elementary. It was so bad that they had to mow the asphalt.

So, if people want to gather with neighbors and work to develop a plan to improve walkability around their schools, here's your chance:

https://frontporch.seattle.gov/2019/01/30/help-decide-how-to-spend-2-million-on-park-and-street-improvements-in-seattle/

SolvayGirl

Stan said...

We're not the only ones talking about this. Seattle owns only 36 snowplows, lacks sidewalks in many places and has a very poor sidewalk shoveling record in the places where there are sidewalks, and we get a big snow like this every 10 years or so. We were only able to have 4 full days of school in February so far. That's pretty pathetic. The financial costs of closing schools and businesses are staggering.

Here's a map of where sidewalks are still missing:
http://seattlegreenways.org/wp-content/uploads/lack-of-Sidewalks-in-Seattle.jpg

The mayor just talked about sidewalks in her state of the city address yesterday. Icy sidewalks make the city very dangerous for people with disabilities and anyone with limited mobility.
https://crosscut.com/2019/02/icy-sidewalks-make-seattle-dangerous-people-disabilities

The city should continue to address the lack of sidewalks and the lack of sidewalk shoveling and the shortage of plows.

It would also be a good idea if Seattle came up with an effective system to feed families who rely on food distribution from schools that could function even when there's a snowstorm or an earthquake.

Anonymous said...

Even many areas that already have sidewalks need new sidewalks. Many are so poorly maintained that they're just as much of a hazard. I've seen people trip all over town because the sidewalks are so cracked and uneven. There's a guy in my busy neighborhood who wheelchairs in the street instead--it's the only passable route. I'd argue that repairing existing sidewalks in higher density neighborhoods with hazardous walkways is more important than adding them in lower density, more "rural" feeling areas.

HF

Enforcement Needed said...

Under Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), Title 15.72, an adjoining landowner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalks adjacent to their property. The adjacent landowner has responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear from vegetation overgrowth, and to make necessary repairs when the sidewalk becomes cracked or damaged.

(https://library.municode.com/wa/seattle/codes/municipal_code?nodeId=TIT15STSIUS_SUBTITLE_IIIMACO_CH15.72SIMA)

Anonymous said...

@Enforcement Needed, true. But just as there's code saying landowners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks, I'm sure there's no code saying the city is responsible for putting sidewalks in where they currently aren't. Even if there is a plan.

Why should the city be responsible for providing sidewalks to people who don't have them but do want them, when people who do have them but don't want them are responsible for paying to replace the ones on their property? If the city is going to be in the safe sidewalks business, they should go all in. A high walk-score area should have high walkability. I don't necessarily want a bunch of strangers walking by my house all the time, but this is a city. Why should I pay for high foot traffic to use "my" sidewalk, but the city pay for sidewalks in low-foot traffic areas that are mostly used by residents?

In an ideal city, we'd have great sidewalks everywhere. But we don't. The questions concern what's feasible, what's highest priority, how best to improve walkability/rollability, etc. I obviously don't have the answers, but it seems folly to put in a bunch of sidewalk infrastructure only to watch it fail due to poor maintenance. If the city wanted to come in and say "hey, neighbors, your block of sidewalk is a mess; here's a chance to redo the whole thing for a reduced cost," that would be one thing. But this piecemeal approach of random houses redoing theirs one little piece at a time is not cost-effective. Homeowners who are already being property taxed out of their houses really can't afford to add full cost sidewalk removal and replacement to the mix.

In the list of priorities for city funds, where do sidewalks stand? And is fining landowners for not being able to afford replacement really the answer? I don't know.

HF


Anonymous said...

HF and Enforcement Needed…

What you say is true. As one of many Seattleites who has done a major faceplant due to an uneven sidewalk, I found out there's little that can be done. I broke my nose and my glasses and had a mild concussion. However, it wasn't bad enough to make it worth filing a lawsuit with the property owners (both commercial establishments) despite definite violations. I did report the violations to the City—both sidewalk buckling and extreme vegetation overgrowth. It took nearly a month for the walk to be fixed and over three for the tree to get cut back. Meanwhile, within my circle of friends, I have since had five others with similar accidents. Seattle sidewalks are a mess. And our city streets are going to be filled with potholes thanks to the snow too.

Maintaining our infrastructure is essential to keeping Seattle liveable. But no one wants to pay for it. And though I too hate paying property taxes, I must say that in comparison to other parts of the country—NY State especially—our taxes are relatively low. My hometown of Solvay, NY, has a median home price of about $129,000 with an assessed value of about $75,000, yet the property tax on that house is $2,750—less than half of what I pay for a home assesed at over 8 times that.

We do need to prioritize our city's expenditures. Let's all make sure we know where our City Council candidates stand on this issue in the next election.

SolvayGirl

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Why should I pay for high foot traffic to use "my" sidewalk, but the city pay for sidewalks in low-foot traffic areas that are mostly used by residents?"

You answered your own question - you live in a city. I don't care if it's a more isolated area. We all pay for things that we may not use for the great good and, in this case, it's the disabled.

Fences make good neighbors? Sidewalks make better ones.

SolvayGirl, yes, NY and NJ pay a lot higher taxes. And, at least in many parts of NJ, they have great schools.

Anonymous said...

MW…

I will say that my hometown had and still has great schools, its own police and electric departments, well-maintained streets—especially in snow.

SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

Southend teacher, People comment on what they know. I know my street, but I may not know a street in another neighborhood. I'm not sure where the southern border of Seattle used to be, but that is probably where the sidewalks stop. Also, along major arterials, often there aren't sidewalks. That is why Safe Routes to School is such an important program. When JAMS opened, they were able to prioritize one arterial that kids were walking down that was dangerous. That discussion came at the PTA meeting. These kids were coming from apartments near Northgate and crossing Lake City Way. I know Rainier is a very dangerous street for kids. Busy streets with no sidewalks should get prioritized improvements, in my opinion, than small side streets with less vehicle traffic.
NESea mom

Priorities said...

Before librarians in schools, before nurses, before counselors...SIDEWALKS!

Anonymous said...

How are we going to solve global warming ...you are kidding right? Man can not control earth nor the sum and have you been outside in the past month? Looks like global warming missed north America.

Who dat

Stupid said...

Global warming slipped on an icy sidewalk.

Anonymous said...

Once again, you trolls are purposely confusing climate change and weather. Take your stupidity elsewhere.

Issues with sidewalks can be reported on the Find it Fixit App. I have reported overgrown sidewalks along with pot holes and needles using the app and had things fixed.

HP

Anonymous said...

Let me interpret HP's comment. "Ignore your own senses, it's a thermometer conspiracy "

HeHe

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, that doesn't answer the question.

I asked a theoretical Why should I pay for high foot traffic to use "my" sidewalk, but the city pay for sidewalks in low-foot traffic areas that are mostly used by residents?

You said I answered your my question - that it's because I live in a city, and that we all pay for things that we may not use for the great good and, in this case, it's the disabled.

Ok...but why doesn't that apply equally to existing sidewalks? Why doesn't the city pay to fix them, since this is, as you said, a city? Ensuring our broken and unsafe sidewalks are safe in high density areas is also important--like you said, for the greater good, and the disabled.

If safe sidewalks are so essential, the city should pay for them--whether it be in areas without them now, or area with crappy ones that need to be replaced. What's the difference? Why should homeowners be responsible for their cost in one area but not others? There's no logic in that.

HF

Anonymous said...

@HF

Although individuals and groups of individuals have opted to pay to put in sidewalks themselves, that was a choice. You also choose how to landscape your yard, whether to pave your driveway, etc. In principal, sidewalk installation is a city function. A basic city function. And, yes, the city should pay to install all pedestrian infrastructure on public rights of way.

As a side note, until about 1965-ish it was fashionable for a time to live in a neighborhood that lacked sidewalks. It felt more suburban, more upscale, and it implied you had the wealth to afford a car and fuel and to do all your errands and commuting by car. I suspect that's why the city has dragged its heels on sidewalks. That, and the skyrocketing cost - proper sidewalks are estimated to cost around $250,000 to install per block now.

But sidewalk maintenance is properly a resident or business responsibility. That is generally true in most towns and cities, anywhere. Your homeowner's insurance likely has a provision requiring this of you as well, no matter where you live. Just as you have a duty to prune your trees hanging over the sidewalk and to mow the lawn, if there is any, between a sidewalk and the curb, or to keep access to your water meter clear, so too do you have a duty to keep your sidewalk in good repair. Seattle went through a period from 1970-1990 when the weakened middle class stopped doing a lot of maintenance on their sidewalks and yards, which is how so many volunteer Douglas firs have sprung up in bad locations, or how old trees have been allowed to push up sidewalks and pavement. Seattle now has a culture of neglect, where people are widely unaware of their responsibility to the community to maintain the edges of their property for the proper access of all. That is a cultural problem, not a funding problem.

It's the same with sewers. The main lines are paid for and maintained by the city. But if your side sewer on your property gets blocked or goes bad, that is your responsibility.

It's the same with power lines. The main lines are paid for and maintained by the utility. But if a neighbor's unpruned Douglas fir drops a branch on your lines and severs them, you pay the cost. Unless you try to go after your delinquent neighbor.

It's the same with gas lines. The utility maintains the main lines, but you pay to install gas service to your house. (Although they make it affordable if you convert enough appliances to gas at the same time.)

Are you on city water? Some properties are still on septic even in the city, believe it or not. You pay to maintain your own septic, and you pay for water to your house, but the utility maintains the main lines under the street.

Let's say for the sake of argument we made the city do sidewalk repairs. That would likely entail a monthly subscription fee, as with your gas, water/sewer, and electric bills. It's not like you'd be getting that service for free.

Sidewalks are like all these other things. It's not new, it's not earth-shattering, it's not mind-blowing. It's the way it's always been, and it's the way it is in every other city too.

Sidewalks Maintained

GHES Mom said...

A culture of neglect. That really summarizes a lot.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Priorities, the district doesn't fund sidewalks. So it's okay to advocate at the places where librarians/nurses/counselors are funded and okay to advocate at the places where sidewalks are funded.

HF, you conflate one thing into two. I was never talking about the broken sidewalks; those should be addressed. But at least they exist.

Good points, Sidewalks Maintained. My main beef with broken sidewalks are people who have trees in their yards that are going to/have broken the sidewalk.

I think we've done this discussion so I'll end it here.