Sidewalk Program

To report broken sidewalks, visit the Online Service Center or call 311.

Effective October 1, 2011: In order to improve the quality of sidewalks in Berkeley, the City will begin sharing the liability and the repair costs for broken sidewalks with property owners. Property owners can take advantage of the 50-50 cost-sharing program by getting their sidewalks on the repair schedule.

State law has long held that property owners are fully responsible for keeping sidewalks in safe condition. However, to ensure that sidewalks provide safe passage for everyone, the City has been performing many needed repairs.

In the past, the City requested reimbursement for the cost of repair, depending on the cause of the deterioration. City staff and residents alike spent a lot of time trying to determine responsibility for the damage. This policy led to disputes over the cause of sidewalk deterioration and reduced the amount of City resources available to fix sidewalks.

To improve the quality of sidewalks in Berkeley, the City will split the cost of fixing the sidewalk on a 50-50 basis. This increases the amount available for sidewalk repair and thus, the number of sidewalks that can be repaired.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sidewalk Work

Why am I responsible for concrete repairs (Sidewalk, Curb, Driveway apron)?

According to California State Law and the BMC (16.04.010), adjacent property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, curb and driveway located in the Public-Right-of-Way in such a way that it will not endanger persons or property passing thereon and will not interfere with public convenience in the use thereof.

If the City’s tree caused the sidewalk damage, why do I have to pay for the repairs?

The City of Berkeley values our urban forest, and it is a critical component of the City’s infrastructure. We all share in the cost of maintaining this infrastructure. Sidewalk damage is not a criteria for tree removal. Often, the new sidewalk and/or curb will be formed in a curved, “bowed-out” fashion to give the tree more room to grow. If the Urban Forestry department determines that the tree will need to removed, you will be given the opportunity to receive a new street tree.

If a City tree causes repeated sidewalk damage, who is responsible for the repairs?

The first repair is shared 50-50 between the City and the property owner. If additional repairs are needed within 10 years after the initial repair, the City will pay 100% of the costs. If a third repair is needed, the City will pay 100% of the costs and the property owner has the option to request that the tree be removed at property owner expense.

Can I take out a tree that is damaging the sidewalk?

If the tree is on the public right-of-way, usually between the curb and the sidewalk, you cannot remove it without an approved Tree Removal Permit from the city’s Urban Forestry Unit. Trees that originate entirely on private property may be removed at the tree owner‘s discretion, with the exception of Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), which is subject to city Ordinance No. 6,905-N.S. The process of addressing tree roots regarding sidewalk damage is: 1) The sidewalk must first be removed to confirm whether tree roots are contributing to the problem; 2) A city arborist will determine if the roots can be pruned and the tree preserved; 3) If the necessary root pruning is likely to compromise the health or stability of the tree, the tree will be considered for removal.

Can I repair the sidewalk myself?

Property owners are always welcome to complete repairs ahead of the City’s program by hiring a licensed contractor and obtaining a Public Works – Engineering permit. These requirements are to ensure conformance to the City’s standards. See more information under “Supplemental Information”.

What happens when my sidewalk is repaired by the City’s program?

Once a repair address is included in the scope of an approved City Capital Improvement Project, repairs are scheduled by the contractor. The resident is notified of the work approximately one- to two- weeks ahead of time, and NO PARKING signs are posted 72 hours in advance of the work. Generally, repairs take about one week, and working hours are 7:30 AM – 5 PM.

What else will happen at my property?

Sidewalk repairs may also include removal of broken concrete in the landscape strip, known as the space between the sidewalk and the curb. Any other concrete and other impervious surfaces in the landscape strip that constitute a tripping hazard will be removed and replaced with soil and/or mulch.

Sidewalk repairs often interface with other improvements. Below are some of the things you should be aware of:

Utility service laterals (including but not limited to your sanitary sewer, water [EBMUD], electrical and gas [PGE], telephone and data communications [such as ATT, Comcast], etc.):

Maintenance of the lateral is the responsibility of the property owner, not the City. Pipe material and installation must conform to City Standards in the Right-of-Way. If noncompliant pipes or other facility is encountered, the condition will be remediated, if possible, at a 100% cost to the property owner. If the condition cannot be brought into compliance, the property owner will be notified of the need to address the noncompliant condition at your cost before the sidewalk is replaced. If the lateral is damaged during construction by the contractor, it is the responsibility of the contractor to repair it.

Irrigation:

Some property owners have installed underground irrigation between their property and the landscape strip (the planting area between the sidewalk and the street). If irrigation pipes are encountered, every effort will be made to protect-in-place. If irrigation is damaged during construction, it is the responsibility of the contractor to repair it.

Stormwater and Groundwater (roof gutters and rainwater leaders, sump pumps, etc.):

Many property owners have installed above-ground and/or underground pipes in the Right-of-Way to remove rain water and ground water from their property. Maintenance of the pipes and any other facilities is the responsibility of the property owner, not the City. Pipe material and installation must conform to City Standards in the Right-of-Way. If noncompliant pipes or other facility is encountered, the condition will be remediated, if possible, at a 100% cost to the property owner. If the condition cannot be brought into compliance, the property owner will be notified of the need to address the noncompliant condition at your cost, before the sidewalk is replaced. If any pipes or other facility is damaged during construction, it is the responsibility of the contractor to repair it.

Landscaping:

Occasionally, landscape (plant) pruning is required for the contractor to place formwork and access the sidewalk work. Property owners are encouraged to trim landscaping ahead of the contractor. The City’s contractor has the right to trim landscaping in the Right-of-Way to access their work; trimming will be minimized to the extent feasible.

Trees on the Private-property side of the Sidewalk:

If roots originating from a tree located on private property are in the way of the sidewalk work, you will be asked to choose one of the following three options. You may trim the roots yourself; you may hire a licensed arborist to perform root-pruning at your cost; or you may authorize the City’s construction contractor to perform root-pruning. The City’s Urban Forestry staff will not prune the roots for you.

Trees in the Landscape Strip (the area between the sidewalk and the street):

The City’s contractor does not perform any root-pruning for trees in the landscape strip (i.e., between the sidewalk and the curb and/or the street). If roots are encountered, the contractor is required to coordinate with the City’s Urban Forestry department to perform root pruning for them.

Fences, retaining walls, flagstone/brick walkways and other improvements at your property:

Generally speaking, the Public Right-of-Way extends a significant distance behind the sidewalk. Permanent improvements made by the property owner, like fences and retaining walls are not permitted in the Right-of-Way without an approved encroachment permit. Encroachment permits may be obtained by contacting Vincent Chen, at vchen@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-6409.

If improvements are impeding the City’s completion of the work, you will be asked to either remove the facility yourself, or the City, employees, agent or contractor will remove it and not replace it. If City, its employees or agent or contractor perform this work, you will be billed at-cost for the removal.

Flagstones or brick walkways immediately adjacent to City-managed concrete work may need to be removed temporarily to facilitate the work. If so, the City, its employees, agent or contractor will remove, stockpile and replace (in approximately the same manner) as existed prior to the work.

Off-Street Parking:

Off-street parking spaces must conform to City Standards. If noncompliant off-street parking is encountered during City infrastructure projects, the driveway approach will be removed and the curb will be restored to a full-height curb. Off-street parking standards can be obtained from Public Works – Transportation Division at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/transportation/.

Supplementary Information

How do I complete sidewalk repairs on my own?

Please read below for more information about completing concrete-infrastructure repairs independently. If you do move forward with completing repairs ahead of the City-managed Sidewalk Repair Program (the 50/50 cost-share), we cannot reimburse you for half of the cost. All permit fees and construction costs associated with the repairs would be your responsibility.

Contractors:

You may choose any contractor that has the appropriate concrete licenses as well as a City of Berkeley business license.

Information about the Engineering Permit and Permit Services:

Concrete work in the Right-of-Way (sidewalk, driveway apron, curb) requires an Engineering Permit, obtained from Permit Services, located at 1947 Center Street, 3rd floor, 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM, M-F (closed every second Friday of the month). For more information about the Permit Service Center, please visit the website at: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/permitservicecenter/. Some permit fees may be reduced and/or waived if damaged sidewalk is due to a tree in the Right-of-Way.

You should obtain the permit after you have a quote from an appropriately licensed contractor. The Permit Services Center can advise regarding contractor licensing requirements. You must submit an acceptable line drawing of the proposed work. Photos are not acceptable.

It is up to you to determine the scope of the project. Concrete standard details and specifications will be provided with the permit; general information for you to discuss with contractors is found at this website: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Planning_and_Development/Home/Residential_Sidewalk_Reconstruction_%E2%80%93_General_Guidelines.aspx

Information about working with trees in the landscape strip (sometimes called "street trees"):

Concrete contractors are not allowed to do any root pruning or grinding. The City’s Urban Forestry Unit shall review the condition and perform any required root pruning. Provide notice 48 hours prior to the time when root pruning is needed by calling the Urban Forestry Unit at (510) 981-6660 between 7:00 AM and 3:30 PM. A message should be left for Forestry Climber Supervisor Humberto Betances. After root pruning is complete, your concrete contractor will have to then clean up the ground organic matter, and proceed with the work.

The landscape strip (that is, the space between the curb and the sidewalk) is under the jurisdiction of the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department of the City of Berkeley. Questions can be directed to parks@cityofberkeley.info, or by calling 510-981-2489.

Capital Improvement Program - Current projects