Those of us who walk around town know that our sidewalks are in poor condition and can be very hazardous. Last year, the City initiated a new policy regarding sidewalk repair that you should be aware of. Please read below:
For Emergency Sidewalk problems
, please contact Kenneth Emeziem
of the Engineering Division at 981-6444
. Sidewalk inspections are conducted within 5 working days of receipt of the complaint.
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. The policy is effective October 1, 2011.
Sidewalk Repair FAQ
There is damaged sidewalk in front of the property I own. What does the sidewalk repair policy mean to me?
The City will inspect the sidewalk and will schedule the damaged sections for replacement if necessary. You will be billed for only half of the repair costs.
Are there any exceptions to the 50-50 policy?
Yes. The responsible property owner will pay the whole cost if:
- the sidewalk was damaged due to intentional acts of the property owner;
- the property owner replaces the sidewalk independent of the City's Sidewalk Repair Program;
- it's a new sidewalk as a result of a new development or redevelopment project.
How do I know if my sidewalk needs to be repaired? Can I report any broken sidewalk?
Look for uplifted, cracked or deteriorated sidewalk. A basic guideline is that breaks bigger than ¾ of an inch should be reported.
Visit the City online service center
or call 981-CITY
from any landline in Berkeley. You can call about your own sidewalk or any other broken sidewalk you encounter in Berkeley. An Engineering Inspector will look at the sidewalk and make a determination.
What if the damage is done by a tree that is in the City's planting strip?
State law holds property owners responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, and the presence of street trees is no exception. However, the 50-50 cost split keeps the repair costs low for both the property owner and the City.
Can I take out a tree that is damaging the sidewalk?
Yes, but you must first consult with the City's Forester. The Forester will come to your property, evaluate the tree and any other possible options (such as root removal). The City's Forestry Division also has a tree planting program that uses the appropriate species of trees. If the tree planting program has available resources and your site is appropriate, the City will plant the tree. For more information on getting help with trees, click here
If the Inspector says the sidewalk needs to be fixed, do I need to get a contractor?
You do not need to get a contractor. If your sidewalk needs repair, you will be automatically added to the City's repair schedule. You will also be notified of the "not to exceed" billing amount, so there will be no surprises. You will be billed after the repair is completed.
You can hire your own contractor, but you must get permits in advance, and you cannot share the cost with the City.
Because the City's contractor repairs many sidewalks at a time, residents have found that utilizing the Sidewalk Repair Program is less expensive than a private contractor. And again, because the repair costs are shared equally with the City, the cost for the property owner is even lower.
City crews may also patch the damaged sidewalk as a temporary fix at no cost to the property owner.
Could I be sued if someone is injured on the sidewalk in front of my house?
Yes. If a hazardous sidewalk defect in front of your house causes a person to trip, and the person is injured, both the City and the property owner could potentially be sued. (BMC 16.04.010)
Is there any assistance for low-income homeowners?
Yes. For low-income homeowners who provide proof of their low-income status, the City will apply a "due-on-sale" lien on the property, so that low-income homeowners do not have to pay the repair costs out of pocket.
This waiver does not apply to commercial properties.
Is the City going to save a lot of money by splitting repair costs with property owners? And if so, what will it do with that money?
Right now, the City spends about $400,000 of General Fund on sidewalk repairs. About $100,000 in additional funds comes from property owners for sidewalk repairs. The cost-sharing policy is expected to increase the property-owner contributions to $400,000, which means about $800,000 is projected to be available for sidewalk repairs. Since those funds can only be spent on sidewalk repair, the City expects a significant increase in the number of repaired sidewalks.
Back to top