Manteca may have a solution for endless sidewalks around the community that have becoming tripping hazards due to tree roots pushing up concrete.
They may start forcing property owners to make repairs.
An ordinance addressing the maintenance and repair of sidewalks fronting public streets is before the City Council for consideration when they meet on Zoom on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed via the city’s website as well as on Comcast Channel 97.
If adopted, it will lead to a major shift in how the city addresses sidewalk tripping hazards.
Many California municipalities have adopted similar ordinances to mandate that property owners keep their sidewalks in safe condition so that the public at large is not at risk.
Such an ordinance is also needed to shield the city from lawsuits. Case law requires that in order to hold property owners accountable for injuries or damages to the public caused by failing to maintain sidewalks cities must adopt ordnances explicitly stating property owners owe a duty to the public to maintain the sidewalks located within the city limits in a safe condition.
The city over the years has settled a number of claims that can be precursors to lawsuits if they are rejected involving people that have sustained injuries from tripping over uplifted or sunken sections of sidewalks.
“Without this ordinance the City will continue defending lawsuits stemming from sidewalks in disrepair that are the responsibility of the property owners to maintain and expend resources repairing such sidewalks, without the ability to transfer responsibility to the property owners,” City Attorney David Nefouse noted in a memo to the council. “Ultimately, such an ordinance will promote public health, safety, and the general welfare.”
The ordinance as outlined makes it clear:
* the property owner is responsible for the repair and maintenance of sidewalks.
*liabilities for damages and injuries caused by sidewalks not being maintained in a safe manner are the responsibility of property owners.
*once a property owner is notified by the city of a sidewalk that is not in good repair or in good condition, they will have 90 days to repair it.
*the property owner may elect to have the city repair the sidewalk at a cost and charge to the property owner.
*if the property owner elects to do nothing the city may make the repairs and transfer the cost to the property owner.
If the city is forced to do the repairs on its own and they are not reimbursed within a set amount of time, a lien can be placed against the property along with whatever interest accumulated until the debt is paid.
The city also would have the option to make a special assessment against the property and collect the money owed along with other taxes.
City has spent almost $500,000
on studies for safer sidewalks
The proposed ordinance is being advanced after the city has spent close to $500,000 on studies related to sidewalk safety during the past decade without actually doing anything to physically improve sidewalk conditions.
The latest was a $258,058 contract awarded to Fehr & Peers to put together a comprehensive Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. It came five months after the city awarded a $125,000 contract to assess tree damage to sidewalks and over three years after a consultant was hired to literally walk all of Manteca and inventory where there were buckled sidewalks, inadequate or dangerous slopes and driveways and intersections as well as other impediments for the handicapped to get around Manteca in wheelchairs.
Staff back in 2019 acknowledged the city lacked funding to do any of the work that the latest study that was funded by a San Joaquin Council of Governments grant indicated needed to be done. The completed report, however, can be used to leverage state grants such as the Safe Routes to School program funds that Manteca secured years ago to place sidewalk on the south side of Crom Street so students could avoid walking in the street going to and from Stella Brockman School. It also will provide the city with a complete list of what is lacking in the city.
Besides curb, gutter, and sidewalk that is need of repair Fehr & Peers study determined:
*where there are gaps in sidewalks that need to be finished such as on Cottage Avenue between Pine Street and Yosemite Avenue.
*where sidewalk ramps lack compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.
*insufficient “crossing facilities such as where high profile sidewalks are needed or further enhancements such as warning flashers for pedestrians.
*street lighting improvements such as areas lacking it or — as several council members have pointed out — where there are heavily traveled areas such as near Manteca High on Yosemite Avenue where the light level is inadequate given heavy foot traffic.
The information gleaned from the previous two studies was supposed to allow the city to develop a plan and prioritize work that needs to be done. Federal law requires the plan to give a priority to walkways serving government buildings and facilities, bus stops and other transportation services, places of public accommodation, and business districts, followed by walkways serving residential areas.
Once the plan is developed, the city was supposed to identify funding to start work on improving sidewalks.
Manteca’s sidewalk maintenance efforts took a major blow in 2008 when more than half of the streets division’s 16 positions were eliminated during budget cuts. That included four workers who were dedicated to addressing sidewalk, curb and gutter issues.
Manteca has lost essentially 11 years of work when it comes to tackling sidewalk safety.
The lack of a dedicated concrete crew in the streets divisions has forced Manteca in recent years to use the remaining street workers when they have the time to address the most egregious sidewalk issues in high traffic areas .
The city currently due to manpower and funding issues is reduced primarily to grinding down the edges of uplifted segments of sidewalks or using asphalt to create a mini-ramp. Such work is driven in a large point by residents who point out sidewalk safety concerns using the government outreach app or accessing it via the City of Manteca’s website.
How to comment
There are four other ways for the public to make comments and have them included as part of the record.
*The first is eComment where you call up the agenda on the city’s website. New users will need to follow instructions to make an account. The comments are made by going down the agenda on the website and clicking on the eComment icon. Only one comment is allowed per agenda items of up to 500 characters. Any eComment can be at any time up to the item being heard by the council.
*Emailing a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org up until two hours before the meeting. Comments 250 words and under will be read into the record while those over 250 words will be made a part of the official record but not publically read. Copies of the email comments over 250 words will be provided to council members
*Mail comments to the City Clerk’s office at 1001 W. Center St, Ste. B, Manteca, CA, 95337 that is received up to two hours before the meeting start. The same email word rules apply.
*Hand delivered comments to the city clerk’s door drop slot no later than two hours prior to the meeting. The same email world rules apply.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com