Is Atlanta’s sidewalk ordinance an excuse to do nothing? (a message from PEDS)
In June 2012, an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the City of Atlanta’s costly payouts to pedestrians injured after falling on broken sidewalks or other damaged infrastructure. The city’s sidewalk regulations — which make property owners financially responsible for paying for repairs to abutting sidewalks–are a big part of the problem. “We have not taken the step toward being the big bad city and forcing payment,” Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza told the reporter.
Complaints about broken sidewalks continued to increase. In response, Public Works tried to enforce the ordinance. In early February, it mailed letters to 93 households notifying property owners of broken sidewalks, estimating repair costs, and asking for a response within 15 days.
The letters angered Councilmember Carla Smith, who represents a neighborhood where 26 households received letters. At the February Sidewalk Task Force meeting, she accused Public Works of a conspiracy against her people and called for a moratorium.
Yet for years Smith has opposed amending the ordinance. “If we were to change the legislation,” she told the East Atlanta Patch in February, “that would mean immediately, the city would have to go out and fix the sidewalks. There’s no easy solution.”
PEDS believes it’s past time for Atlanta’s officials to make tough decisions. It’s also past time to fix the sidewalks. Atlanta’s pedestrians deserve better than a pretend program.
PEDS CEO Sally Flocks chairs one of the Sidewalk Task Force’s subcommittees. At the February Sidewalk Task Force meeting, her presentation identified numerous barriers to using the existing sidewalk ordinance to fund sidewalk maintenance. It also recommended solutions. These include:
- Developing a proactive inventory of sidewalk conditions
- Creating weighted formulas that enable the City to prioritize repairs
- Using a two-pronged approach of repair and replacement
- Providing dedicated funding for sidewalk repairs
- Applying consistent funding methods.
Please ask your City Council representatives to amend the sidewalk ordinance. Sidewalks are public assets, just like the streets. The City should dedicate tax dollars to repair both.
PEDS is eager to organize walking tours in each of the City Council districts. To do so, we need help planning routes and spreading the word. Please contact us if you’re willing to volunteer.