Broken sidewalks may not be quite as dangerous as rutted streets, but they too can be treacherous. An estimated 42% of the 10,750 miles of sidewalks in the city of Los Angeles are crumbling or buckling, lifted by tree roots in some places to scarily high inclines. The city gets about 2,500 "trip and fall" claims each year, and wheelchair users have sued the city, contending that the sidewalks are an obstacle course that violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
That they need to be fixed is a no-brainer. But before the city even starts that daunting task — and tussles with property owners over who should pay and how — it has to inventory the damage.
When the Bureau of Street Services last month proposed a meticulous three-year survey of every sidewalk in the city — with the survey alone costing $10 million — some City Council members balked, suggesting it could be done faster and cheaper with residents, community activists and nonprofit groups doing the work of counting and cataloging the damaged sidewalks.
That's not a bad idea for a preliminary accounting. We think it would be resourceful, even noble, to enlist volunteers to use all their gadgetry and smartphone cameras to photograph and note locations of damage, as Councilman Bill Rosendahl suggested. Those photos could then be uploaded to a city database.