Sonoma's expensive sidewalk surprise

One and three-quarter inches. That’s a number property owners should think about in the upcoming weeks. It’s a number that is crucial in a project the city is considering to repair sidewalk trip-hazards. And it is the threshold beyond which expensive sidewalk repairs could be required that, under state law, property owners will have to help pay for.

Director of Public Works and City Engineer Dan Takasugi is proposing the project to proactively fix trip-hazards all over Sonoma. Formally called the Sidewalk Trip-Hazard Repair Policy, Takasugi’s plan will divide Sonoma into 11 phases for cutting, starting in the Plaza and moving to areas with heavier foot traffic, with older sidewalk age and areas with “at-risk” populations (elderly and children, for example).

Takasugi initially presented this project to the City Council at its Aug. 19 meeting, noting that, historically, the City of Sonoma enforced the sidewalk repair ordinance by complaint only, and has not actively inspected sidewalks for trip-hazards.

Takasugi also explained that when repairs are too extensive to use the saw-cutting method – meaning a trip-hazard raised more than 1.75 inches – the city would share a portion of the repair costs with adjoining property owners who, many may be shocked to learn, have legal responsibility for the condition of sidewalks fronting their property lines. During the meeting, he noted the cost as anywhere from $600 to $1,500, but later stated costs would vary based on location and severity.

The project would be funded through the city’s general fund and Measure J tax dollars. It is budgeted at $50,000 per year, over the course of a proposed 11 year period, Takasugi said, with approximately half of the funding used for saw-cutting the minor trip-hazards, and the other half for cost-sharing repairs of larger trip-hazards.

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