Working Together for Safer LA Sidewalks

Over the next 30 years, the City of Los Angeles plans to spend $1.4 billion dollars to make our sidewalks more accessible in response to a lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Far too many Angelenos struggle just to move around our city. Our broken sidewalks present some of the biggest obstacles for pedestrians — especially for differently-abled Angelenos and older adults and moms. As climate change brings more extreme heat and severe storms, we will need to make sure that our streets are climate safe as well as accessible.

Here lies an opportunity– and TreePeople, Investing in Place, Los Angeles Walks and AARP California are on the frontlines to advocate for the City to be more equitable, safe and shaded.

The work has already begun! In late January, the City of LA kicked off its Safe Sidewalks LA Community Advisory Committee. The City’s Bureau of Engineering describes the Committee as an effort “to partner with residents, advocates and activists throughout the city who share our goal of ensuring that the Safe Sidewalks LA program is a success.”

We have been keeping a close eye on the City’s sidewalk repair program for several years now and are working with community partners to make sure the program meets our shared goals. We are working on planning a larger community half-day meeting on these issues to be held sometime this Spring or Summer. Join us for our next planning meeting in March.

Our diverse partnership speaks to our core vision: public rights-of-way where everyone regardless of age, income or neighborhood can travel safely, reliably, and in comfort. This means sidewalks and crosswalks — free of barriers to mobility — and safe places to wait for the bus along with a healthy urban forest for protection from heat and flooding.

The first meeting of the Safe Sidewalks LA Community Advisory Committee was attended by an impressive room of advocates representing public health, transit and mobility, disabled and older residents, urban forestry and stormwater, and equitable community development advocates.

City staff provided updates about the sidewalk repair program to-date: The City has kicked off repairs citywide and launched a website as a resource to all residents who want to learn about and participate in the program.

Repairs are being conducted through the:

  1. Access Request Program, which prioritizes repairs requested by or on behalf of Angelenos with a “mobility disability”; and the
  2. Rebate Program, which provides a reimbursement for property owners who want to expedite sidewalk repairs in front of their homes and businesses.

The City is currently mapping all of our sidewalks and other characteristics of our streets to identify and coordinate opportunities for other improvements. We also learned that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will launch this spring and hold a public comment period – this is required per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and would spend approximately a year studying a variety of impacts this program will have on the environment, health and safety of communities.

The meeting wrapped with advocates in the room identifying key priorities for discussion moving forward, which include:

  • Preserving tree canopy and promoting tree health
  • Ensuring multi-lingual public engagement & participation in shaping program priorities
  • Addressing the need for sidewalks in areas of the city that don’t have them, like South LA
  • Coordinating planning and funding opportunities with other City departments to accelerate and amplify the program’s impact
  • Ensuring the EIR is comprehensive, and that we address impacts already taking place while it’s being completed
  • Make sure the program addresses entire paths of travel – like crosswalks, clean streets and bus stops – not just sidewalks
  • Prioritizing Access Request repairs to be completed in a timely fashion
  • A plan to prioritize repairs that are most urgent, and will result in maximum benefits for communities that need them most

As advocates, we’re looking forward to continued engagement with the City to inform this critical program. We’ll also continue to build efforts via the City of LA Completing Streets Working Group, led by Investing in Place and advised by all of our organizations.

By regularly convening stakeholders representing older Angelenos, people with disabilities, pedestrian advocates, transit-dependent communities, urban forest and local water advocates, and equitable community development we are creating a dynamic platform to design and advocate for better streets.

For more information and to get involved in our Completing Streets Working group, visit Investing in Place’s website.

 

This blog was co-authored by leaders of the City of LA Completing Streets Working Group, a project of Investing in Place which is co-led by TreePeople, Los Angeles Walks, and AARP California. The goal of the Completing Streets Working Group is to create an educational and organizing space to improve the City of Los Angeles’s sidewalks, crosswalks, bus stops, urban tree canopy, and other efforts that improve the City’s sidewalks and roads for everyone —especially for low-income individuals, youth, older adults, individuals with disabilities and transit-dependent communities.

Jenny works on the policy team at TreePeople and has worked for over a decade on environmental, social justice, and global health issues. Her work involves making sure that local, county, and state policies advance the organization’s goals for a thriving and sustainable Los Angeles. When she’s not running between TreePeople’s Yurt Village and City Hall, Jenny enjoys the good life: travel, books, food, art, music, film, the outdoors, and exploring and building community in LA.