Wednesday, November 2, 2016

City Advises Neighbors Not To Make Their Own Repairs To Sidewalks Or Letting Others Do So

The Laurelhurst Blog received information from neighbors about a sidewalk that appeared as if neighbors had repaired it on their own.
One neighbor said:

I was wondering if you had ever done a story about Seattle sidewalk maintenance, etiquette, rules etc.  
There's a hazard near the corner of NE 45th Street and 50th Avenue NE.  It looks as if a  homeowner tried to make things safer but this rubber strip is an invisible trip hazard, especially in low light. 
Most of Laurelhurst sidewalks are clear and safe but some have tripping hazards or overgrown plantings or ice in the winter.  
My understanding is that homeowners are liable for the injury these hazards can cause. Maintenance or repair is obviously better than waiting for someone to get hurt.  Sidewalk replacement can be expensive and needs permits.  


The 2' square pattern looks uniform but also provides
information for the vision impaired. 

Here is a more typical sidewalk issue

This is a helpful patch. Is this legal?

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted City of Seattle Department of Transportation who said:
Thank you for contacting SDOT with your sidewalk concerns. We had a Street Use Inspector go to the site and spoke with the home owner about the rubber strip. Their cable provider placed the rubber strip over a temporary cable line.  
Our inspector advised the home owner to communicate with the cable provider to remove the cable and strip and suggested an overhead connection.  
Our inspector will make a return visit to ensure the cable and rubber strip were removed as requested.  
We discourage community members placing objects over sidewalks and public facilities that may pose a safety hazard.

Here is information regarding maintaining sidewalks in Seattle:

Seattle law requires adjacent property owners to maintain and clean sidewalks. 
As in many other cities, the Seattle Municipal Code requires that adjacent property owners keep their sidewalks in good repair and safe for public travel.  This means keeping the sidewalk clear from vegetation overgrowth, snow and ice accumulation, as well as making repairs to the sidewalks when damaged. Additional information for adjacent property owners can be found here.

Prior to repairing the sidewalk, the property owner or the contractor must obtain a Street Use Permit.  This ensures the walkway meets the City's standards.  If a tree is causing the damage, an SDOT Arborist will arrange to meet on site to evaluate the tree for root pruning potential in conjunction with the Street Use Permit.   
However, if the sidewalk damage is being caused by City infrastructure such as a City-owned tree or sewer line, the City will take the responsibility for making the repairs. Sidewalk Repair Program ensures safe and accessible sidewalks by:
  • Investigating complaints of unsafe or inaccessible sidewalks
  • Implementing temporary measures as needed (these include painting the sidewalks to provide warning notice, placing asphalt shims, beveling sidewalk uplifts, or closing sidewalks if needed).
  • Determining repair responsibility (adjacent property owner, City, or other utility)
  • Permanently repairing sidewalks when it is determined to be the City’s responsibility
How Does SDOT Prioritize Sidewalk Repair Locations?
In order for a damaged sidewalk to be considered for repair by the SDOT sidewalk repair program it must be adjacent to City-owned property, or  adjacent to City-owned property, or City owned trees must be causing the damage.

Damage caused by other City agencies or public utilities is forwarded on to the appropriate agency for repair. If the location meets the above criteria, then repair locations for the Sidewalk Repair Program are selected based on the following criteria:
  1. Leveraging opportunities with other capital projects
  2. Within an urban village
  3. Adjacent to an arterial street
  4. High Priority Project Areas as identified in the Pedestrian Master Plan
  5. Within three blocks of a community or healthcare facility such as a school, park, library, clinic, hospital, or senior housing
  6. On a block with a transit stop
  7. Geographic and social justice distribution
  8. Constructability and cost

The criteria above are intended to ensure that the repairs will benefit a significant number of pedestrians, and the greatest number of users. The more of the criteria a specific location meets, the more likely the location is to be prioritized for repair. However, the City has a significant backlog of locations and SDOT is unable to repair many of the identified locations that meet all the criteria.

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