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San Diego City Council Approves $5M Settlement For Injured Bicyclist

A bicyclists rides on the sidewalk of Broadway in downtown San Diego, Feb. 21, 2017.
Christopher Maue
A bicyclists rides on the sidewalk of Broadway in downtown San Diego, Feb. 21, 2017.

San Diego City Council Approves $5M Settlement For Injured Bicyclist
San Diego City Council Approves $5M Settlement For Injured Bicyclist GUEST: Mark Kersey, chair, San Diego City Council Infrastructure Committee

It damage sidewalk and a terrible injury suffered by a bicycle rider have now caused the city of San Diego nearly $5 million the city Council approved a settlement to a man who may never be able to work again after his bike careened off a seven inch sidewalk bump in Del Cerro. City of San Diego is still struggling with more than $1 billion in infrastructure repair backlog much of that involves the poor state of the city's Street and sidewalks. Joining me is infrastructure committee chair city councilmember Mark Kersey. Welcome to the show. Thank you great to be here. This happened in 2014 and since then your infrastructure committee did a survey of the city sidewalks. How many do you think are is badly damaged as the woman is case. The sidewalks in the city are in pretty bad shape. We have some old sidewalks and in older part of town and in other parts of town to get treatments that have caused the pavement to get upgraded which is what happened in this case and created more or less a ramp and this gentleman had the misfortune of being on that and getting propelled quite a bit in the air. The city has about 5000 miles of sidewalk and we did an assessment couple years ago and that was the first time we had ever assessed the condition of the citywide sidewalk and gave us a lot of good data and that really helped us figure out the best way to move forward because as you can imagine this is a problem that has been essentially in the making in some parts of town. It is something that will take a concerted effort to figure out the best path forward considering the somewhat convoluted nature of the sidewalk policy. Subject than when you were doing this you expect -- expected to invest about $10 million over two years to repair sidewalks and build new ones. It will be two years in about 1 1/2 months. So what progress have we made? We have made some progress it is clearly not enough but this is not a problem that was going to be solved in just a couple of years when you're talking about something that is decades in the making. Frankly that is the case with a lot of our other infrastructure assets as well this is what happens when you have decades and decades of neglect and the original installation goes in and people just kind of forget about it. Can you give me any specifics on the kinds of sidewalk repairs that have been made? In other words is is going along the lines of priority of the worst sidewalks first or is it going along neighborhood kind of? We thought that sidewalks there's a lot of really really bad ones that need to be with waste so what we have done as a combination of doing a replacement of existing ones that are in bad shape more frequently what we are doing is called asphalt ramping what if there are pavements that are of a different height. In the kind of thing that we saw in Del Cerro we will actually send the crew out there to the same type of system as filling Paul's and it will put a ramp to fill my gap between the two pieces of concrete pavement. It is not really a long-term solution. It does not look very good but the idea is to eliminate the actual public safety hazard that exists. That is what we are doing a lot of right now. In conjunction with that we are actually doing new sidewalk installations as well. The city rolls about who should fix the sidewalk in front of the property are actually a bit confusing. Can you explain for us with the property owner's responsibility is. For the most part the sidewalk is considered are the property owner's responsibility because they technically own it. And other instances you have a circumstance where the city right-of-way and there's no property there and that is different but in terms of where you have actual private property the property owner is in theory responsible for maintaining that. In practice that never gets imports. There's never been a history of enforcement and with the way that the courts have treated this over the years you can argue they have actually given property owners a disincentive to maintain the sidewalks because the liability is on the city rather than them. The liability is on the city of somebody's injured on the sidewalk. And many other cities property owners are legally responsible for sidewalks outside their homes. With that kind of a change to San Diego's law actually help our infrastructure problem do you think? I think it is tough to say at this point. I understand that there are some folks that thinks that the city said should just take over all of the sidewalks and that is something that we should discuss. I'm not convinced that that is necessarily the right path that it is a very tricky issue because he start getting into property rights and some people are going to go one way and some people will completely disagree. And I will tell you what we have seen in some parts of town is you have a residential street with no sidewalks and there are some property owners who want the sidewalks and there are some who doubts. There are some who do not want sidewalks on the property and would for people either meander down the street Eric is through the grass. It is a tricky issue because the property rights component and frankly that is why it is taking that amount of time for us to arrive at the right policy should be because I would say that there is not consensus over any changes that should be made at this point and finally Mark what are the issues that are holding up progress on infrastructure repair in San Diego. Are there enough public works staffers to handle other projects the city wants to get done.? That is a great question and it is one of the things that we recognize in the last year or two if we are going to do my project which everybody wants to do and we have money to do we will need more for project managers actually to make this project happen. What we have found is that it's hard to hire engineers because they are not plentiful and we are competing with other cities and the County and with the private sector. Even though there is money in the budget to hire more people we will fall short of hiring the number of people we need to get the project started which will create a different conversation about what we will do as kind of a plan B. I will tell you that this year is just one example. We will spend a lot of money on street repair which is the most we have ever spent in a single fiscal year. We are working on fire station construction. And people will see it around 10 we are paving a lot more roads and we have made some good progress on Steve -- Street Road repair. There is no mission accomplished sign hanging behind it but I will tell you that this is certainly my top priority and I believe it to be among the Mayor's top priorities of my colleagues on the Council and we will keep focused on this because it is truly rebuilding our city. I've been speaking with Mark Kersey thank you so much. Thank you.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday signed off on a $4.85 million legal settlement for a man who was badly injured more than two years ago in a bicycle crash on a city sidewalk.

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Clifford Brown suffered head and spinal injuries in the Sept. 30, 2014, accident on an uneven sidewalk in Del Cerro and has needed ongoing care. The award was given initial approval by the council in a closed session vote five months ago.

A 2015 assessment of sidewalks in San Diego found 85,000 locations with some sort of damage.

Councilman David Alvarez said he suggested last year that the city develop a policy on sidewalk maintenance so the city could take responsibility for repairs, but the idea went nowhere. He said he would submit his recommendation again this year.

"We should not be paying out millions and millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to cure an incident like this one when we could be actually fixing our sidewalks to avoid this,'' Alvarez said.

Alvarez voted for the settlement, however. Councilman Chris Ward, who wasn't on the panel when the previous vote was taken, was the lone dissenter.