Sidewalk: You Don’t Own It, But You Have To Maintain It

Posted On: October 24, 2013
By: Matt Fuller

Your sidewalk, that is.

In San Francisco, the city owns the sidewalks, but adjacent property owners are required to maintain them. So, if you step out front one morning and see white dots and/or stripes painted on your sidewalk, be aware that the city has tagged your sidewalk as needing repairs. You may wonder why you would have to fix something that the city owns. It’s codified in Section 706 of the Public Works Code, which says:

It shall be the duty of the owners of lots or portions of lots immediately adjacent to any portion of a public street, avenue, alley, lane, court or place to maintain the sidewalks and sidewalk area, including any parking strip, parkway, automobile runway and curb, fronting or adjacent to their property in good repair and condition.

And why do you care? Because you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a lawsuit from someone who trips on an uneven sidewalk in front of your property.

Any person who suffers injury or property damage as a legal result of the failure of the owner to so maintain the sidewalks and sidewalk areas shall have a cause of action for such injury or property damage against such property owner. The City and County of San Francisco shall have a cause of action for indemnity against such property owner for any damages it may be required to pay as satisfaction of any judgment or settlement of any claim that results from injury to persons or property as a legal result of the failure of the owner to maintain the sidewalks and sidewalk areas in accordance with this Section.

The culprit in this photo is the tree; its roots are pushing the sidewalk squares up, resulting in an offset, marked by the white lines, that is unsafe for pedestrians. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Works, problems with sidewalks include:

* Missing pavement

* Raised, sunken or uneven pavement

* Holes or cracks in the pavement

* Missing sewer vent covers

Along with the telltale white markings, a property owner will receive written notice of the problem from the Director of Public Works. The owner can decide to do the work by hiring a contractor directly, or may participate in the city’s repair program.



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