Atlanta’s sidewalk policy is as busted as its sidewalks
If you live or work in Atlanta, you’ve probably tripped on a broken or uneven sidewalk. Not surprising, since Atlanta’s estimated backlog of broken sidewalks exceeds $200 million.
The law requiring people to pay for repairs to sidewalks next to their property is a big part of the problem.
Elected officials know the policy doesn’t work. Despite that, they defend it by pointing out that many cities have laws requiring property owners to pay for repairs.
That’s correct. But most cities with such ordinances have dysfunctional sidewalk-repair programs.
More and more cities have stopped calling on property owners to pay for repairs and instead use tax dollars. Washington, D.C. Charleston and Charlotte are just a few examples. Most cities in the Atlanta region also use tax dollars to pay for sidewalk repairs.
Four good reasons to change the sidewalk policy
- Sidewalks are a shared resource.
- The law is unfair to property owners.
- The sidewalk ordinance is unpopular and government officials lack the public will to enforce it. When Public Works attempted to enforce the ordinance in 2013, property owners and elected officials were livid.
- Atlanta has a high poverty rate. Pedestrians should not have to endure unsafe sidewalks simply because a property owner cannot afford to pay for repairs.
An amendment approved in 2015 made a bad policy even worse.
In 2015 the City of Atlanta approved an ordinance authorizing Public Works to use public funds to pay for repairs. It also retained the “option” of billing property owners for repairs to adjacent sidewalks.
The amendment is unlikely to prompt sidewalk repairs. It may, however, have made city officials comfortable approving budgets that allocate little to sidewalk maintenance.
Public Works is doing next to nothing.
It took six months of persistent communications and waiting, but we finally received answers from officials at Public Works. What we learned confirmed our suspicions.
- Public Works lacks a routine, proactive maintenance program
- If an inspector confirmed during the past four years that a sidewalk hazard exists, Public Works did not notify residential property owners to ask them to pay for repairs.
- During the same period, Public Works notified only two commercial property owners about needed repairs..
Your voice matters.
Newly-elected City Council members also want the City to use tax dollars to fix Atlanta’s sidewalks.
Government officials know that PEDS wants better sidewalk maintenance. We’ve demanded it for years. They need to hear the same demand from you.
Please let your City Council representatives know you want Atlanta to pay for sidewalk repairs the same way it does for potholes: with tax dollars. Also tell them you want this NOW!