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 has an estimated $152 million backlog of broken sidewalks.
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 Atlanta’s tax 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.
A recent amendment functions as an excuse for doing nothing
In 2015 the City of Atlanta approved an ordinance authorizing Public Works to use public funds to pay for repairs. It also prohibited Public Works from billing property owners for repairs until other available funds have been exhausted.
To our dismay, the ordinance retained the “option” of billing property owners for repairs to adjacent sidewalks. The use of tax dollars to pay for repairs at some locations makes the policy of billing property owners even more unfair.
The city is unlikely to exercise its authority to bill property owners, so the amendment is unlikely to prompt sidewalk repairs. It may, however, make city officials comfortable approving budgets that allocate far too little to sidewalk maintenance.
Take Action: Ask City Council members to amend the ordinance!
In September, mayoral candidates all pledged to support changing Atlanta’s sidewalk ordinance. Making this promise a reality is our top priority.
Newly elected City Council members also want the City to fix Atlanta’s sidewalks and use tax dollars to do so. Government officials know that PEDS wants better sidewalk maintenance. We’ve demanded it for years. They need to hear the same demand from you.
Your voice matters. In 2018 the City Council will have 7 newly-elected members. Please let your council members 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!