The City of Los Angeles has taken on the responsibility for repairing sidewalks buckling under the force of tree roots for more than 40 years, but that may change soon.

A report from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, compiled after consultation with the departments of Public Works, Transportation and Disability, recommended that fixes to hazardous sidewalks be the responsibility of property owners.

The response from property owners was swift – and predictable.

“Sidewalks are public domain and should be maintained by the government,” said Adam Tischer, vice president at Colliers International’s downtown office.

Ruben Gonzalez, senior vice president for public policy and political affairs at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, said the report is not acceptable in its treatment of commercial property owners.

“At a minimum, we believe that commercial property owners and residential property owners should be treated equally,” Gonzalez said. “Requiring a greater burden on commercial property owners is simply unfair.”

Under Santana’s plan, commercial property owners would have one year to make repairs after city inspectors deemed them necessary.

Tuesday’s report also outlined a “fix and release” strategy in which sidewalks in residential areas that are damaged by trees would be fixed by the city. After the city repair, any future damage would be the responsibility of the homeowner.

The report comes in the wake of a settlement agreement reached last month in which the city agreed to invest $1.4 billion over the next 30 years to repair and improve its sidewalks. In the case, Willits v. City of Los Angeles, the city was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to keep sidewalks in adequate enough shape for them to be used by those who rely on wheelchairs and scooters.

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