Posted on: March 3, 2018

LiveWell makes statement on proposed Sidewalk Hazard Repair Program

As a coalition that envisions communities where we all thrive, LiveWell Lawrence and our members address a range of issues focused on improving the health and well-being of Lawrence and Douglas County. One aspect of this is encouraging the development of a built environment that is bikeable, walkable, and accessible, meeting the transportation and recreation needs of all members of the community.

This week the Lawrence City Commission will discuss an issue directly related to this: establishing a Sidewalk Hazard Repair Program. This program was first proposed in March 2017 as a solution to sidewalks that are in disrepair throughout Lawrence. By state statute and city ordinance, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the property owner adjacent to the sidewalk, placing the financial burden of providing a public service on private property owners.

Our Healthy Built Environment Work Group, in partnership with the Lawrence Pedestrian Coalition, has closely followed the issue, researched similar programs in other communities, and listened to the concerns of community members. Based on their work, LiveWell Lawrence believes an effective and equitable approach to maintaining sidewalks should incorporate these principles:

  1. sidewalks are a critical component of our community's transportation network,
  2. this network provides a means of transportation and supports the health and well being of all community members, regardless of whether they have a sidewalk on their property, and
  3. any policy must be implemented with equity as a key guiding principle, avoiding a disproportionate burden or benefit to groups of citizens.

Unfortunately, the proposed program falls short of these principles. While we recognize the financial and legal challenges of taking an approach that shifts the financial responsibility to the City, we do believe we can do better as a community to develop creative solutions.

At a minimum, we support changes to the policy that ensure the following:

  • Affordable costs to property owners are guaranteed through a city bid process.
  • Costs to homeowners are significantly offset by investments through a city-generated fund, especially for our most vulnerable populations who would be disproportionately impacted by this policy. Costs are entirely offset for all HUD-qualified homeowners.
  • A city-generated maintenance and repair fund does not draw from the funds already identified in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for bikeways and pedestrian improvements.
  • Selection of geographic areas to begin implementing the program balance efficiency with need, prioritizing areas that are most representative of the community as a whole.

We encourage our members, partners and supporters to learn more about the proposed program by reading the proposal and attending the March 5 Transportation Commission meeting or March 6 City Commission meeting, and consider voicing your concerns to the Commissions. As a coalition, we are committed to continuing to work with the Lawrence community on this issue in order to create the best possible built environment for all members of the Lawrence community. Thank you for your continued effort to build communities that support the health and well-being of all.

Eilzabeth Keever, Chair
Jeff Severin, Chair-Elect
LiveWell Lawrence

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