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Complaints over San Diego's crumbling sidewalks continue to chip away at the city's bottom line: documents obtained through public records requests show the city received more than 50 claims for damages caused by broken sidewalks in 2017.

As reported by the Reader, the city paid more than $5.3 million in settlements and legal judgements in 2017, the majority of which was a $4.85 million payout to cyclist Clifford Brown, who sustained major injuries after hitting a raised sidewalk in Del Cerro.

Not all claims have been settled and that number will likely increase. From October to December 2017, the city received 14 more claims, according to numbers from the city.

The trip-and-falls occurred along El Cajon Boulevard, in downtown, and even in new developments such as Civita.

In addition to new claims, the city continues to litigate, and settle, sidewalk claims from years prior.

Last week, the city council met in closed session to discuss a settlement in a 2016 lawsuit over a broken sidewalk. The lawsuit was filed by Elvia Gonzales in May 2016. In November the two sides agreed on a settlement, the amount of which has not been disclosed.

In other court cases, the city has decided to go against property owners to recoup potential losses over sidewalks.

In July 2017, a resident sued the City of San Diego after she tripped and fell on a sidewalk. In December the city filed a cross-complaint against a nearby property owner in hopes of seeking partial responsibility for the sidewalk condition.

The city's policy of trying to hold property owners responsible for sidewalks has come under some criticism from at least one public official.

In a January 5 op-ed, city councilmember David Alvarez criticized the city policy, stating that depending on homeowners to pay a portion to repair sidewalks only delays fixes.

"The current policy is simply unfair to taxpayers," wrote Alvarez. “Rather than trying to blame homeowners for broken sidewalks, the city should just fix them. That’s why for the last two years I have proposed revising this policy to require the basic maintenance of sidewalks by the city, except in cases where the sidewalk was damaged by the abutting property owner or third parties. Fixing sidewalks the same way we fix streets shouldn’t be controversial."

According to the city, more than $38 million is needed to fix San Diego sidewalks and jagged curb cuts.

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CaptainObvious Feb. 11, 2018 @ 9:56 a.m.

After ten years of warning the city of a very bad sidewalk in front of his house, my Dad just got a threat letter from the city telling him to fix it. It is outside of his property lines. They offered to charge him half of replacement costs if they do it. I am inclined to hire a lawyer instead. A blind friend tripped there once, but didnt sue. I will ask him if he feels clumsy when I am in town.


danfogel Feb. 11, 2018 @ noon

You might want to think before you hire a lawyer. Like many other municipalities, SD will repair sidewalk damage caused by vehicle accidents, water main breaks, grade subsidence and trees within the right-of-way, but they consider normal sidewalk wear and tear or age damage to be the responsibility of the homeowner. The policy is based on a state law passed many, many decades ago that lays responsibility on the adjacent property owners. It is part of the California Streets and Highways Code. I think it is section 5610, but I don't remember for certain. Municipalities do have the OPTION of taking care of repairs, but the most I have seen anyone do in at least 25 yrs is what SD is doing by offering a 50/50 split. There have been a couple of attempts to change the law, the last one being 4 or 5 years ago, but the legislation went nowhere. Until or unless the state legislature gets around to changing the law, you're pretty much stuck with what the city wants to do.


AlexClarke Feb. 12, 2018 @ 4:24 p.m.

I am sure the lawyer will be glad to look it up for him at $$ per hour.


TheDisabledTriker Feb. 21, 2018 @ 6:08 a.m.

Face it, the city has no funds to take care of all the damaged sidewalks. And the “Get It Done” app is a joke. It is so loaded up with complaints that the city cannot possibly respond to all of them. There simply is not enough tax money to deal with this issue. I walk and ride all over town and see bad sidewalks every couple of seconds/minutes. “Shaving” sidewalks is a temporary fix which does not resolve the problem; raised sections should be repoured but the underlying problem - i.e. roots, subsidence, etc. need to be determined and corrected first or the sidewalk will shift again. All this takes money. The current unfunded liability issues will only increase under a proper repair scenario. Solution? Not in my lifetime or yours. Good luck with that


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