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.