The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that our sidewalks and public rights of way be safe and accessible for everyone in our communities. Los Angeles is faced with a great challenge to provide access along broken, cracked and otherwise impassable sidewalks. A class action lawsuit filed in Federal Court (Willits v. City of Los Angeles) has resulted in a legal settlement requiring the City to repair sidewalks to ensure ADA accessibility. To settle the lawsuit, the City agreed to create the Sidewalk Repair Program and spend $1,300,000,000 ($1.3B) over 30 years to repair the City’s sidewalks, with a priority to sidewalks traversed by people who have physical access disabilities (i.e. residents in wheelchairs, using walkers/canes, etc). For more information on the settlement, sidewalk repair program, and how repairs are prioritized, click here.
Unfortunately, the biggest cause of sidewalk damage leading to sidewalks being out-of-compliance with the ADA are the roots of trees. In the early 1900s, the City planted many of its now-mature and large street trees and did not plant trees with sufficient consideration of their root structures. These trees, like the Ficus tree, have large beautiful tree canopies, but also large roots that often grow laterally, creating sidewalk uplifts or broken sidewalks that are not ADA accessible. In order to repair the sidewalk, the City sometimes needs to remove the tree and replant a tree more suited to root growth that will not damage the new sidewalk.