E-Mail Forum
Nat Bates Campaign Hit Piece Inaccurate
October 10, 2001

The latest Nat Bates Campaign mailer inaccurately portrays Tom Butt as supporting a "sidewalk liability ordinance" that unfairly subjects homeowners to liability. Bates portrays himself as voting to protect the homeowner.

The mailer is completely inaccurate, and Nat Bates should be embarrassed for either being so misinformed as to not understand the issue or for simply lying about the facts. We characterize this as a "hit piece" because it distorts the truth or makes inaccurate statements intended to damage the reputation of one candidate for the benefit of another.

Here are the facts:

* Under California law (Streets and Highways Code, Section 5610-5618), which is reproduced below, the abutting property owner is legally responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a safe condition. This is not a City responsibility, and the City has no discretion in this matter since State law supersedes local law.

* Before the City Council passed Ordinance 14-00, "An Ordinance Amending Chapter 12.36 Pertaining to the Maintenance and Construction of Sidewalks, Driveways and Gutters," the City was being sued for damages caused by broken sidewalks. The City was spending taxpayers' dollars defending claims that resulted from damaged sidewalks that were not the City's responsibility to maintain. This amendment clarified that the property owner, by California law, has both the maintenance responsibility and the liability for damaged sidewalks. The ordinance has actually saved the City's taxpayers money.

* The ordinance was written by the city attorney, and its adoption was urged by both the city attorney and the city manager.

* The vote on the first reading of the ordinance on April 11, 2000, was unanimous, including Nat Bates. On the second reading, May 9, 2000, it passed by a 5-4 vote, with Butt, Penn, Evans, Anderson and Corbin voting aye and Bates, Marquez, Griffin and Bell voting no.

* The ordinance amendment was an exercise in prudent fiscal policy to protect the vast majority of taxpayers against costs resulting from the irresponsibility of a few.


Because of some complaints about the City's procedures for notifying property owners that their sidewalks needed repairing, I asked several months ago for the matter to be placed on the agenda of the Public Safety and Public Services Committee for review. It has been postponed several times but should come up again on October 25.

As a practical matter, the City routinely assumes responsibility for both repair and liability resulting from sidewalk damage caused by roots of street trees, which are deemed as City property and a City responsibility.

Don't take my word for this, call City Attorney Malcolm Hunter at 620-6509 or City Manager Isiah Turner at 620-6512 to find out who is right, Bates or Butt.



SECTION 5610-5618

5610. The owners of lots or portions of lots fronting on any portion of a public street or place when that street or place is improved or if and when the area between the property line of the adjacent property and the street line is maintained as a park or parking strip, shall maintain any sidewalk in such condition that the sidewalk will not endanger persons or property and maintain it in a condition which will not interfere with the public convenience in the use of those works or areas save and except as to those conditions created or maintained in, upon, along, or in connection with such sidewalk by any person other than the owner, under and by virtue of any permit or right granted to him by law or by the city authorities in charge thereof, and such persons shall be under a like duty in relation thereto.


5611. When any portion of the sidewalk is out of repair or pending reconstruction and in condition to endanger persons or property or in condition to interfere with the public convenience in the use of such sidewalk, the superintendent of streets shall notify the owner or person in possession of the property fronting on that portion of such sidewalk so out of repair, to repair the sidewalk.


5612. Notice to repair may be given by delivering a written notice personally to the owner or to the person in possession of the property facing upon the sidewalk so out of repair, or by mailing a postal card, postage prepaid, to the person in possession of such property, or to the owner thereof at his last known address as the same appears on the last equalized assessment rolls of such city or to the name and address of the person owning such property as shown in the records of the office of the clerk. 


5613. The postal card shall contain a notice to repair the sidewalk so out of repair, and the superintendent of streets shall, immediately upon the mailing of the notice, cause a copy thereof printed on a card of not less than 8 inches by 10 inches in size, to be posted in a conspicuous place on the property. In lieu of posting a copy of the mailed notice on the property as provided in this section, the superintendent of streets may, not less than seven days nor more than 10 days after the mailing of the first postal card notice, mail an additional postal card, postage prepaid, marked "Second Notice," to the person to whom the first postal card notice was addressed. The second notice shall otherwise contain the material required by this article, but shall not extend the time for commencing repairs specified in Section 5614.


5614. The notice shall particularly specify what work is required to be done, and how it is to be done, and what materials shall be used in the repair and shall further specify that if the repair is not commenced within two weeks after notice is given and diligently and without interruption prosecuted to completion, the superintendent of streets shall make such repair, and the cost of the same shall be a lien on the property.


5614.1. The legislative body may adopt a resolution determining that bonds shall be issued and assessments collected and enforced pursuant to Part 5 of this division. In such event, the notice to repair shall specify that bonds shall be issued to represent the security of the unpaid assessments, payable over a period of not to exceed six years, and shall further recite a maximum rate of interest to be paid on the indebtedness, which shall not exceed 7 percent a year, payable semiannually. 


5615. If the repair is not commenced and prosecuted to completion with due diligence, as required by the notice, the superintendent of streets shall forthwith repair the sidewalk. Upon the written request of the owner of the property facing the sidewalk so out of repair, as ascertained from the last equalized assessment roll of the city, or as shown in the records of the office of the clerk, the superintendent may repair any other portion of the sidewalk fronting on the property that is designated by the owner. The superintendent shall have power to prescribe the form of the written request. The cost of repair work done by request pursuant to this section shall be a part of the cost of repairs for which, pursuant to this chapter, subsequent notices are given, hearings held and assessment and collection procedures are conducted. 


5616. Upon the completion of the repair, the superintendent of streets shall cause notice of the cost of the repair to be given in the manner specified in this article for the giving of notice to repair, which notice shall specify the day, hour and place when the legislative body will hear and pass upon a report by the superintendent of streets of the cost of the repair together with any objections or protests, if any, which may be raised by any property owner liable to be assessed for the cost of such repair and any other interested persons. If bonds are to be issued, the notice shall also contain the information required by Section 5614.1. 


5617. Upon the completion of the repair, the superintendent of streets shall prepare and file with the legislative body a report specifying the repairs which have been made, the cost of the repairs, a description of the real property in front of which the repairs have been made and the assessment against each lot or parcel of land proposed to be levied to pay the cost thereof. Any such report may include repairs to any number of parcels of property, whether contiguous to each other or not. 


5618. Upon the day and hour fixed for the hearing the legislative body shall hear and pass upon the report of the superintendent of streets, together with any objections or protests which may be raised by any of the property owners liable to be assessed for the work of making such repair and any other interested persons. Thereupon the legislative body may make such revision, correction or modifications in the report as it may deem just, after which, by motion or resolution, the report as submitted, or as revised, corrected or modified, shall be confirmed. The legislative body may adjourn the hearings from time to time. The decisions of the legislative body on all protests and objections which may be made, shall be final and conclusive.