Call Kurtis: City Trees Ripped Up My Sidewalk. Why Am I Responsible For Repairs?

The City of Sacramento tells a homeowner to fix the sidewalk in front of her home. Allison Brinkerhoff says the damage to the sidewalk is from a city-owned tree. It’s a thousand dollar job she thinks shouldn’t be her responsibility so she called Kurtis.

“We love the old trees in the neighborhood, so it’s just a really good feel about the neighborhood,” said Brinkerhoff.

But it’s those old trees that could cost her a lot of money. She points out spray-painted marks that point to raised cement on the sidewalk in front of her home. The damage is likely from growing tree roots. Soon after noticing the marks, the City of Sacramento sent Brinkerhoff a letter, saying she has to fix it at a cost of $1,07.59.

“The city owns the trees, they maintain the trees. So, it looks like the trees have caused the damage. So, why should I, as the owner be responsible for fixing the sidewalk?” asked Brinkerhoff.

“Whether it’s a privately-owned tree or a city-owned tree, the property owner is responsible for maintenance and repair of the sidewalk,” said Sacramento’s Director of Public Works, Jerry Way.

Way points to state and city law, which make property owners responsible for sidewalk repairs. If the owner doesn’t take care of it, the City will fix it and bill them.

But if the City trims and maintains their trees above ground, why don’t they maintain them below ground? Way says they do send an arborist out to take a look at the roots.

“We don’t have the material, the time or the funding to go out and excavate sidewalks, just in case tree roots are going to affect a sidewalk,” said Way.

Brinkerhoff understands there’s no wiggle room with the law, but still thinks it isn’t right.

“It seems there should be some kind of funding, as a tax payer that should help with this.”

We learned the City of Sacramento sent out 2,157 sidewalk notices last year. They tell us they respond to complaints from people. They don’t go around, looking for defective sidewalks because they don’t have the resources to do that.

In Sacramento, you have the option of having the city do the repairs, making them yourself, or hiring a contractor. If you or a contractor do the work, the City has to inspect it.

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