LA's New Crack Epidemic: Sidewalks

Ever walk down a Los Angeles city sidewalk? It may feel like climbing the Himalayas.

Tree roots have uplifted many city sidewalks across L.A., turning a quick walk around the neighborhood into a treacherous experience. According to  The Los Angeles Times, the city receives about 2,500 claims a year from people who hurt themselves on these cracks.

"People get hurt and people can die from falling down on and hitting their head on the sidewalk," says Los Angeles resident Peter Griswold.

What's the city's solution to this problem? A three-year, $10 million survey of all of the city's sidewalks.

Residents like Griswold say that price tag is too high. He has come up with a plan of his own that involves photographs, GPS devices, and - most importantly - volunteers. Griswold is confident that his ragtag crew of sidewalk cartographers can find and report trouble spots more quickly - and cheaply - than city workers.

"What Peter Griswold is trying to do with volunteers, the advantage that has is that it's decentralized," says Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.

Moore grants it may be hard to implement on a large scale but you have to stack that up against the usual way city governments fix local problems. Namely, writing a fat check to a contractor so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. Hence, the $10 million.

Moore points out that these uplifted sidewalk cracks are indicative of something bigger: bureaucracy run amok.

"One of the problems bureaucracies have, and LA in particular has, is nobody who manages these departments actually invests the management effort in saying lets be ruthless about prioritizing what's most important," says Moore.

Written and produced by Paul Detrick.

Music by Lee Maddeford.

Approximately 4:23 minutes.

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  • SugarFree||

    I wonder what fraction of the money set aside each year for settling LAPD brutality cases would required to fix the sidewalks.

  • Tim||

    I blame continental drift. Liquid hot magma...

  • SugarFree||

    Lex Luthor's plans just took longer than he suspected.

    I already have a timeshare in Otisburg.

  • Tim||

    Lex Luthor: Costa Del Lex. Luthorville. Marina del Lex. Otisburg... Otisburg?
    Otis: Miss Teschmacher, she's got her own place.
    Lex Luthor: Otisburg?
    Otis: It's a little bitty place.
    Lex Luthor: [Angrily] *Otisburg*?
    Otis: Okay, I'll just wipe it off, that's all. Just a little town.

  • WTF||

    Griswold is confident that his ragtag crew of sidewalk cartographers can find and report trouble spots more quickly - and cheaply - than city workers.

    Well there's the problem. If it gets done cheaply and quickly, then the city may actually have to fix the identified problems.

  • Tim||

    The last thing they want is a bunch of citizens telling them what to do.

  • bhauer||

    True, but I'd like for citizens to push a little harder to compel the local powers-that-be to do the things we want rather than what they want.

    This subject of indolence with routine maintenance struck a chord with me since I commute to work daily on foot and deal with similarly unkempt sidewalk surfaces and tripping hazards. It seems like a small nuisance until you almost lose your footing and realize you could have face-planted on concrete.

    Like Peter Griswold, I decided to do something about it, but I took a different tactic. I put together a local community activism web site (with an admittedly somewhat libertarian bent) focused on attempting to steer local decision-making to the whims of individuals. This is done by way of using donations to charity as "bounties"--carrots on a stick--to encourage action.

    So far, I've had a real hard time getting any traction, so the idea remains entirely experimental. But I invite others to check it out and join me in attempting to compel the powers-that-be through giving to good causes.

    It's called "Brian's Taskforce" (think "Craigslist") and the URL is

    In fact, here is a little sidewalk fault that snared my foot one afternoon:

  • Sevo||

    San Fran "solves" this problem by requiring the property owner to maintain the sidewalk in front of the property.

  • SugarFree||

    Here too. We get the whole "the city owns from the outer edge of the sidewalk to the street, but you are liable if someone gets hurt on them" horseshit too.

  • Tim||

    We could fix it for you, but a City crew with a backhoe, dump truck, overtime, disability and stuff comes to a little over $16,500 to fix two squares of sidewalk.

  • Sevo||

    The SF city gov't doesn't bother with the squeeze and tickle; it's simply 'we own it, you maintain it'.
    Same with trees, and some nincompoop non-profit named 'Friends of the Urban Forest' went around planting some form of ficus 20+ years ago.
    They must have concrete contractors on the board; the trees rip sidewalks and driveways to pieces. FotUF says 'oh, well'.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Note about the video: The background music is way too loud in the mix. It's distracting. The video keeps talking about the City of LA, but keeps using a cutaway of the County of LA Maintenance building.

    Let me guess, this story idea came when you guys saw them cutting down the trees on Sepulveda, just a par 4 from Reason offices, right? The sidewalks there are trashed.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    "People get hurt and people can die from falling down on and hitting their head on the sidewalk," says Los Angeles resident Peter Griswold.

    Fucking watch where you're going and stop dragging your feet! Shit, we've conditioned people to depend on the government so much that they can't even take responsibility tripping.

  • ChrisO||


  • New West Republic||

  • Perry5||

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  • Sevo||

    Anybody seen Eric recently?

  • NihilistZerO||

    This is from the city of teh stoopid that I live near. Mayor Tony Villar had the hilarious audacity to claim a million potholes would be fixed in a year and people believed it. That would have been over 2700 potholes filled a day 7 days a week. Yeah right. The City of LA couldn't manage the logistics of a Lakers parade and that guy shoveled that load of bullshit on the not-so-good people of LA. He's got some balls I'll give him that. Stupid as fuck but ballsy...

  • John Galt||

    Los Angeles is the smelly ass crack of the universe.

  • Agreenweed||

    I had a job once working for a company that inspected sidewalks for the state in Cali. Paid great. We inspected them for ADA code, to see if they were up to par. 90% of them were not. I was 18, it was hard to turn down $32 an hour plus free transportation and free lodging in a nice place. All that said, California is one jacked up state. Imagine if they created emissions standards 90% of cars couldn't pass, then they required you to spend money getting them inspected, knowing that only 10% would pass, and that even if they didn't pass, you could keep driving it. Ahh, the logic of our wondrous California.

  • Agreenweed||

    Oh and did I mention-this was in '08! The company I was working for had contracted to inspect the whole state's sidewalks in major cities. They started laying us off July 08 (after I was there only a month and a half) when the fiscal SHTF.

  • LGables||

    I love Mr. Griswold's attitude! This needs to get out more so people in LA push for this method instead. Celebrity power?

  • Peyton32||

    If you think Troy`s story is inconceivable,, last pay-cheque my moms boyfriend basically also actually earnt $7824 workin a fourty hour month from there house and their roomate's step-sister`s neighbour was doing this for nine months and broght in more than $7824 parttime from their pc. use the advice on this link... http://www.FLY38.COM

  • NihilistZerO||

    I love the use of the word "earnt" instead of "earned" I'm from a southern background so it made me smile. Still not clicking on the SPAM though LOL!

  • grey||

    I wish there was a way to report the spam. Every thread now has spam.

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