The City of Grass Valley is continually striving to ensure that the movement of people within public rights of way is as safe and convenient as possible. Historically, the responsibility for the construction and repair of public streets lies with the City, and the responsibility for the construction and/or repair of sidewalks lies with the property owner.
An individual property owner’s obligation to maintain and repair sidewalks and related appurtenances adjacent to his or her property is not new. In fact, existing state law, originally enacted under the Street Improvement Act of 1911 (California Streets and Highway Code § 5600, et. seq.) imposes the obligation to maintain upon the adjacent property owner.
Under § 5610 of the California Streets & Highways Code, a property owner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk area (including trees placed on public property between the curb and the sidewalk) adjoining his or her property. As defined by the Streets & Highways Code, “sidewalk area” includes the sidewalk, as well as a parkway or parking strip maintained in the area between the property line and the street line and also includes curbing, bulkheads, retaining walls or other works for the protection of any sidewalk or of any such park or parking strip. Under Streets & Highways Code § 5615, if a property owner fails to maintain the sidewalk area, the City can perform the work and proceed to collect the cost from the property owner.
In 2004, the Court of Appeal held that § 5610 properly imposes a duty of repair within the “sidewalk area” upon the adjacent property owner. In addition, the Court of Appeal held that a City is authorized to go further and adopt an ordinance that extends to the property owner liability to the public for injuries caused by the property owner’s failure to maintain the sidewalk area (Gonzales v. City of San Jose (2004) 125 Cal.App. 4th 1127; see also Jordan v. City of Sacramento (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1487).
Any person desiring to construct or reconstruct any sidewalk, curb, curb return, gutter, pavement or driveway, or desiring to cut any such curb, curb return, gutter or sidewalk in or upon any public street, alley or public place in the City shall, before entering upon such construction or causing the same to be made apply for an Encroachment Permit.
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