This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Seattle is covered in broken, dangerous sidewalks.  I always assumed our sidewalks were terrible for the same reason that our roads are terrible – because WA is too anti-tax to fund anything properly.  But today I found out that homeowners and businesses are actually required to maintain their own sidewalks.  Not just rake and shovel our sidewalks, but if there’s a sidewalk outside your house and it’s cracked or a section is raised more than 1/2″, you are required to repair that sidewalk.  There’s even language that allows the city to fix it for you, then bill you and put a lien on your home until you pay.

So with the death of the $60 car tab, how do we fix Seattle’s sidewalks?  Simply have city workers wander our sidewalks looking for any cracks, roots, or damage, and require the adjacent homeowner to fix it.  It may not be a popular move, but it would certainly be effective.  All without raising taxes.

6 Replies to “How to improve Seattle’s sidewalks.”

  1. That wouldn’t help for all the areas where there aren’t sidewalks yet.

    Unless they put in REALLY cheap sidewalks that only last a year or so and then require people to repair them up to current standards?

  2. In many (most?) cities and towns, when you build a new building you’re required to build a sidewalk. This is why you often see strange sidewalk-empty-sidewalk situations in towns that haven’t fully built up. This wouldn’t be a terrible strategy for Seattle, though we’d really need some way of making existing homes add sidewalks.

    Of course, the efficient way to do this is for everyone to chip in and have one entity build or maintain everyone’s sidewalks. But some might call the “chip in” feature a “tax” and the “entity” a “government”. And we know how people in this state feel about taxes and government, so maybe the only way to get this done is to make the homeowners and business owners do it. (hey, it wouldn’t even be regressive – the smaller your home, the less sidewalk you have to build!)

  3. Matt, Seattle already does that for new construction. The problem, indeed, is the existing neighborhoods which were built without them and want them.

  4. Good to know. What do you think about extending that law? Require all homes with an address ending in 1 to have sidewalks within 2 years. Next year add addresses ending in 2. Etc. This will keep us from having a massive surge of construction that drives up labor prices.

    If sidewalks are seen as an ammenity provided and serviced by the adjacent land owner, it sounds like a large portion of homeowners have been getting a free ride. We’d just be ending this free ride.

Comments are closed.