Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Public Staircase Maintenance: Who's Responsible?

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 13, 2010. The Big Parade on the Silver Lake Ave. Public Staircase between Lake View and the Red Car Property. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

In the Red Car Property neighborhood, the more open, visible and highly used a public staircase is; the more neglected it is.

I asked Mitch O'Farrell, Senior Advisor, Special Projects in Eric Garcetti's CD13, for advice on public staircase maintenance issues. For many years, O'Farrell and I have discussed public staircase maintenance and historic preservation. He reminded me of the citywide study conducted a few years ago (and discussed in a post yesterday). At the time, some staircases in a Echo Park and Silver Lake were repaired and lit. Since 2003, there has been no additional funding for lighting and repairs.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 13, 2010. The Big Parade on the Roselin Public Staircase. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

O'Farrell pointed out that living on a public staircase is similar to having a paper street next to your home. A paper street is one the City owns but never paved. In our neighborhood, Silver Lake Court is the primary example. With paper streets, the adjacent property owners are responsible for maintenance to the middle of the right-of-way.

O'Farrell continued, "If you live on a stairway street, you are responsible for maintaining the stairway to the middle. This is because no funding is currently available to maintain and clean our public staircases. This is not unlike having a sidewalk in front of your house. By code, the property owner is responsible for all sidewalk repairs and maintenance. But from the early 1970's to current times, the city has funded sidewalk replacement. However, with the current budget crisis, city funded sidewalk replacement is on hold."

This explains why the section of Silver Lake Ave. Public Staircase (top photo above) is in such poor condition. The Red Car Property is adjacent to both sides of the most neglected flight of stairs. When you have an absentee owner, as many of our vacant lots do, brush clearance, dumping and graffiti affect the neighbors more than the vacant lot owner.

It's also easier for neighbors to maintain the smaller, hidden public staircases, like Roselin, because neighbors are literally right on top of the staircase.

Tomorrow: cleaning up public staircases.