Walk of Shame Or Walk of Fame

Here’s a tale from a Northender willing–mostly willing that is–to pay his share for sidewalk repairs.  He isn’t happy about paying, but he has to consider MOST of us in Boise don’t have sidewalks or city maintained trees between the curb and sidewalk.
“ I’m writing to raise awareness and forewarn other property owners regarding what has turned into a very frustrating experience  as I’ve attempted to facilitate an ACHD  mandated sidewalk replacement at our North End residence. 
For  those of you unfamiliar with the process, Section 11 of ACHD ordinance 190 (enacted 5/22/96) mandates that sidewalks which are  declared  “dangerous or unsafe” must be contracted  for repair or replacement by the ADJACENT (key word…these sidewalks are outside of the property  line boundary)  homeowner.  ACHD provides a list of “bonded concrete contractors for hazardous sidewalk repair” from which to choose.  Per the ACHD memo sent in conjunction with their Notice to Repair, using a contractor from this list “ensures overall quality and timeliness of work.” As a property owner if you follow the ACHD rules by acting within 30 days to engage an approved contractor who then completes the work, you get the privilege of paying up front for the ENTIRE cost of the project.I live on a corner lot so granted my scenario is a near worse case, but for me that means shelling out $3,300.  In turn, 30 days later ACHD will reimburse me for 50% of the cost.  Assuming that they have available budget left in their “Sidewalk Repair Reimbursement Fund” which is special fund set aside every year and dispersed on a first come first serve basis.

Well…it all sounds pretty good (not really) on paper but long story short  I now find myself 2+ weeks into what should   have been a  3 day sidewalk replacement job. The contractor  (one I selected from the ACHD list to make sure I received “overall quality and timeliness” on the project)  has not shown up for  going on 4 days straight now .  Tomorrow is the 4th of July holiday and our sidewalks and yard are ripped to @#$%& …and to add insult to injury while demolishing part of  the old sidewalk the contractor  knocked our side yard wood fence  apart. Fence was subsequently fixed and contractor apologized.

Remember now – when it’s all said and done (if it’s ever said and done) we’ll get to front the contractor a check for $3,300 of which ACHD (if they haven’t run out of budget by the time this debacle ends) will pay us back half. This is on top of the $3,600 property tax payment we recently made to fund our fair (?)  share of County road maintenance services.  Hmmm – does any of this smell like double or at least inequitable taxation?  At a minimum should perhaps this cost which amounts to a Special Assessment be (like Property Tax) a tax deductible expense?  No mention of that in the ACHD guidelines. 
Property owners who live in areas containing sidewalks – consider yourself warned and set some budget aside for a rainy day.  Your time is coming – it’s tough to find over 20 contiguous feet of sidewalk in the North End that doesn’t need replacing.  How the condemnation/selection process works I’ve not a clue….I just know that one day some white paint and arrows marked “ACHD” appeared, followed shortly by a Notice to Repair.  Now, much like the sidewalks I’m paying to replace, I’M THE ONE GETTING WALKED ALL OVER!! ”

GUARDIAN thinks Tim should be honored with his initials or even hand prints in his “walk of fame.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Tim, I know which sidewalk you are talking about as I live around the corner. It looks like the contractor did all the easy parts first and can’t figure out how to do the hard parts(corner) as it hasn’t even been formed up. Plus your garage is unusable with the pile of roadmix in front of it. These contractors should have performance guarantees that come out of the homeowners portion when they fail to complete in a timely manner.

    My sidewalk was replaced when the contractor next door thought it would be a great place to park a cement truck. With his and ACHD’s contribution, I ended up with a sweet deal.

  2. The only thing worse than dealing with ACHD is the historical district!

  3. Holy cow, Tim, I’d be tickled pink to even have sidewalks in my neighborhood. Neighborhoods on the Bench were built to cheap and primitive standards. The taxpayers of Boise paid for your sidewalks 100 years ago and now they have worn out and need replaced. Be happy you have a sidewalk to repair and it’s lasted so long, but unfortunately you had to be the one holding the bag when it wore out.

    Around the 20s or 30s, the city decided it wouldn’t pay for such a nicely detailed public realm with sidewalks and a strip of grass and trees between the sidewalk and curb. Developers didn’t feel this was right and the city buckled and let them off the hook for having to build sidewalks at all. Also, without sidewalks and grass strips, developers could condense a few more home lots into the neighborhood. The result: density without the benefits of density (better infrastructure). With people using cars to get around, developers could very long blocks (a half-mile long in some cases), making it impossible to get around on foot but allowing a few more lots to be squeezed in.

    Since the ’70s, the city has required developers to put in sidewalks as a matter of public safety. They’re view liked running water, sanitary sewer, electricity, paved roads and other essentials of a First World development. But there are huge areas of the city built to very cheap, shortsighted and stupid standards. People keep their kids under virtual houe arrest because it’s just not safe to let them wander freely without sidewalks and parents and teenagers zooming through the neighborhood.

    Sorry to hear about the inept contractor. But just be happy to have a sidewalk to repair.

  4. At a past ACHD hearing regarding property owners who had failed to redo their sidewalk in a timely manner (the fellow had been in the hospital on his death bed, but just happened to survive), I asked the five ACHD commissioners, “Who owns the sidewalks?” None of the five knew the answer. They finally called their attorney up, who declared that most sidewalks are in the public right-of-way. In other words, the ADJACENT property owners do NOT own the sidewalks, yet are responsible for having them repaired.

    Much as I hate finding things that the government really ought to pay for, in this case, unless the property owner has actually CAUSED the problem with the sidewalk adjacent to his/her property, ACHD should pay for 100 percent of the repairs.

    To add insult to injury in the ACHD sidewalk saga, the entity has no sidewalk inspection program, so enforcement is haphazard, at best. In other words, if you tell on your neighbor, ACHD will come out, inspect, and enforce their sidewalk repair ordinance if it is warranted. They then have very particular rules about how many houses to either side of the one in question (I seem to recall it was exactly one each way) in front of which they will also inspect the sidewalk. So, if you are at least TWO houses away, you are okay, even if they have a sidewalk inspector there looking.

    Is anyone catching on, yet, as to how very absurd this sidewalk ordinance and enforcement program are?

    And, while we’re on the subject of ACHD, has anyone tried to circumnavigate the “Southwest Community” lately? Lake Hazel Road is closed, they are chip-sealing Amity and Victory, and there is major roadwork going on, on Overland. Those are only the east-west roads. Of course, if you would rather travel north-south on the west side of Boise, then look out for over-crowded Eagle, which has periodic lane restrictions for roadwork (this is more likely ITD”s fault, though, but the two agencies could certainly try to coordinate better.) Also, avoid Cloverdale, since the overpass is being repaired, and watch out for Maple Grove, since there is still work being done between Franklin and Fairview. Five Mile Road is still open, but then EVERYBODY and their uncle is on Five Mile, since it’s the only major north-south arterial that goes through right now (and that’s only if there aren’t any more traffic accidents that shut it down in both directions over the interstate, as happened about a week ago.)

    So, the bottom line is: does anybody wonder why we are frustrated with ACHD?

    To the ACHD commissioners: it’s time to start coordinating roadwork so that you leave at least every other major arterial open at any given time; and, how about fixing that logically (and likely legally) flawed sidewalk ordinance?!

  5. Sharon, if the ACHD paid for sidewalk repair, it would have less money to install sidewalks in neighborhoods that never had them. In a more perfect world, the ACHD would take care of the sidewalks AND the roads, but it’s also trying to retrofit sidewalks in older neighborhoods.

    Realy, the ACHD’s whole approach to sidewalks is wrong – sidewalks are at the bottom of the totem pole. To get them installed, you need like 90 percent of the homeowners agree to donate their property for a sidewalk. If a few object, they can hold it up for everyone. The ACHD says that’s to make sure they’re not forcing sidewalks on anyone and only the neighborhoods that really need and want them, get them.

    Oddly, when the ACHD wants to widen the road in front of your house, they don’t go door-to-door with a petition saying, “We’d really like you to donate your front yard for a new lane of traffic. Will you kindly sign this petition because we don’t want to force this road expansion on anybody?” HA! They say “We’re widening this road because our public process has concluded the extra capacity is a public necessity. And we’re going to forcibly buy the land from you and so can’t hold it up.”

    If only the ACHD gave sidewalks that kind of respect, funding and authority.

  6. Wonk, your second to the last para is hilarious.

    “We’re widening this road because our public process has concluded the extra capacity is a public necessity”

    What public process do you think ACHD engages in?

    Here’s a hint. There isn’t any.

  7. I’ve never figured out how the city or ACHD or anybody else can require homeowners to repair sidewalks. You don’t own them (If you did, you could tear them out and plant flowers or something — just try it! Whew!)

    Worse than the repairs: If someone slips on an icy sidewalk in the winter and gets injured, that someone can sue YOU, the homeowner, even though, nope, it’s still not YOUR sidewalk.
    And if the snow piles up on it, you are required by law (so they say, anyway) to shovel it off.
    Something’s really rotten in any system that can require a citizen to care for, clean and repair something he or she does not own and has no control over (You might try putting up “No trespassing” signs on it, or deciding which people you would allow to use it, just as you can decide which people to allow into your house or to have a picnic in you yard. Heh! I’ll bet the powers that be would raise all kinds of hell with you. You have no rights — just financial responsibilities.)

    Can someone please explain how that works, how it can be constitutional, and wherein lies any for of logic?

  8. Personally, I used to live in fear that enough people would band together to get a sidewalk project started in our former Boise neighborhood. I much preferred a walking/bicycle path as part of the street. Sidewalks would have destroyed much needed trees, cost a fortune for people with long frontages and required shoveling usually when most people were at work.

  9. Sara, the ACHD does indeed have a process. You probably know it better than I do. They do studies, put something in a work plan, hold hearings, vote, put it to bid, etc.

    The hearings are often instructive. The Curtis Road extension/widening was a good example of “PITBYS,” a variation of NIMBY that stands for “Put It in Their Back Yard.” These are neighbors who will testify in favor of widening the street in front of someone else’s home so they can get to work or shopping a little faster. You know darn well they’d go berserk if someone proposed widening the street in front of the PITBY’s home, however.

    Institutions like the ACHD reflect the common values of the majority. As long as people place cars above children, pedestrians and bicyclists, cars will always come first in process and funding.

  10. curious george
    Jul 9, 2007, 5:54 pm


    It’s called a Mobocracy – the rule of the mob. In this case the “mob” believes it is entitled to walk away from sidewalk repair costs – what happened to high school civics classes (maybe they don’t have those in Boise).

    Personally, I like sidewalks – even after I had to pay for the one in front of my house to be repaired. In this case “sidewalks” are a synecdoche for “civility”. Sidewalks, how they are constructed and cared for, are a fairly accurate gauge of the overall civic health of a community. Those who don’t want them, or refuse to repair them, or refuse to shovel them, are social introverts – better left to live in the wilds, not a city. And the same can be said of a city & its citizens that refuse to maintain landscaped boulevards – is it really a city, or just a backwater frontier town.

    Now we can choose to raise our taxes to cover these construction, maintenance, cleaning, and indemnity costs (funds for which, we are not currently assessing ourselves). It just seems more responsible to take care of the portion that fronts your own property and assume the liability for that same portion.

    BTW, when I broke my ankle after I tripped over a broken sidewalk in front of a neighbor’s house I didn’t sue (because it was my neighbor) – nor did I rat them out to the highway district for having a “hazardous” sidewalk. They took the money they saved and repaired the sidewalk. I doubt that if we had some type of centralized liability tax assessment we would see the same level of cordiality – we would sue the highway district every chance we got.

    Which, of course would be the same as sueing ourselves.

  11. Anne, it blows me away you “lived in fear” of sidewalks.

    You said you’d prefer a walking and bike path as part of the street (presumably to be shared space with autos). I can’t imagine that a neighborhood too primitive for sidewalks would have a marked pathway in the street. As for trees, sidewalks can often be routed around them. I’d rather see kids be able to walk to school, even if it means a few less trees. Trees are cut and chopped all the time for roads and power lined but suddenly they are objects of worship when sidewalks are proposed.

    What frightened you so much about sidewalks? I recall taking a petition door-to-door in my neighborhood for sidewalks. I was astounded at the people who didn’t want them. I could never get them to articulate an actual reason. Some just had a vague dislike about the idea of people walking in front of their home, others were afraid their property values would go up, other said they didn’t care if kids had to walk in the street.

  12. Wonk:

    Specifically, it was the cost for something that wasn’t there when we bought the property; nor did we want it.

    Additionally, since the road had already been widened, any additional width would have eliminated large trees in front of many homes along about a mile-and-a-half of street. (And, yes, I do feel the same way about cutting down trees to widen roads or make life easier for the electric company. I miss the trees everytime I drive between 28th and 16th streets on State, among other denuded roads in Boise. My horses miss the trees that used to shade one end of their pasture but that Idaho Power cut down last year — also on State.)

    We did, by the way, move to the country when we bought our sidewalkless property; the city though came out and grabbed us.

  13. Wonk, surely you jest regarding ACHD holding hearings. Tell me when they’ve actually held a hearing. I don’t mean one of their open houses where everything has been decided and they are shoving the product down the public’s throat. I mean a real hearing where the public is allowed input BEFORE the project is decided and that input is taken into account in the final design.

    Here’s the answer. Not in a very very long time if ever.

    Why do you think ACHD got terrible ratings from the ULI on public participation? (notwithstanding their spokesmouth’s propaganda which turns day to night and up to down.

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