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Friday, August 19, 2011

Where the sidewalk (inspection) ends

Back in the '80s, we owned a house that needed not one but two driveways repaved. The nice folks from the City of Portland let us know. They used to come through the neighborhood every seven years and force any homeowner with any kind of bump or break in the sidewalk to fix it.

Not so nowadays. A reader writes:

A few days ago I was told, by a sidewalk repair man, that he has been told by the City folks with whom he must work, that the sidewalk inspectors work on a complaint-based (or complaint-driven) system. No complaint equals no concern by the sidewalk repair section of the maintenance department of the Bureau of Transportation. I had never heard of such a thing, before.

Further, when they investigate a complaint, they follow a protocol something like this: 1) investigate the specific complaint site; 2) then go a specific number of feet from the complained-about defect, and stop if there is no defect discovered within the specific number of feet in the protocol, then reverse and go in the opposite direction for the same distance from the compained-about defect; 3) return to base if there are no other defects within the number of feet called for in the protocol, but continue on in the same fashion until the violations peter-out; 4) nevermind what might be discovered if one looks across the street. Honest.

We wonder when the routine inspections stopped and the complaints-only system began. Probably when some City Council members got tired of fielding complaints from outraged homeowners, who also vote, about the regular hassle from the inspectors.

Comments (10)

I don't think it is a complaint driven system in commercial areas. However, it is becoming a real hassle to get the city to actually notify a property owner of a defective sidewalk before the so called city approved contractors dig up the sidewalk and "repair" it a vastly more expense that would have been incurred if the property owner contracted the work. I was told that the city no longer notifies property owners of side walk defects.

I think it's more about budget cuts; no enforcement until somebody complains, because there aren't enough inspectors to catch nuisances proactively. It makes inspections more hands-off, but it does require neighbors to turn each other in, which doesn't exactly promote neighborliness and good civic feelings.

It shows once again how the city prioritizes the quality of life of Portlanders of the future (with urban renewal, streetcars, and bike lanes) over the quality of life of those who live here now (leaving no money for police officers, pothole crews, or nuisance inspectors). Why can't some of Sam's platoon of young coat-holders be put to work as inspectors or pothole-fillers in between tweets?

Since the City is not responsible for injuries to people using the sidewalk- the homeowner is- maybe they decided it wasn't worth the cost or trouble.

"Since the City is not responsible for injuries to people using the sidewalk- the homeowner is- maybe they decided it wasn't worth the cost or trouble."

Right on (almost) actually the City is not responsible UNLESS someone has complained and the City has done nothing in response.

Otherwise you wouldn't even have complaint response. After all when was the last time an ordinary citizen gave them thousands in campaign contributions. (Hmmm I get $8 mil from the City and then recycle maybe 1% back to the pols. That gets me another $8 mil ....)

I think Eric is right--budget cuts at BDS. Everybody whines about the inspectors doing their job, but then everybody whines when the inspectors get laid off and nobody does their job.

Wait - we WANT city inspectors harassing homeowners over sidewalk cracks? I don't follow...

I don't care much either way, but it's interesting how the city radically changed gears at some point along the way. I'd say the routine inspections stopped at least a decade ago.

PDOT needed more money for "planners" and Sam's hidden staff. They decimated the Maintenance Bureau i.e. pothole and sidewalk inspections.

Funny enough I've recently had this happen. It's a complaint based system and if you register a complaint the inspector does the entire block. I was one of the fortunate down the street from someone who actually did have a very serious problem that needed to be fixed who also got dinged by the inspector and told to fix.

Sort of hard to argue about it since the sidewalk default was well beyond the city regulations and I myself had tripped on it numerous times. Cost a bit of money to fix but I didn't mind so much as it was my responsibility and all.

NW Pdx is a nightmare to walk in. People who have poor eyesight, limited mobility or simply walk in darkened conditions take their lives in their hands. Nice trees, but those roots! Is this an example of Portland's vaunted "walkable" neighborhoods?

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