Well: The Sidewalk Working Group of Denver’s City Council met today (Oct. 22) and the first part of the session was all about the sidewalk repair program that affects property owners in the city. Apparently the person I talked to with the city didn’t get the news.
Matt Bryner, with the Public Works Department’s Right of Way Service, outlines several changes that will have an impact on the program in terms of how it affects you and me. He said that inspections began on Aug. 15 in the Speer neighborhood, but they decided to pause the process for a bit to learn more about the flagstone information.
Turns out that: the thickness of flagstone replacement will be 2.5 inches, not 4 inches; the city will allow mud-jacking (drilling holes in flagstone slabs to pump material under the stone to level it out, which is less expensive than re-leveling the slab); the city will extend the time allowed for completion from 45 days to 90 days, and the plan will exempt repairs from Dec. 15 through April 1 because the flagstone quarries are not in operation during the winter.
Bryner also told city council members in attendance that his department is keeping statistics on the work done so far, but the number of inspections is too low (about 80 properties have been entered in the department’s system), to present an accurate picture of the situation. He noted that colored concrete will be less expensive to owners who don’t want to incur the expense of mud-jacking and/or replacement of a slab.
As he put it, those involved in the program are continuing to learn and improve as this program fully rolls out.
As for the city sidewalk gap program, where sidewalks are missing or create a gap between where one stops and another starts, there are 355 miles of sidewalk gaps — including 45 miles of gap areas on city-owned properties. The priorities for the work will focus on city-owned properties, areas that access transit lines and schools, places with high-injury reports, and areas of the city that need a boost in health because of obesity. Funds are coming from various sources, including from the capital improvement program aimed at city-owned properties ($2.5 million in 2019) and the 2017 Elevate Denver Bond, for a total of about $47.7 million.
Bet on the fact that more information on this will become more clear. A presentation on both topics in this meeting will be posted on the Denver City Council’s page at https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-city-council.html.
New data on the sidewalk program is to be included on the first link below.
ORIGINAL POST: The Sidewalk Working Group of Denver’s City Council is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, to deal with the other issues involving city sidewalks, which has been under discussion for a couple of years. This involves an update from Public Works in terms of repairs to sidewalks on city-owned properties. I was wondering about that.
The city also has added a 15-minute comment period for speakers to address the issues the Sidewalk Working Group is tackling as described above — not the sidewalk repair program Denver property owners will face. If you want to speak to the items on the agenda (not your sidewalks), sign up between 1:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. The meeting is in Room 391 in the City and County Building on Bannock Street. This is a new wrinkle, and we’ll see how the city will repair its own property.
But to travel back in time:
The morning of Saturday, Aug. 11, was beautiful – perfect to head to Denver Botanic Gardens. But this was NOT the time to smell the roses. Instead, some 200-or-so people packed Mitchell Hall to hear Denver Public Works officials explain the new sidewalk repair program for the first group chosen to deal with repairs. City Councilmen Wayne New (District 10) and Paul Kashmann (District 6) served as hosts, but this was not a good party.
To be blunt: People were not happy. Many property owners had learned for the first time that, yes, the city owns the sidewalks, but owners have to pay for repairs and replacement of damaged / unsafe concrete or flagstone slabs.
The gathering included people who came to learn, but the mood was grim. Partially, there was the issue of how much repairs might cost each owner. But the rules laid out seemed to be really difficult to follow. A city inspector would walk the city, and mark slabs with paint to show areas that needed to be repaired or replaced – without talking to owners. Owners would have 45 days to make the fixes, including over the winter, when pouring concrete and sourcing flagstone is not realistic. The city was offering discounted fees for single-family homes and row homes, but not to owners living in multi-family buildings. Voices were raised. All I could think was: Why didn’t city officials just pass around bottles of aspirin? The room was one big headache.
But then, a long-time resident of North Capitol Hill stood up and started asking smart questions and offering smart suggestions: Diane Travis, who worked for years at the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, knows stone and concrete. She invited those in the audience to show up outside her home on Emerson Street to witness a demonstration of leveling flagstone, and dealing with tree roots, which cause all types of slabs to pop up or break. A good-sized crowd showed up on that drizzly and cold September evening, and we learned a lot. She had even invited a city forester to answer questions about saving trees while dealing with wayward roots.
The sidewalk repair program had been announced months before the first meeting in August, but hearing the reality in person was different from reading a story. To be honest, many sidewalks in Denver need repairs. The new emphasis on pedestrian power, via an organization called Walk Denver, was encouraging us to view sidewalks in a different way – as in we can get to Point A to Point B on foot. Being a pedestrian in Denver can be dangerous, even before you factor in cars and oh-those-buzzy scooters. Some parts of Denver have no sidewalks, or sidewalks that just sort of end in mid-block; other parts of Denver have narrow concrete borders, known as Hollywood curbs.
For more background on the impact on property owners, check out the city’s page on the sidewalk repair program, as well as previous coverage: