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Sidewalk and Parkway Strip Maintenance - Owner Responsibilities


The sidewalk, parkway strip, and curb & gutter are typically made of concrete and located next to the street on the front and/or side portion of your property. The curb and gutter are located at the edge of the street pavement. The sidewalk is either separated from the curb by a parkway, or is located adjacent to the curb. Parkways are sometimes planted or filled in with brick or other materials.

The City receives many requests from citizens to make repairs to sidewalks and realized there was a need to provide more information to the public on this subject.

Who is responsible for maintenance?

The property owner is responsible for properly maintaining this area (see San Luis Obispo Municipal Code Section 12.16.020 and Streets and Highway Code Division 7, Part 3, Chapter 22). This responsibility includes maintenance of damaged or displaced concrete and abatement of weeds or debris While the City may be liable for injuries to pedestrians that are determined to have resulted from a dangerous condition of a public sidewalk, property owners should be aware that they may also be found liable if it is determined that they somehow caused the dangerous condition.

When should property owners consider doing sidewalk replacement?

Replacement of the sidewalk, curb and gutter should be considered when one or more of the following exists:

§      When there is a vertical difference in height between sections of the sidewalk or concrete parkway strip of 3/4” or more.

§      If the concrete has broken apart.

§     In any instance where the owner has reason to know that the condition presents a danger to users, or the owner has observed someone trip because of damage to the surface.

In addition to damaged sections, curb and gutter replacement is typically required when sidewalks and driveways are replaced unless the sidewalk is separated from the curb by a parkway. Patching should be completed when horizontal openings greater than 1/2" exist.

What are the options available for completing the work?

Construction of curbs, gutters, and side-walks in City streets may be performed by a properly licensed and insured contractor. A permit is required for concrete repair. Permits are valid for 45 days; call (805)781-7200. 

Are there inspections and standards for concrete repair work?

Yes, all work and materials must be in conformance with the City of San Luis Obispo Engineering Standards for Public Works Construction.

Before placing any concrete you must have the forms, base, tree root removal, and saw cuts inspected. After approval, a City-approved concrete mix must be used. Finish must be a light broom finish with score marks to match the existing sidewalk. After the work is completed, you must call for a final inspection. A permit is required for all concrete work in the public right-of-way. Engineering Standards for construction are available on the City’s web site on the Public Works page.

For information on obtaining a permit call (805)781-7200.

Is the property owner responsible for repairs if the concrete damage is caused by a tree?

The City encourages street trees in front of residences. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the street tree but the City will repair the sidewalk when the concrete has been damaged by a street tree. Concrete damaged by other trees is the responsibility of the property owner. Maintenance, trimming and replacement of street trees and shrubs is governed by Chapter 12.24.110, 12.24.120 and 12.24.150 of the Municipal Code.

What measures should be taken to minimize concrete displacement by tree roots?

Certain species of trees may raise concrete if preventative maintenance is not performed. To reduce the chance of future concrete displacement, trees can be root-pruned and a root barrier installed. Care must be taken when root pruning to avoid damaging underground utilities.  This work must be completed by a licensed tree care specialist. Also, deep-watering the tree, that is, applying a slow trickle of water over a 24-hour period, encourages deeper root growth which reduces the chance of sidewalk damage.

If a problem is reported to the City, how long does it take for them to repair it?

When a report is made to the City, it is entered into a work order program.  Generally within a week the site is reviewed.  If a temporary “fix” such as grinding or ramping the area can be made, that is usually completed by the following week. Severe damage that can not be temporarily fixed is placed at the top of the list to be reconstructed as soon as possible when caused by a street tree. 

Areas of less severe damage are completed as the next priority, working around the City in a systematic fashion in advance of the paving program. That can mean the sidewalk will not be replaced for several years. Damage other than that caused by street trees needs to be followed up by the property owner.

Related to sidewalk repair is clearance and visibility.  When is maintenance required?

§      Visibility – When parkway strip shrubbery interferes with the ability of a driver to see approaching traffic, either from a driveway or an intersection, trimming of shrubs must be completed.  Shrubs must be trimmed to a maximum height of 36”, and preferably lower, for a minimum distance of 30’ from an intersection.  (Municipal Code 10.60 and 17.16.020)

§      Walkway and Gutter Clearance – Trimming of ground cover or shrubs is required when the plants extend onto or over the sidewalk or gutter.

§      Parkway Strip Condition – All tree stumps, large rocks, trash and holes must be removed. The parkway strip must be level with no tripping hazards.  Holes must be filled and leveled with dirt or other material.

When is a permit required for landscape maintenance work?

If the sidewalk or the street must be closed for the work, a permit is required from Public Works. If a tree is to be removed, a removal permit must be obtained. Applications for tree removal are available on the City’s web site on the Public Works page. Additional permit information can be obtained from the Department of Public Works. Permits are valid for 45 days; call (805)781-7200.

 Rev 1.14.13

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