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Who has the liability and responsibility for repairing the sidewalk outside your home?

In 2008, a couple of sections of the sidewalk adjacent to my home had become uneven apparently from the roots of one of my nearby trees. I contacted the City’s Public Works Department as to the responsibility for the repairs and they informed me that as the property owner, the responsibility was mine. I then asked Public Works about the required permits and the sidewalk specifications. I also inquired if they had a list of potential contractors who were capable of performing the work. They provided me with all the things needed to address the task.

On January 4, 2009, the City Council reviewed both a Public and Private Sidewalk Maintenance Policy which includes a new service to assist property owners with their sidewalk maintenance responsibilities. While the Council adopted the Public Sidewalk Maintenance, it continued the Private Sidewalk Policy to a future meeting pending clarification on whether a few sidewalks in town are the responsibility of the City or the property owners. I am not presuming the decision of my colleagues, but it is safe to say that some form of policy will be forthcoming. So when this decision is reached, the normal public notification will be distributed through the appropriate media outlets, flyers, and press releases.

Since that City Council meeting, two unrelated citizens have asked me about the sidewalk repair issue, so I thought an outreach message would be in order as it was clear to me that they were not aware that their sidewalk maintenance was their responsibility.

Foster City is updating an existing policy for private sidewalks that coincides with the California Streets and Highways Code where property owners have the responsibility for maintaining the sidewalks adjacent to their property in a safe condition. Section 5610 of the Streets and Highways Code states “The owners of lots or portions of lots …, shall maintain any sidewalk in such condition that the sidewalk will not endanger persons or property and maintain it in a condition which will not interfere with the public convenience…” Also, Sections 5600-5602, 5610-5618, and 5625-5630 of the Streets and Highways Code of California address notification, financial responsibilities, liens, and collections. Foster City Municipal Codes 11.08.010-11.08.030 addresses property owner liability for damages from unsafe sidewalks.

It should be remembered that the maintenance of the sidewalks adjacent to a property is the responsibility of the property owner. The City has its own responsibility for maintaining sidewalks which are adjacent to or within City property.

It is hoped that each homeowner becomes aware of the condition of their sidewalks and plan to take needed corrective action. If the sidewalk adjacent to your home is in need of repair, you should expect to be notified by the City. If the repairs are not made in the timely manner, the City will perform the work and bill the property owner.

Citizens should make the City aware of any sidewalks that are in need of repair so that proper action can be taken and a potentially harmful situation avoided. I would like to suggest that once both the Public and Private Sidewalk Maintenance Policies are approved by the City Council, each homeowner should review them. One of the things that makes Foster City the Pride of the Peninsula is its aesthetic beauty and well maintained sidewalks contribute to that beauty.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at

Council Corner

February 03, 2010

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200