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Ron Kaye: L.A. has gone to potholes

January 12, 2013|By Ron Kaye
(Courtesy Mike Gatto )

Cracked and potholed streets don't just damage your car and annoy you, they also kill — causing accidents, slowing emergency response times, endangering pedestrians, even increasing the risk of West Nile virus by allowing stagnant pools of water to accumulate and become the breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Those were among the arguments put forward last week to the Los Angeles City Council by the city's street services chief in urging members to put a measure on the May ballot to raise $3 billion from higher property taxes to repair the long-neglected 6,500 miles of mean streets.

“We have a 60-year backlog of failed and near-failed streets; that is approximately one-third of our street network,” Nazario Sauceda told the council as he explained how the city allowed its roads to deteriorate by scrimping on funding for decades.

“Bad streets also affect curb appeal and thus reduce the value of our houses,” he added.

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Imagine that. For six decades city officials neglected the repair and maintenance of the city's streets to the point that nearly a third need to be totally rebuilt and another third are in danger of failing in coming years. It is hardly surprising given the fact that L.A.'s sidewalks are even worse than the streets, and there hasn't even been a policy on who is responsible for them in the 30 years I've lived there.

Los Angeles and Glendale are neighbors, but exist in parallel universes going in opposite directions. Their populations have increased at roughly the same rate during the last 60 years, so L.A. is still nearly 20 times the size with nearly 20 times as many miles of streets — 6,500 miles to 350.

I checked in with Steve Zurn, head of the Glendale Public Works Department and city-owned utility, to try to understand why the glitzy entertainment capital of the world has gotten old and run-down, while the Jewel City is a gem that looks young and beautiful when it comes to its infrastructure.

“I don't know how you could stand up and say we haven't done anything for 60 years because of lack of attention, diligence and vigilance in keeping the infrastructure up. Who would even admit that?” Zurn chuckled when I told him what was going on in L.A.

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