Sidewalk Program


What is Burlingame's current sidewalk repair program and how does it work?

Burlingame’s sidewalk repair program is based on the California Streets and Highway Code which states that the adjoining property owners are responsible to repair the sidewalks. The City performs an annual inspection of the sidewalks for tripping hazards and prioritizes a list of areas to be repaired based on severity. Property owners in the program are then notified to make the necessary repairs which are indicated on a sketch. State law requires that the City send two notices giving property owners the opportunity to have the work performed themselves. Alternatively, property owners could choose to have the City’s contractor perform the work. Before property owners are billed for the repairs, a public hearing would be held to receive any protests regarding the quality, quantity and cost of the sidewalk improvements. Property owners can then choose to pay the City or have the cost included on their County property tax bill.

What is the average cost of sidewalk repairs to each property owner in the current sidewalk program?

Based on current construction prices and the citywide average extent of repairs, the typical cost to the property owner is estimated to be $600.

Do I have the right to remove the tree that is damaging the sidewalk?

Because trees located near the sidewalk are in the city right of way, property owners should contact the Parks Division and request that they be removed. The Division would evaluate the request in accordance with the City Policy for removal and replacement of trees. Staff would evaluate the tree based on health, future cost to the property owner, species impact on the neighborhood and ADA compliance. Generally speaking, unless the tree is unhealthy or is an inappropriate tree species, current policy would result in denial of a request to remove it. A staff denial can be appealed to the Beautification Commission.

Can I have the City perform sidewalk repairs and send me the bill if I believe it is more efficient than me having the work done?

Property owners can choose to have the City perform the sidewalk repairs and do not have to take any action at this time. The notice is being sent in conformance with State Law. At the end of the noticing period, the City would hire a contractor to perform the repairs and then send a bill to the property owners after Council acceptance of the work. Past experience indicates that city bid prices are very competitive due to the volume of work.

When did the City adopt the policy of property owners being responsible for sidewalk repairs? And did the City hold a public discussion and obtain public input before adopting the policy?

For many years the City of Burlingame required property owners to pay for sidewalk repairs. However, in 1990 the Council decided to use city funds to pay for the repairs adjacent to single family residences. Unfortunately, as a result of continued budget shortfalls, the City in 2004 was compelled to return to the former policy of requiring adjoining property owners to pay for this work. The Council held public meetings to obtain community input before adopting this policy.

Is the concept of property owners paying for sidewalk repairs a new one?

The California Streets and Highway Code states that property owners shall be responsible for maintaining adjacent sidewalks in such conditions that they will not endanger persons or property and not interfere with the public convenience for its intended use. Due to budget constraints, many cities in California have been requiring the property owners to pay for sidewalk repairs.

Which cities in the Peninsula require property owners to be responsible for sidewalk repairs?
A recent survey shows that 10 out of 11 Peninsula cities require that sidewalk repairs to be the responsibility of the adjoining property owner including: 
• Pacifica 
• Daly City 
• San Bruno 
• Millbrae 
• San Mateo 
• Foster City 
• Belmont 
• San Carlos 
• Redwood City* 
• Menlo Park* 

*Menlo Park and Redwood City require that property owners pay 50% of the repair costs. South San Francisco does not require the adjoining property owners to be responsible for sidewalk repairs. 
Are the homeowners liable if someone is injured by a sidewalk tripping hazard?

Any sidewalk related injury should be referred to the City Attorney’s office and will be handled on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances.

30 days is too short of a notice for sidewalk repairs. Can there be a time extension?

The 30 days notice is based on the procedures per State Law to provide homeowners the opportunity to either repair the sidewalk themselves or to have the City contractor do the repairs. At the end of the noticing period, the City would determine whether the work was completed and, if not, would provide an additional 60 days to complete the work. Property owners can also request an extension beyond the 60 days which may be granted if there was sufficient time to complete the work prior to the rainy season to avoid liability issues.

Since the sidewalk damages are caused by street trees, why doesn't the City pay for those repairs?

Being a Tree City USA, Burlingame highly regards tree preservation and protection of the urban forest. Although the trees are located in the street right of way, they are community property and contribute to the enhancement of the quality of life as well as promote property values. The City is the custodian for protecting, preserving and maintaining these trees for the community. Although, Burlingame has limited funds, it does pay for all of the tree maintenance. In comparison, Millbrae requires property owners to pay for sidewalk repairs as well as tree maintenance.

If the City performs the sidewalk repairs, when will the property owners receive the bill for the repair costs?

After the completion of the repairs, a final expenditure report would be prepared for Council approval at a public hearing. The repair costs would then be sent to the County Assessor’s office and collected as part of the property tax bill. For example, work performed in the summer of 2007 would be included on the tax bill sent to property owners in late 2008. This would provide more than a year for property owners to arrange for paying the cost.

Why does the City crew repairs the sidewalk with asphalt concrete patch instead of concrete?

If a sidewalk tripping hazard is brought to the attention of the City, the Public Works Department staff would immediately repair it with asphalt to protect the public health and safety. However, asphalt patches deteriorate relatively quickly and need to be replaced with concrete as a permanent fix.

Am I responsible, if a tree is damaged during the sidewalk repair?

Property owners should contact the Parks Division before beginning sidewalk work in an area near a tree. The City’s arborist would provide advice on how to perform the work safely without causing damage to the tree. The Parks Division would take into account the care that went into protecting the tree if it was damaged.

What should I do if I encounter tree roots under my sidewalk while doing repairs?

Property owners should contact the City’s arborist who will assist in identifying methods and techniques to perform the work and to slow down future tree root growth which could cause sidewalk problems.

Being a Tree City USA, the tree roots will continue to damage the sidewalk. How many times should I have to replace the sidewalks in the future?

Being a Tree City USA, Burlingame will continue to face this problem. If the City’s financial situation improves, Council has the option to change the requirement that property owners be responsible for sidewalk repairs.

Has the City considered alternative sidewalk solutions?

City staff is evaluating a new sidewalk material made of rubber recently introduced in the market. It is being used by several agencies on a trial basis to see how it performs when impacted by tree roots. The rubberized sidewalk is believed to allow more root growth and possibly prevent tripping hazards. Because the cost of the rubberized sidewalk is currently 3 to 5 times higher than a traditional concrete sidewalk, the City will continue to monitor market conditions before using this material.

Since large trees will continue to grow and cause ongoing sidewalk damage, can the City set a policy to replace these trees with less problematic younger trees?
The Parks Division has a tree replacement policy in place in the event a large tree meets the criteria for removal. Property owners may select a tree from the “Official City Street Tree” list. Most of these trees are proven to have less aggressive root systems. In addition, whenever possible the City will require meandering or curved sidewalks in an effort to increase the tree planting area for present and future trees. Property owners may install root barriers during sidewalk replacement to delay roots from encroaching into the sidewalk area. 

50/50 Sidewalk Repair Program

50/50 Sidewalk Repair Program
The City of Burlingame maintains over 116 miles of sidewalk, a significant portion of which is aging and is impacted by the tree roots resulting in cracks and separations requiring repair. Providing frontage access for Burlingame residents and businesses and serving as a primary pedestrian facility, the sidewalks are an essential part of the City’s infrastructure. It is essential that the sidewalk infrastructure be properly maintained to protect the public health and safety of the pedestrians, property owners and the community as a whole. The sidewalk repair program is designed to provide a reasonable method, given limitations of financial and personnel resources, for the repair of sidewalks. Geographic areas have been identified and prioritized for repairs based on the intensity of pedestrian traffic and level of repair.


The California Streets and Highways Code requires that adjoining private property owners maintain the sidewalks in front of their property. Given the current state of economy and the financial hardship to property owners, the Council evaluated several options to fund sidewalk repairs. After a comprehensive analysis of options available, the Council approved a “50/50 Sidewalk Repair Program” The 50/50 sidewalk repair program is a turnkey program providing the most efficient method to address damaged sidewalks in a manner which will not only assist the City in maintaining the public pedestrian infrastructure but will also reduce significant financial and logistical burden to the property owners. Following are the main elements of the program:

The City will fully undertake the work including identifying sidewalk defects, preparing plans and specifications, bidding, construction and contract administration; thus providing a turn-key project saving time for the individual property owners from soliciting bids from contractors and doing the work themselves.

  • The City will combine areas/blocks of sidewalk repairs as part of a larger project which will provide economies of scale, thereby reducing repair costs to individual property owners.
  • The work will be done through an open competitive bidding process ensuring competitive pricing for the work.
  • Only experienced and licensed contractors will be allowed to bid providing best quality construction.
  • The property owner will be provided with information about the details of the required repairs and associated costs upon receiving bids. The property owners are not required to pay their share (50%) of the repair costs until after the work is completed.
How does the 50/50 Sidewalk Program work?

The City selects the designated area based on priority and inspects the sidewalk for damaged areas and determines where repairs are necessary. Markings will be placed on the sidewalk according to the type of work needed. The City will provide the adjoining property with information regarding the details of the sidewalk program and approximate time schedule of the repairs. The property owner may at his/her option, chose to either participate in the City 50/50 sidewalk repair program or repair the sidewalk him/herself per City standards. A property owner who does not participate in the City program will not be eligible to receive 50% reimbursement and will accept full cost of the repair.

The City will prepare engineering plans and specifications to obtain competitive construction bids for the repairs or replacement in a given geographical area. Upon receiving successful bids, the City will hire a contractor to perform the repairs. At the completion of construction, a noticed public hearing before the City Council will be held to finalize the repairs costs. Once the work is satisfactorily completed and the City Council has determined the final cost after a public hearing, the City will collect, through the property tax bill, adjoining property owners 50% share of the repair cost for the sidewalk adjacent to their property. The City will keep the affected property owners informed of the project schedule and construction costs.