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Frequently Asked Questions


When did the City adopt the policy of property owners being responsible for sidewalk repairs?

Historically, the City has addressed sidewalk maintenance and repairs in accordance with California Streets and Highways Code Section 5610 (“Section 5610”), which places the burden of sidewalk maintenance on the adjacent property owner.  The code states in part that: 

The owners of lots or portions of lots fronting on any portion of a public street or place when that street or place is improved or if and when the area between the property line of the adjacent property and the street line is maintained as a park or parking strip, 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 in the use of those works or areas save and except as to those conditions created or maintained in, upon, along, or in connection with such sidewalk by any person other than the owner, under and by virtue of any permit or right granted to him by law or by the city authorities in charge thereof, and such persons shall be under a like duty in relation thereto. 

In October 2017, San Rafael City Council also adopted Municipal Code Chapter 11.60, which, in accordance with California Streets and Highway Code Section 5610, confirms that the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance lies with  the adjacent property owner.

In conjunction with the adoption of Municipal Code Chapter 11.60, the City Council called for the development of a pilot program which attempts to share the financial burden associated with sidewalk maintenance between the City and the property owners, and encourages repairs to get done Citywide. This is the first year of that pilot program.

Did the City hold a public discussion and obtain public input before adopting the policy?

The City conducted considerable community outreach on this issue in fall 2016. Three public meetings were held at the Albert J. Boro Community Center, San Rafael Community Center, and the Terra Linda Community Center with approximately 30 in-person attendees. Additionally, an online survey was circulated and promoted via NextDoor. The survey had 388 respondents. 

Since fall 2016, there have been three City Council items on sidewalks that were well attended by members of the public. On February 6, 2017June 19, 2017, and October 2, 2017 the Council heard an update from Public Works staff, listened to input from residents, and provided direction. 

Public Works has also received considerable input from the community through our online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The Contact Public Works page on the City website allows constituents to submit, via an online form, a written note or request to Public Works. Since June, the Department has received and responded to more than 60 write in comments specifically about the Sidewalk Repair Program. In addition to online submissions, the Department also received dozens of calls and answered questions from residents about the proposed program and policy. 

Do other communities hold property owners financially responsible for the maintenance and repair of sidewalks?

Yes, most communities in California address sidewalk maintenance and repairs in accordance with California Streets and Highways Code Section 5610 (“Section 5610”), which places the burden of sidewalk maintenance on the adjacent property owner (see FAQ above). Many jurisdictions have also adopted ordinances which codify this responsibility into their municipal code. Some jurisdictions also provide, as allowed by California courts, that the adjacent property owner may be liable for injuries incurred by sidewalk users as a result of a failure to maintain and repair the sidewalk. The following table shows how other northbay jurisdictions handle sidewalk repair and liability:

Jurisdiction Responsibility to Repair Liability for Injuries 
Novato Ordinance Property owners (15-2.46) Ordinance: Property owners (15-2/46) 
County of Marin States & Highway Code 5610: Property owners No stated policy 
Belvedere Ordinance: Property owners (13.24.015) Ordinance: Property owners (13.24.017) 
Tiburon Ordinance: Property owners (24-02) Ordinance: Property owners (24-02) 
Corte Madera Ordinance: Property owners (12.56.010) Ordinance: Property owners (12.56.010) 
Sausalito Ordinance: Property owners (17.36.020) Ordinance: Property owners (17.36.030) 
Larkspur Ordinance: Property owners (9.55.030) Ordinance: Property owners (9.55.030) 
Ross Ordinance: Property owners (12.20.010) Ordinance: Property owners (12.20.040) 
Petaluma Ordinance: Property owners (13.10.010) Ordinance: Property owners (13.10.030) 
Napa States & Highway Code 5610: Property owners No stated policy 
Sonoma (City) Ordinance: Property owners (12.12.10) Only penalty for violation (12.12.160) 
Rohnert Park Ordinance: Property owners and renters (1.24.030) No stated policy 
Santa Rosa Ordinance: Property owners (13-32.020) Ordinance: Property owners (13-32.020) 
St. Helena Ordinance: Property owners (12.08.010) Ordinance: Property owners + City in defined area (12.08.025) 


Program Eligibility

Are commercial properties eligible for this program?

Yes, however commercial property owners have a total City contribution limit of $2,000 per total application ($2,000 cap includes 50-50 cost share, tree work, curb and gutter, etc.)

Who is eligible for this program?

You must be a property owner within incorporated San Rafael (applications may not be submitted by renters). Each property (APN) is able to submit one application. If one property owner owns multiple properties within San Rafael, each property may apply for the program separately.

Property owners with sidewalk damage due to private construction (cut, removal, etc.) do not qualify for a City cost-share in sidewalk repairs under the program.

How do I know if I qualify as low-income?

You must submit with your application, proof of current affiliation with a government or utility administered program for low-income individuals or families. Eligible programs include:

  • PG&E California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) Program
  • PG&E Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – U.S. Office of Community Services
  • Marin Housing Authority Below Market Rate (BMR) Housing
  • Marin Housing Authority Residential Rehabilitation Loan Program
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program
  • CalFresh
  • Market Match, Agricultural Institute of Marin
  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Marin Center for Independent Living Client Assistance Funds
  • Other (must describe program and upload proof or affiliation)

Applicant Selection

If I apply but am not selected, do I still have the option to repair my sidewalk this year?

Yes, property owners who apply but are not selected will be sent a notice that they were not selected for this years program. If your sidewalk is in need of repair, we strongly encourage you to still contact a contractor and inquire about doing the repairs outside of the program.

City contractors for Sidewalk Repair Program: 

Van Midde and Son Concrete – (415) 459-2530 

Coastside Concrete and Constrction – (707) 576-1727 

How will applicants be selected for the program?

The application period will be open for one month (March 20 – April 24, 2018)

After all the applications are in, there will be two lotteries in which applicants are selected by an electronic random number selector. Each application submitted has a corresponding “Case Number” when submitted, which will be entered into the random number generator.

Low income lottery: pre-selection from only low-income applicant pool. This ensures that that a percentage of funds are pre-allocated to low income residents, and increases chances for low income residents to be selected

Standard lottery: selection from remaining applicant pool (low income applicants not already selected included)

The exact number of applicants selected for each lottery will be dependent on the number of low-income applications received. The City will select up to 30 of the 150 applicants from the low income lottery.


**Applicant Selection Update**

The City was able to double the funding for this year’s program because of the high interest in participation. All 366 applicants that applied for the program will be included in this first year of the Sidewalks Repair Program.

Why did the City choose to do a lottery selection, and not a first come-first serve selection?

There were a number of concerns raised by about the fairness of a first-come first-served selection process. Those who were more computer savvy and have access to fast internet would be greatly advantaged by an online application in which funds were awarded first come first served. Therefore, the City reconciled these concerns by still rewarding the first “bloc” of applicants (successful applicants all are selected from an applicant pool of those who submit within the first month), but taking the “first” pressure off a system which rewards those who click submit first.

Tree Removal

Can I remove the tree damaging the sidewalk to prevent future damage?

A City arborist needs to determine if tree removal is necessary.  If a tree can survive a root trimming without uplifting the sidewalk again within 5 years, the tree will be kept. If a tree cannot survive a root trimming, the tree will be removed. If a tree can survive a root trimming, but will uplift sidewalk within the next five years, property owner has options. Refer to If your tree is removed as part of the sidewalk repair… for more information of options.

Will the City cover tree removal costs?

Yes, where a tree removal is required (so long as the tree is not on private property) the City tree contractor will perform the removal at no cost to the property owner.

Program Guidelines

What are the benefits to participating in the Sidewalk Repair Program?

Participating in the City’s sidewalk repair program is both efficient and cost-effective. Not only do property owners benefit by the City cost sharing in the repairs, but all encroachment permit fees and related inspection fees are also absorbed by the City. The program is also able to take advantage of bulk-pricing since all construction in each neighborhood will occur at one time.

Are driveways eligible for the Sidewalk Repair program?

No, driveways and driveway aprons are not eligible for City cost-share. If selected for the program, owners wishing to get driveway work done may have it done at the same time as any sidewalk work, but the owner will be responsible for the full cost of the repair and will be billed accordingly.

What does the pre-construction inspection survey consist of?

Department of Public Works staff will inspect selected program applicants for: 

  • Required sidewalk replacement 
  • Required tree work (root shaving or tree removal) 
  • Sidewalk/Curb-Gutter replacement required 
  • Sidewalk shaving for displacement (for very slight displacements only)

Once the survey is complete, you will be emailed a copy to share with the contractor.

Who will the final signed contract be between?

The final signed agreement for sidewalk repair work will be between the property owner and the contractor.

See Timeline and Overview — step 6 for detail on how the city-cost share payment will be factored in.

If I am selected for the program and have a portion of my sidewalk approved for City cost-sharing, but want additional work done at my own cost (e.g. driveway replacement, etc.), does it also need to be done at prevailing wage rates?

Yes, if you are selected for the program and have any repairs which the City will be cost-sharing in, then any additional requested work at the same address must be done under prevailing wage rates as well.

Cost & Payment

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

Cost will vary depending on the condition of the sidewalk. If accepted into the program, costs will be split evenly (50/50) between the property owner and the city. Property owners can expect city coverage up to $1,000 for sidewalk repair and 100% of the cost for curb and gutter repair and replacement (up to $4,000).

See the Cost of Repairs page.

Will I receive a repair quote before I agree to the repairs? Am I committed to performing repairs once I submit the application?

Yes, it is the expectation of the City is that all program applicants will follow through with the identified sidewalk repairs in the pre-construction inspection survey.

In the pre-construction inspection conducted by the City, the City will identify all needed sidewalk repair and replacement, tree root shaving/removal, and required sidewalk/curb-gutter replacement. This is the (a) city approved work.

Once the property owner receives their pre-inspection survey results from the City, they may send it to the contractor and also request any (b) additional owner-requested work not to be cost-shared with the City (e.g. driveway work) . At that time they will get a comprehensive quote from the contractor for both repairs that the City will cost-share in, and any additional repairs (e.g. driveway work) the owner has requested. They will receive this comprehensive quote prior to entering into a signed agreement with the contractor.

How does payment for contractor repairs work? When will the property owners receive the bill for the repair costs?

Contractor will send City a monthly bill for all the concrete work for addresses done through the Sidewalk Repair Program. The City will be paying the contractor for the full amount and then invoicing individual property owners for their portion of the concrete work.

Property owners will be responsible for paying their portion of sidewalk repairs directly to the City. 

Will I be charged a fee for my encroachment permit if I am not selected for the program, and choose to perform the repairs outside the program with a contractor?

No, there will not be a fee charged for the encroachment permit associated with your repair. For all sidewalk repair work in San Rafael, property owners or contractors will be required to apply for an encroachment permit, however the normal encroachment permit fee ($246) will not apply. 

If a property owner is only doing driveway repair or driveway apron work (no sidewalk repair included), the standard encroachment permit fee ($246) will apply.

If I performed repairs prior to the Sidewalk Repair Program can I receive retroactive payment?

No, property owners cannot receive retroactive payment to repairs made independently with a contractor, and outside of the official Sidewalk Repair Program. Only applicants accepted to the program through the random selection process are eligible for City cost-share in their repairs. If you have any ambiguity over whether your repair will qualify for City cost-sharing, contact us before you do the repair. 

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