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Sidewalk Repair Program

new sidewalk 3

What is the Sidewalk Repair Program?

The Sidewalk Repair Program is a cost-sharing benefit for property owners in San Rafael seeking to repair damaged sidewalks.

Under the program, the City will:

  • Split the cost of sidewalk replacement 50-50 with property owners (up to a maximum of $1,000 in City contribution)
  • Fully incur the cost of sidewalk offset "shaving" - e.g. when a sidewalk displacement is <1.5" and does not require fully replacement
  • Fully incur the cost of curb and gutter replacement (up to a maximum of $4,000 City contribution)
  • Fully incur the cost of street tree work removal and replacement (including root trimming, stump grinding, removal/ replacement)

Please note, for sidewalk and curb and gutter construction, the Sidewalk Repair Program has a maximum City contribution for residential properties of $5,000 per property, and a maximum City contribution for commercial properties of $2,000 per property.

Who is responsible for maintenance and repair of sidewalks in San Rafael?

As with many municipalities, San Rafael addresses sidewalk maintenance and repairs in accordance with California State Streets and Highways Code Section 5610, which states that sidewalk maintenance and repair is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. San Rafael’s sidewalk maintenance policy is also addressed in our local municipal code as
Chapter 11.60, which states that the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a nonhazardous condition and may also be liable for injuries caused as a result of failure to maintain the sidewalk.

In 2016, the San Rafael City Council called for the development of the Sidewalk Repair Program to assist property owners with the cost of sidewalk repair.

What will the City contribute towards my sidewalk repair?

What am I required to repair?

You are required to repair all sidewalk, curb and gutter as identified by the City.

The City will inspect your property and any sidewalk that is deemed to be a tripping hazard will be marked for replacement and indicated as such on the pre-construction inspection survey. Participants at minimum must repair all sidewalks, curb and gutter identified by the City but may choose to replace more at full cost to the property owner.

All work performed will need to comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Standards

The City will note in your sidewalk pre-construction inspection form that all work must be ADA compliant (slope of sidewalk, grade, etc.). If the sidewalk repair involves a corner where an ADA ramp is not in place, one will need to be installed. In the event of an ADA curb-ramp installation, the City will bear full cost of the ramp.

The City arborist will make all determinations about trees involved

The City arborist will determine if a tree can survive  root trimming (as a part of the sidewalk replacement) or if it must be removed in order to replace the sidewalk. The arborist may also recommend removal of the tree in the case where the roots may be trimmed, but it is anticipated that the tree would uplift the sidewalk again within several years. In the case that...

  1. A tree cannot survive a root trimming, and must be removed in order to replace the sidewalk
    The property owner will be notified prior to removal of the tree in order to proceed with repairs
  2. A tree can survive a root trimming
    Root trimming will occur per City arborist recommendations

If your tree is removed as a part of the sidewalk repair...

The City will fund the purchase and perform the planting of a replacement tree in the right of way (not on private property), from the list of City-approved street trees. It is important to note that tree replacement plantings performed by the City may occur up to 12 months after the repair is complete. A new tree will not necessarily be planted right away.

In order to minimize future sidewalk damage and encourage the roots to go deep into the soil away from paved surfaces, all new trees planted must be watered by the property owner to City specifications. This will be coordinated between the property once the sidewalk repairs are complete.

How do I join the program?

Steps to join the Sidewalk Repair Program:

  1.  Apply for the program via SeeClickFix. Type in the address of the property and click "Confirm Location." On the next screen titled "Select a Request Category" please select "Sidewalk Repair Program." :
  2.  The DPW inspector will complete a pre-construction inspection. The inspector will mark out the required repairs and the property owner will also be emailed the measurements to give to the contractor of their choice
  3. Contact a contractor of your choice. The contractor needs to be appropriately licensed to do concrete work in San Rafael and pay prevailing wages. The contractor needs to create an itemized proposal that you will send to with subject: Sidewalk Repair Program.
  4.  Once the proposal is reviewed,  the property owner will be emailed an Agreement packet to be completed by property owner and signed by the property owner, City, and contractor.
  5.  Work can commence after all parties have signed the Agreement
  6.  Final inspection will be completed by a City inspector after the work is complete
  7.  Once final inspection is complete, payment is to be made to your contractor. Proof of payment is to be sent to
  8.  Reimbursement will be processed after proof of payment is received

Program History

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. 

The City conducted considerable community outreach on sidewalk issues 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, 2017, June 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.

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 attempted to share the financial burden associated with sidewalk maintenance between the City and the property owners and encourages repairs to get done Citywide.


San Rafael Municipal Code 11.60 requires the property owner to maintain a safe sidewalk adjacent to their property. Property owners must repair any area of sidewalk that has potential tripping or falling hazards.

Once the City has been made aware of potential sidewalk hazards adjacent to your property, the City is obligated to give the property owner a citation notice to repair their sidewalk.

Failure to maintain a safe sidewalk may result in fines, liens on your property, or—in the case of an injury—liability in a lawsuit.

The program is jointly funded between the City and property owners.

Public funding in the program is supported by funding made available through Senate Bill 1 – The
Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. This Bill was signed into law on April 28, 2017. Senate Bill 1 generates $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways, and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety.

San Rafael is utilizing its Senate Bill 1 funding towards new roadway projects in the City, there by freeing up local funds for the Sidewalk Repair Program.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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. 

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