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Sidewalk Repair Program

new sidewalk 3

What is the Sidewalk Repair Program?

San Rafael has some of the oldest neighborhoods in the North Bay. To many, the charming and often tree-lined streets are what make San Rafael such a great place to live. However, tree roots and age have caused parts of our City’s 275 miles of sidewalks to fall into a state of disrepair; hampering the safe walkability of our City. The City shares this concern with the community, and has been working for several years to come up with a solution where the City and property owners can work together to ensure damaged sidewalks are repaired. We all want our streets to be safe passageways for cars and pedestrians alike.

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 City Council called for the development of the Sidewalk Repair Program which attempts to 1) assist property owners with the cost of sidewalk repair and 2) streamline and consolidate sidewalk repairs throughout the City.

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.

How is this program funded?

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, 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 it's Senate Bill 1 funding towards new roadway projects in the City, thereby freeing up local funds for the Sidewalk Repair Program.

What will the City contribute towards my sidewalk repair?

As a part of the pre-construction inspection conducted by the City...

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.


Yes, if your sidewalk is in need of repair, we strongly encourage you to contact a contractor and inquire about doing the repairs inside or outside of the program.

As 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.

Eligible Contractors for Sidewalk Repair Program: 

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) 


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. Refer to If your tree is removed as part of the sidewalk repair… for more information of 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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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)

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, 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.)

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.

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.

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.

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