During the Aug. 14 meeting of La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), board members grappled with the problem of the Village’s increasingly blighted public right-of-way (PROW) — and the seeming disregard of business owners to keep the spaces in front of their shops trash- and weed-free, and their portions of the sidewalk free of holes and cracks.
LJVMA Board President Phil Coller said that more than 90 percent of the responsibility for upkeep of the PROW and sidewalk is passed on from the building owner to his or her tenant via the lease agreement — whether the tenant realizes it or not.
“We have made this point many times before,” Coller said. “In almost every instance, the tenant of the property takes on that responsibility with the lease they sign. While they may think that their landlord has (that) responsibility, it was probably passed on to them.
“It’s no good complaining to the merchants association about the sidewalk. You need to look at your lease, talk to your landlord, and make a plan to fix it, because you’re liable if anybody trips.”
LJVMA board member Leon Chow noted that residents and business owners can call the city’s Street Division at (619) 527-7500 to report sidewalks that pose an immediate trip-and-fall hazard.
“They literally will come out within 48 hours to inspect it and do what they can immediately,” Chow said, noting that a city employee just patched the sidewalk south of his store (C&H Photo on upper Girard Avenue) with black asphalt.
Though there are some instances in which the city may take responsibility for the sidewalk, such as when damage is caused by the roots of a city-owned tree within the PROW, both city and state law places the onus of the burden for maintaining sidewalks on the property owner (who may pass it along to a renter through the lease.)
“City law says the city may — and I emphasize
— come out and make temporary repairs, if they deem it to be a problem,” Coller said. “But, again, it is the responsibility of the property owner and probably the tenant to fix it.”
Coller also noted that the LJVMA has received complaints about trash and debris on the sidewalks, and that public trash bins are overflowing and unclean. While the LJVMA will do its best to keep on top of the trash bins, it is ultimately the city’s responsibility, he said.
“If we start spending our funds solving a city issue, they will never come out again,” Coller said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about it — and I would request that every business, resident and visitor in La Jolla that feels offended by the mess call the city and tell them. We have to get action from the city to do the job that we’re all paying taxes (for).”