Two Los Angeles councilmen are supporting a proposed half-cent sales tax increase as the only way to fund $3.5 billion in backlogged maintenance of city streets and sidewalks.
Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Mitchell Englander held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the proposal, which they contend is the best way to fix Los Angeles' streets.
"We have the worst streets in the country and we are trying to fix that," Buscaino said.
According to the proposal, the tax would equate to about $30 per person every year and $90 for a household. The councilmen said 40 percent will be paid by residents and 60 percent by visitors to the city.
Two-thirds of voters would have to support the tax for it to be enacted. The funds would only be able to be used for streets and sidewalks by law, Englander said.
"It can't be used for any other purpose," Englander said.
The councilmen proposed the Save Our Streets L.A. project last year to fix failed streets and sidewalks throughout the city.
According to the city, about one-third of Los Angeles streets are so badly damaged they are beyond repair and need to be replaced. The disrepair is due to under-funding of street maintenance from the 1950s to the 1990s, leading to the deterioration of 8,700 miles of city streets, according to the Save Our Streets L.A. website.
Motorists pay more than $800 in vehicle maintenance costs stemming from damage caused by poor streets, according to city officials.
Englander said pushing the backlog further down the road only increases the cost.
"There is no plan B," Englander said, adding that the cost has doubled over the past 10 years.
"We've got to get in front of this," he said. "We're already way behind the eight ball."
Opponents of the plan have argued that the levy would push the city's sales tax rate too high.
In the past few weeks, city leaders have also been weighing options to pay for sidewalk repairs.
The council on Friday approved a motion that transfers $250,000 from a discretionary recycling account to fund sidewalk repairs in the 14th district, which includes the cities of Eagle Rock, El Centro, Boyle Heights and parts of downtown.
City Council members are also considering programs to share sidewalk repair costs with property owners.
—City News Service