Sidewalk FAQ

Who is responsible for the sidewalk in front of my house?

City of Petaluma municipal code 13.10 states that the owner of the property fronting the sidewalk is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, curb, gutter, and park strip area in a non-hazardous condition. Although the City of Petaluma has an easement to allow safe pedestrian access, it is not responsible for maintenance and repair of the owner’s property. Property owners are potentially liable for personal injuries caused by their failure to maintain reasonably safe sidewalks. Property owners are not exempt from liability for the cost of repairs even though the damage may have been caused by tress planted in the public right-of-way.

Is the property owner responsible for sidewalk damaged by trees that have been planted in the landscaping strip between the sidewalk and street?

Trees in the planter strips between the sidewalk and the street are the responsibility of the property owner fronting the tree. In some cases, tree roots have caused sidewalk damage. The City will work with the homeowner to determine if the tree needs to be removed or if root trimming will fix the problem.

Can the sidewalk repairs be done without removing trees?

The City does not recommend repairing the sidewalk without addressing the tree root problems if that caused the unsafe sidewalk conditions. Sometimes, tree roots can be safely trimmed in a way that does not affect the stability of the tree. Any cutting of tree roots 2″ or bigger must be approved by City staff or a Certified Arborist. If a Certified Arborist other than the City’s certified Arborist is used, you must provide written documentation that the tree roots can be safely trimmed. If the tree roots cannot be safely trimmed, it is recommended that the tree be removed. A Certified Arborist can help determine if the tree roots can be safely trimmed.

Can I remove the trees along the sidewalk?

Yes, a Tree Removal permit is required. It is unlawful to remove any tree located within the public right-of-way without first obtaining a tree removal permit. A replacement tree may need to be planted. The City Arborist reviews all tree removal permits. The City has a list of approved replacement trees.

I received a notice from the City of Petaluma requiring sidewalk repair, what next?

If your property is noticed by the City of Petaluma, property owners have two options for repairing the sidewalk:

1. Owners may make repairs themselves by hiring a licensed contractor and obtaining the proper permits from the City prior to beginning work; or

2. Owners may have the City repair the sidewalk by requesting the repair be completed and agreeing to reimburse the City fully for the cost of the repair plus an administrative fee to cover staff time.

Note: An Encroachment Permit is required for any work in the public right-of-way; and to plant, trim, remove, or replace trees in the public right-of-way. An Encroachment Permit can be obtained from the City of Petaluma Public Works Department at (707) 778-4303 Option 6. For more information click here. All repairs must be completed by one of the options above and each property owner will be given approximately 30 days to comply with the specifications of the Sidewalk Program.

Can I do the repairs myself?

It is not recommended. If a resident wants to complete the repairs, the City Engineer and City Inspector must sign off on the repairs prior to work beginning. The City prefers that a licensed contractor completes the repairs (either an A or C8 license). Additionally, a bond must be posted and insurance provided. The amount of the bond is dependent on the total amount of the repairs.

What can I do if paying for the sidewalk repairs is too expensive for me right now?

If the City of Petaluma perform the sidewalk repair work and the cost of the repair is more than an owner can afford to pay in a single payment, the City provides financing to property owners at the prime interest rate. monthly interest based on the prime lending rate and will be updated annually. *Financing through the City is only available if the City completes the repairs.

How much can be financed?

The total invoiced amount can be financed. This invoice amount includes sidewalk repair, tree removal if necessary and the program administration fee.

What is the minimum payment allowed?

The minimum monthly principal payment is $100.00. Fees and interest will be in addition to the monthly principal payment.

What is the maximum term for repayment?

The maximum term for a finance agreement is 3 years or 36 months.

What forms are required to set up financing?

Final Financing Agreement must be submitted to the Finance Department.

How much is the administration fee?

The administration fee is currently $320.00 and may be updated annually to reflect the full cost of staff time managing the sidewalk work and finance agreement. This fee covers costs such as: mailing notices, make or receive phone calls, meet with property owners, manage contractor, inspect work and set-up financing arrangement. A $5.00 monthly statement preparation fee applies.

What if I default on making payments?

Once the execution of a finance agreement takes place, this agreement serves as a legal document. If an owner defaults, does not pay the invoice by the due date, the City in its sole discretion may choose to collect amounts owing through a lien and/or special assessment on the property and billed on the annual property tax bill. Collection Agencies may be used to collect, all additional costs including attorney fees may be collected as well.

What if I want to dispute the charges?

You may attend a public hearing before the City Council to dispute the charges. A date and time will be provided in your invoice. At the public hearing, the City Council will hear and pass upon a report on the cost of the repair together with any objections or protests, if any, which may be raised by any property owner liable to be assessed for the cost of such repair and any other interested persons. The City Council will only hear objections on the date provided in your invoice. Please do not attend a different City Council meeting. City Council members will not comment on your concerns if you are not scheduled to present your dispute.

Other questions?

For more information about financing, please contact the Finance Department at (707) 778-4341. For information about the Encroachment Permit process or sidewalk repair questions, please contact the Public Works & Utilities Department at (707) 778-4303.

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