Paving the Way: How California JPIA Member La Mirada Prioritizes Public Safety, One Step at a Time

Smooth sidewalks are taken for granted all too often. Tripping hazards can be caused by tree roots, soil expansion, heat expansion, and several other environmental factors, and a city may not notice that a walkway is uneven until someone takes a tumble. Implementing consistent inspection schedules and developing an action plan to correct hazards is the key to maintaining public safety and limiting liability.

The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) provides comprehensive support to its member agencies, providing resources and guidance through each step of the sidewalk maintenance process. The City of La Mirada is committed to excellence in public safety and has demonstrated remarkable success in its sidewalk inspection program, setting a standard for proactive risk management.

Walkway hazards—even those only a few inches tall—can create significant problems for cities.

“Sidewalk trip and fall claims are one of the most frequent liability claims we experience,” said California JPIA Risk Services Director Alex Mellor. “Cities usually don’t have the resources to inspect their sidewalks as frequently as they would like, and people can get seriously hurt, especially if there is a sidewalk deviation close to a senior center.”

Recognizing the benefits of a systematic approach to sidewalk maintenance, in September 2007, La Mirada partnered with the Authority to formalize their program and develop a comprehensive system of evaluation and repair for La Mirada’s 144 miles of sidewalk. The city regularly reviews its sidewalk maintenance program and adjusts its practices to incorporate alternate inspection and repair options with available resources.

La Mirada’s sidewalk inspection program is a testament to the effectiveness of proactive risk management. Using resources provided by the California JPIA, the city developed a regimented sidewalk inspection and maintenance policy. Once a potential hazard is detected, the city measures it. If the deviation is deemed to create a dangerous condition, it is scheduled for repair or replacement, and deviations marked as trivial defects are monitored.

“If staff identifies a deviation that exceeds 1.5 inches, mitigation measures are implemented immediately, and a temporary or permanent repair is added to a repair, replacement, and/or reinspection schedule,” said Tony Moreno, a senior administrative analyst for the City of La Mirada. “If the pavement displacement is shorter than 1.5 inches, it is typically noted, evaluated, and scheduled for re-inspection or temporary repair. If the hazard is adjacent to a school, senior center, or zone with above-average foot traffic, it may be prioritized for repair.”

Based on established standards of what constitutes a dangerous condition, La Mirada’s public works staff also keeps an eye out for sidewalks with excessive slopes; cracks and holes exceeding a half inch in depth or diameter; damage around traffic signals, utility poles, ground utility boxes, streetlights, and regulatory sign posts; hazardous tree wells; and other relevant hazards, regardless of whether they meet specific requirements for repair. They also check on potential hazards reported by community members.

“Our public works staff responds to reports about sidewalks, regardless of the size reported,” said Moreno. “The separation doesn’t have to meet any ‘hazard’ standard — our field and office staff endeavor to coordinate inspections of nearly all reports of sidewalk separations. Staff do a great job communicating with citizens regarding their requests and strive to provide excellent customer service in addition to the physical work performed.”

Staff flags sidewalk hazards with fluorescent paint. This marker draws pedestrians’ attention to the defect, reducing the potential for a trip and fall before a repair is completed.

When La Mirada staff flag a walkway hazard, it is addressed by temporary repair installed by city staff, addressed by another contractor, or repaired by Precision Concrete Cutting (PCC) experts.

“One of the reasons we contract with PCC is because we feel as though the work they do, both in inspections and maintenance, is of the highest quality,” said Mellor. “When there’s a deviation between two sidewalk panels, most maintenance companies will grind the raised panel down. Notably, PCC uses tools that cut straight through the concrete, creating a smoother finish.”

La Mirada also employs a fast-setting cold mix material called Trowelpave to patch and repair city sidewalks. This material creates wedges that bridge the vertical separations created by tripping hazards, removing the need for a more expensive and time-consuming repair process.

As La Mirada continues to prioritize public safety, its inspection, response, and repair program serves as a model for municipalities across California. By embracing proactive risk management strategies and leveraging partnerships with the California JPIA and PCC, cities can create safer environments for their residents while minimizing liability and enhancing the aesthetics of public property.

Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 45 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 125 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at