Several hundred feet of Isla Vista sidewalks have recently been repaired to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act specifications and Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. drainage and safety guidelines.

The most recent phase of sidewalk improvements has focused on repairing concrete slabs cracked and damaged by uplifting ficus tree roots along Embarcadero del Mar.

Gary Christiansen, SB County road maintenance manager, said the sidewalk repairs follow an improvement project last year that re-surfaced roads at five intersections along the Embarcadero Loop.

“Whenever we improve a section of roadway, we are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act to also fix the sidewalks in order to make the roadway safe for the entire traveling public,” Christiansen said. “We re-surfaced some of those areas and smoothed out the rough edges to make them safe for pedestrians and wheelchairs.”

Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall said that 1,150 linear feet of sidewalk has either been improved or installed in I.V. since January 2003. Funding for the construction comes from Measure D, a half-cent sales tax approved by Santa Barbara County voters in 1989 to pay for transportation improvements.

“It has been our goal to budget $200,000-300,000 increments per year to pay for new sidewalks to make [I.V.] a safer community,” Marshall said. “In about a month, road surface re-paving will also begin on El Greco Road, Estero Road, Camino del Sur and the west end of Pardall Road.”

Christiansen said the sidewalk repairs are part of annual road maintenance performed throughout the county.

“Because money is limited, we try to phase [projects] out over several years,” Christiansen said. “We have a huge backlog of repairs in the entire county as well as in Isla Vista, but we’re pecking away.”

According to budget statistics provided by the SB County Public Works Dept., preventative concrete maintenance countywide is slated to cost $38 million between July 2002 and June 2008. The Board of Supervisors approves specific project locations on an annual basis for the removal and replacement of broken or damaged concrete curbs, gutters, sidewalks and driveways.

Public Works adopted a street tree policy in February 2000 that provides a guideline for the replacement of any of the 21,000 street trees countywide whose roots may be damaging walkways and gutters.

Students sitting in one such offending ficus tree in front of Dublin’s on the corner of Pardall and Embarcadero del Norte to protest the tree’s possible removal recently climbed down after county officials promised it would not be cut down as part of sidewalk repair efforts.