Environment
Snow piles up on a sidewalk on Capitol Hill on Sunday, February 10, 2019.
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Snow piles up on a sidewalk on Capitol Hill on Sunday, February 10, 2019.
Credit: KUOW photo/Paige Browning

Seattle homeowners: It's on you to shovel your sidewalk

Seattle’s streets are slick and some sidewalks are even slicker.

Who is responsible for keeping them clear?

Mayor Jenny Durkan told KUOW’s Angela King that homeowners are responsible.

Mayor Jenny Durkan: The adjoining property owner has the obligation to keep their sidewalk clear. Seattle Department of Transportation has been trying to clear all the sidewalks around in public spaces where there's either no adjoining landowner or whether it's curb, ramp or bus stop.

But we can't get to every sidewalk in the city, and that's why the law requires people to keep their own sidewalks clear.

We know it's tough, but over the weekend I saw a lot of people shoveling. I was out yesterday just going to different neighborhoods, and I think that people have really been doing their best.

King: Do you know what the penalty is?

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Durkan: I don't know what the penalty is, I’ll look at that. It's not like we have a lot of inspectors traveling through the snow looking at every sidewalk.

But I think people should do it because it's the right thing to do -- not because they're going to get a fine, but because it's going to make it safer for everybody. If we don't shovel it, when the rain comes and then it freezes again it becomes sheer ice, which is a danger for you, for your neighbors.

King: Other concerns you have right now about this?

Durkan: We have three big concerns.

When [the] rain comes [this afternoon], Seattleites shouldn't think okay, it's warmer, now I know how to drive in the rain. The rain's going to hit ice and snow on the roads. So we're going to have very challenging conditions on our roads.

Second, as we go into the week, there's the potential for a lot of landslides in our area. As you know, we had a dry summer and then a lot of rain and then these frozen conditions.

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Also, hopefully the freezing rain doesn't come, because that's the hardest on losing power. If the tree branches freeze or the lines freeze, we tend to get a lot of lines down and then people lose their power. And that presents a whole bunch of other issues.

King: Let's talk about the road crews.

Durkan: They have been amazing. I know I've been to visit the road crews a couple of times over the last few days. They're working around the clock 12-hour shifts back to back.

The other people who I really want to call out are the people who are navigation team and others who've gone around the clock trying to get people who are experiencing homelessness out of the snow inside.

And thanks to everyone who called in about neighbors. Everyone's been taking care of each other during this event and that's been really heartwarming to see.

Editor's note: Some listeners and readers wondered about the section of municipal code covering snow removal on sidewalks. Here it is:

15.48.010 Snow and ice removal. It is the responsibility of the owner or occupant of private property to remove snow and ice on the sidewalks abutting his or her property in a timely manner and, if practical, prevent its becoming or remaining in an icy, ridged, uneven or humped condition or in a condition which is potentially hazardous to users of the public sidewalks. (Ord. 117569 § 121, 1995; Ord. 90047 § 39, 1961.)

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