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Seeking safe sidewalks
Wheelchair-bound Santa Rosa man draws attention to areas in need of repair

  • Phillip Grazide uses construction pain to mark a raised area of sidewalk in need of repair along Piner Road, near Marlow Road, in Santa Rosa on Aug. 21 (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

For most folks, sidewalk cracks and bumps are minor obstacles so easily overcome that they'd never even consider calling City Hall to report the problem.

But for Phillip Grazide, uneven sidewalks are a minefield, painfully jolting his wheelchair-bound body whenever he rolls over them on his motorized scooter.

"My goodness gracious, some of these sidewalks are terrible!" says the retired prison guard. "They're war zones!"

So Grazide, whose arthritis has largely confined him to a chair for 12 years, has taken up arms in the fight.

With a can of fluorescent orange spray-paint in one gnarled hand and a cellphone in the other, Grazide, 73, is on a mission make the city's sidewalks safer.

"I'm trying to save lives," he says.

To alert city public works crews and pedestrians to what he sees as hazardous sidewalk conditions throughout the city, Grazide has taken it upon himself to highlight with bright paint the wide cracks, dangerous dips, and sidewalk sections thrust upward by unruly tree roots.

Whether it's grocery shopping for him and his 95-year-old mother or taking the bus to chat up the ladies at the Bennett Valley Senior Center, Grazide is packing a can of bright spray-paint wherever he goes. From the saddle of his trusty maroon Quicki Freestyle scooter, Grazide is quick to draw on any trouble he spots.

He then calls the city's sidewalk hotline and harasses them to fix it. City public works crews usually respond quickly and get the problem resolved, he said.

"Those guys do a great job once they know it's there," Grazide says. "I'm just bird-dogging them."

The city puts a high priority on quickly repairing what they call "sidewalk uplifts," most of which are caused by tree roots, said Steve Schiavone, the city's street maintenance superintendent.

A three-man crew is dedicated to the task, usually building asphalt patches meant to be temporary fixes. But this year there has been a 60-percent increase in complaints, from 220 by this time last year to 350 so far this year, Schiavone said.

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