Elderly Man Injured After Falling on Broken Sidewalk

The Oakland Public Works Department is faulted for ignoring the dangerous conditions that resulted in an Oakland resident in his 80s falling and being badly injured and hospitalized. The ruptured, crumbling sidewalk has caused the injuries of several people, yet is still ignored by city officials.

George Balsbaugh, a man in his 80s, tripped over some the broken shards of this crumbling sidewalk. He was injured in the fall, and taken to a hospital by ambulance, where surgery was performed. Lydia Gans photo


by Maureen Hartmann


George Balsbaugh, a retired accountant in his 80s who carries in his body the visible effects of a stroke, was out on a walk last May with a group of fellow residents of Westlake Christian Terrace, a home for low-income seniors in Oakland. The walk took place near Valdez and 28th Street, about a hundred feet east of the Volkswagen dealership on Broadway

Balsbaugh tripped and took a spill over some shards of a broken, crumbling sidewalk, evidently ruptured by the underground roots of a tree. He was injured in the fall, and taken to a hospital by ambulance, where surgery was performed.

George Balsbaugh was moved to a convalescent home in Oakland, and then, several weeks later, to Waters Edge Skilled Nursing Facility in Alameda, where he is bedridden to this day.

When I visited George in the Oakland facility, he was very upset with Oakland officials, and so am I.

On September 20, I wrote to Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who represents District Three where Westlake Christian Terrace is located. In my e-mail to Nadel, I noted that, even before Balsbaugh was injured, I had called the Oakland department in charge of city sidewalks when I noticed the broken-up area of the sidewalk.

I also noted in my e-mail that several other residents beside Balsbaugh had been injured on the broken sidewalk, even though the injuries they sustained were much less severe than his. Nadel wrote me back: “I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail and to copy it to Public Works leadership.”

I wrote back to Nadel that this reply was unsatisfactory to me. I felt that she simply was referring me and my concern to another department. I hoped in writing that she had at least included in her e-mail to public works officials her full endorsement as council member.

The next response was at least temporarily more rewarding. Fred Loeser from the Department of Public Works called me the afternoon I received Nadel’s second e-mail and assured me that we would have a new sidewalk within two or three weeks from that day. That was October 5. On October 21, I called the department and told them there was still no sign of repair work being done, or the trees being removed.

On October 24, I called the department again and was told that the property owner of the Volkswagen dealership “has made arrangements to have the trees removed.” (Public works officials had mentioned to me that the offending trees might be the property of Volkswagen.)

The next day, on October 25, I called Lee White, senior construction inspector of the Department of Public Works, who had spoken with Sr. Marie Taylor, president of the resident council at WCT, about the sidewalk problem. I told White that I was writing an article to be published in the November issue of Street Spirit, about the delays in repairs, and the dangerous conditions that had resulted in an Oakland resident in his 80s being badly injured and hospitalized.

There is still no evidence of sidewalk repair work two days later. That is how the situation stands as of the writing of this article, October 27.

Telephone calls supportive of this article may be made to Nancy Nadel at 510-238-7003 and to Oakland sidewalk damage and repair, 510-615-5566.

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