When people pass Natalie Vice's house, they do not stop to admire all the improvements she and her husband have made to their home in last three years.
Instead, people stop to inspect the dark bluish-purple rubber sidewalk underneath their feet at the corner of Elm and Hutchins streets.
"We own this property, water the grass and keep everything nice," Vice said. "And then they put that in."
The city of Lodi installed the sidewalk in the front of Vice's house to protect the roots of a large city-owned maple tree. Lodi used $8,225 in taxpayer money for the project, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.
If the city had replaced the sidewalk with normal concrete, extensive root surgery would have been necessary, which would have led to the tree's removal.
Lodi personnel always look for a way to save trees when possible, Hood said. The main advantage of the rubber sidewalk is it allows the tree roots to expand without cracking. Also, it is a lot thinner, so the city does not have to dig down as far and cut into the tree's roots, he said.
The city is already using the rubber to prevent root damage in two other locations - 412 E. Walnut St. and 223 Olive Court.
While Vice understands the city's position on not removing the tree, she said the sidewalk is still an eyesore. She is worried about it lowering the value of her home because she has three different types of sidewalk bordering her property.
Statesman Realty owner Larry Underhill didn't comment on how the sidewalk will affect the value of this particular house, but he did say the realtors' philosophy is that people make a decision about a home before they get out of the car. He said anything out of the ordinary might discourage potential buyers.
During the Nov. 5 City Council meeting, Natalie's husband, Tony, voiced concerns about unevenness, roots growing over the edge and liability for the rubber sidewalk.
If a person injures themselves on the rubber sidewalk because of a design defect, it is the city's responsibility, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said. However, if a third party contributes to the injury, he or she would be liable. For instance, if someone tampered with the tree and it resulted in an injury, that person would be responsible.
Tony Vice said the city will also cut a grid pattern in the concrete next to the rubber to make the sidewalks match and fix some scuff marks. He said he is happy about the compromise to keep the rubber but fix the concrete.
"We worked together to make sure we are not wasting the taxpayers' money," he said.
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