With hundreds of thousands of miles of roads across California, the possibility of running over a pesky pothole is seemingly endless.
If you’re like former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, potholes are more than just an annoyance, they can genuinely be a blight on the neighborhood.
That reasoning is why Arnold took it upon himself to fill a hole that had been bothering him for weeks in his Brentwood neighborhood. He posted video of the repair on social media and it quickly went viral.
“I always say, let’s not complain, let’s do something about it,” Schwarzenegger said in a tweet.
It was later revealed that the hole the Governator filled was, in fact, not a pothole — rather it was an active trench used by a gas utility. The temporary hole was permitted and crews were supposed to fill it in with a permanent solution once work was completed, but that fix was delayed due to weather.
Schwarzenegger still maintains that the hole was around far beyond an acceptable timeline, and he called out SoCalGas for seemingly leaving it ignored for so long.
But it does beg the question: is it even legal to pothole on local roads by yourself?
The short answer is “no.”
While some cities and counties might have different rules, each local municipality that spoke to KTLA said filling a pothole on a public street is a no-go.
You can’t just head to your nearest hardware store, channel your inner Ron Swanson, and fill a pothole with cold patch asphalt. For a number of reasons.
For one, you need a permit.
Los Angeles County’s code of ordinances says every person, unless otherwise specified, is required to obtain a permit before placing, constructing or repairing “any curb, gutter, sidewalk, driveway, pavement, base course, retaining wall, storm drain, culvert, or other work of similar nature in, over, along, across or through any highway.”
Arnold’s street is technically within the city of Los Angeles’ jurisdiction, but the sentiment remains.
The reason for requiring permits is pretty simple. If you plan on filling a pothole, you have to do it correctly and safely.
While there’s no reason to doubt Arnold’s workmanship, that doesn’t mean everyone who takes it upon themself to fill a pothole is going to do it correctly.
And while Schwarzenegger was able to fill the trench without interrupting the flow of traffic, there are still inherent risks when doing construction work in the middle of a road — there’s a reason that most road work is done with traffic control devices and flaggers.
You could get hurt trying to take on that duty, so it’s probably best left to the professionals.
Criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Alison Triessl told KTLA that it’s unlikely that Arnold or other would-be repairmen could find themselves in legal hot water, but a fine is possible, simply for liability issues.
But for millionaire actors, those fines might be worth paying to prevent vehicular damage and bring attention to the pothole crisis.
“If I’m looking at a pothole for weeks and months and months, and they haven’t fixed it, and the fine is essentially about $200? A lot of people applauded Arnold Schwarzenegger for doing it,” Triessl said.
Other rogue groups have also taken it upon themselves to fill the nuisance potholes. A group in Oakland called Pothole Vigilantes has been known to fill potholes throughout the city under the cover of night.
Their mission, they say, is to fix problems that local governments have seemingly ignored.
Still, officials recommend citizens follow the proper channels to get these holes filled, especially if a DIY repair is made somewhere it shouldn’t have been. You should contact your local government to get those wheels spinning, or file a service request through Caltrans.
If your vehicle does get damaged by a pothole, you might be entitled to cash for repairs. Caltrans has a program in which you submit a damage claim. If approved, you could get as much as $10,000 for repairs.