What Does That Mean for California Commercial Property Owners?
By Anthony C. Guichard, President / Founder, ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc.
There is an overabundance of lawsuits filed against unsuspecting commercial property owners regarding the American Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance in California. Most of the cases filed are against commercial buildings, apartment buildings with 15+ units, restaurants, strip centers, and retail shopping centers. Nearly 40% of all ADA accessibility lawsuits in the United States are filed in the State of California.
Obtaining information on ADA compliance can be extremely confusing. If you use the internet to Google search “ADA Compliance” you get information that pertains to a mix of Federal, state, and local ADA regulations. When researching ADA information and materials in California, make sure all information relates to the CA DSA 2019 CBC 11 B for accessibility. The Division of the State Architect has provided very stringent and strict information for California that is unlike other states.
Most often, what draws the interest of a potential plaintiffs, is when they notice a newly seal coated parking lot. Immediately, they look for the most popular infraction which tends to be the mandatory van accessible parking stall. So, that means even if you have one – does your disabled parking meet current ADA compliance in California? If not, you may be the future recipient of a lawsuit unless you are not proactive!
Additionally, there are several other items that are vital outside just the van accessible parking stall that are necessary for your property to be compliant. Such items are a clear path of travel from the city walk, truncated domes, correct and up to date signage, clear and distinct striping, and a 2% slope in any direction. Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs therefore the path of travel is extremely important. Inside your property, if the public has access, then counters, sinks, fixtures, door handles etc. all become a part of ADA compliance issues. If you are missing any one of these key elements, you may also prompt a future lawsuit against you over ADA compliance at your property.
I must receive at least 10 phone calls a week from property owners looking for a clear direction as to how to determine and ultimately correct these areas of non-compliance. Most think if they simply seal coated and striped the parking stall or modify their public restroom that they have met the goal of becoming compliant however, a few found out the hard way and have been sued.
It is very difficult to try and navigate your way through the process since there are very few companies that will take you through the correct process from start to finish. Most companies only assist with one portion of the process leaving you in a confusing place. The best solution is to hire a company that is well rehearsed with all aspects of ADA compliance design, approval and as built. What you need is a licensed company that will work with you to review, draw plans to submit to the city for approval and perform the scope of work to meet the strict guidelines.
As an example, recently, I personally met with the owner of a shopping center and was handed a set of approved plans by the City Engineer and drawn by a California State Architect. After my review I had to explain to the property owner that the approved plans were not correct. I explained to the owner that if he proceeded with this set of plans that the proposed job scope would not work since it would not meet the proper elevations. The owner was confident that all was okay since he hired a professional architect and the plans were approved by the city’s engineer. In my 30+ years of experience I have learned that not all architects have their plans surveyed or engineered prior to drawing them so unless they have experience as a contractor they do not know if they can physically work in the field. Generally, what happens is this, in the middle of the work the contractor ends up having to stop and pull off the job site, while a new plan is designed and approved again with the city while the job site sits torn up from construction.
To fix this particular issue, I had the property owner meet with me at the city while I personally discussed the “approved plans” with the city officials. I ask specific detailed questions and the city engineer agreed with me and actually his statement was “I do not know why these plans were approved”. In the end, we redesigned the plans, got approval, and constructed the project saving the owner 20% of his original cost.
The point I am making is, most local Southern California Cities and architects are not always current on the ADA standards provided by the Division of State Architect (DSA). Since we currently work in approximately 50 different cities, we notice how much of a conflict there is. I recently reviewed a CASp report issued by a Certified Specialist where a client paid $1,500.00 for the site survey and report and I found three errors. Also, you may pay for this CASp report but you now have to find a contractor qualified and licensed to complete the work.
(Editor’s Note: A Certified Access Specialist or “CASp” knows which standards apply to a property based on the age of the facility and its history of improvements and can provide an ADA access compliance evaluation of any facility.)
Often times you may find an architect who is qualified and has designed a good plan. Now the next hurdle is to find a contractor who is capable of performing the work per the strict tolerances. Most often this ends up being the most difficult task. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is to tear out newly placed concrete installed by other contractors who are not familiar with ADA restrictions and compliance. I am in business of providing ADA Compliance solutions from start to finish.
At my company, ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc., we make the ADA compliance process much more streamlined and cost effective. We review the property with the owner and perform a field survey to make sure all elevations comply prior to commencement of any work. We then design a plan per Federal, state, and local guidelines and submit for approval from the city. After plans are approved, we complete the work and have it inspected and approved so that our clients are always ADA Compliant.
Anthony C. Guichard is the President / Founder of ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc. He holds licenses; A, B, C-12, C-8 & C-32. ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc. has significant experience addressing complex access compliance issues in the built environment. They are committed to improving access for individuals with disabilities by providing information, education, and access compliance solutions to commercial and rental property owners throughout the State of California. For more information call (714) 377-9569 or (310) 773-7900 or visit them at www.acrconcreteinc.com