The City Council voted unanimously Nov. 19 to deny an appeal brought by Ocean Beach Planning Group, which voted overwhelmingly in August against the City’s proposed replacement ramp.
The City Council hearing stemmed from controversy surrounding a lawsuit recently settled out of court for $50,000 to a wheelchair-bound plaintiff, Scott Schutza. Schutza contended disability discrimination, alleging violation of federal and state anti-discrimination statutes. He claimed the city had failed, and refused, to ensure the accessibility of public facilities at OB Dog Beach, including the River Trail.
At issue was whether the City was obligated or not by the lawsuit settlement to construct a new ADA-compliant ramp at Dog Beach.
In City Council testimony Nov. 19, OB planners laid out reasons for the City to uphold their appeal of the controversial replacement project labeled by some as the ramp to nowhere.
“The project originally proposed in 2017 at a cost of $669,000 is now at $1.1 million with no real explanation of how those costs ballooned,” said OBPG chair Andrea Schlageter. “The ramp is poorly maintained and there is constantly sand on it. The City, which is using our taxpayer dollars to provide this ramp, will not work with us on it.”
Schlageter disputed the need for the new ADA project.
“This new ramp would provide no improved access to anyone wanting to play with their dogs, or for wheelchair users to actually access the beach or the water,” she said. “We want to improve access with a non-permanent structure.”
OBPG vice-chair Kevin Hastings concurred. He read a letter from a disabled mother complaining that the existing ADA ramp is inaccessible, arguing against a new ramp in the same spot.
“This project does not provide access to the water, but just to 100 yards of soft (impassable) sand,” said Hastings. “You (council) should go back and take community input on providing some real access there.”
One wheelchair-bound ramp user living near Dog Beach testified in favor of creating a new ramp. “The grade is too steep,” he said. “I’m for having that (ramp) rebuilt. It needs to be redone.”
District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell questioned staff about the project’s cost and whether other alternatives were considered.
Staff answered the $1.1 million estimated cost had nearly doubled because the new ADA ramp “had to be built robustly enough to keep the ramp in place once it's built.” Staff added environmentally sensitive lands nearby precluded the new ramp’s being relocated elsewhere.
Commented Campbell: “The problem is this ramp is floating on the sand. We need to bring the City into compliance with state and federal ADA regulations. The City’s design will legally allow this to happen.”
“This is one of those tough ones,” said District 7 Councilmember Scott Sherman. “We have issues with ADA and laws all the time. I’ve seen people sued for a doorknob being three-quarters of an inch too high. But we have no other choice. We have to vote on what’s in front of us today.”