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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced he has reached an agreement with the City of Del Mar that requires the city to take specific steps to correct its alleged inadequate enforcement of state disabled access laws and regulations.
"Local and state governments must ensure that the almost 6 million California residents with a physical or mental disability have equal access to public facilities and events," Lockyer said. "This agreement will ensure that the City of Del Mar provides access and equal treatment to all of its residents and visitors."
Under the settlement, city officials agreed to a series of corrective actions to respond to complaints about access, and provide greater access for individuals with disabilities to all city buildings and facilities, as well as private facilities open to the public in the city.
While the city denies that it was failing to properly enforce the states's access laws, it agreed to work with Lockyer to address his concerns and to ensure that adequate access is provided throughout the city.
"Instead of spending public funds on litigation over our disagreements, the city and my office have agreed to embark on a partnership to enforce the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy full use of public buildings and facilities and private, public accommodations," Lockyer said. "I believe the city is seriously concerned about the allegations that led to this settlement and I applaud its City Council for agreeing to move forward in a constructive and positive manner to improve access."
Under the stipulated judgment filed today in San Diego Superior Court, the city has agreed to implement a two-year, aggressive enforcement program. The city's compliance with the program will be overseen by a monitor appointed by and responsible to the Attorney General's Office. The city will submit all plans, policies and procedures required by the agreement to the Attorney General's Office for review and approval.
Under the agreement, the city has six months to establish a City of Del Mar Building Department or contract for the services of a building official. The city will develop and submit to the Attorney General a written procedure for processing and resolving complaints regarding violations of state disabled access laws and regulations as they pertain to publicly-funded buildings, structures, sidewalks, curbs and other publicly-constructed facilities, as well as privately-funded facilities open to the public.
The city also agreed to investigate such complaints within 30 days of receiving them and take all steps to correct violations within 90 days of confirming the violation. The agreement allows for the deadlines to be extended for a reasonable period if more time is needed to make the corrections.
The city also agrees to provide training courses on enforcement of state disabled access laws and regulations to the appropriate city staff. In addition, Del Mar will pay the Attorney General $40,000 to cover the cost of the monitor, and $15,000 for the Attorney General's investigation costs and attorneys' fees.
The settlement stems from a complaint filed by a resident of the city, and a survey of public and private properties conducted by the Attorney General's Office which confirmed violations of the 34-year-old state law requiring access for persons with disabilities. The violations identified were found at parking facilities, restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, a bank, a spa, a hair salon, and city-owned facilities.
Enforced by the Attorney General, city attorneys and district attorneys, the state's disabled access law regarding public facilities went into effect in 1970. The state law regarding private property took effect in 1971. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, is enforced by federal authorities.
Attorney General Lockyer has made enforcement of the state's 34-year old access law one of his top priorities. This year, Lockyer sponsored SB 262 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, to increase penalties for private property owners who continue to violate the law. The measure, which was recently signed into law and will be effective on January 1, 2004, allows public prosecutors to obtain a flat civil penalty of $2,500, in addition to daily penalties, against recalcitrant property owners who fail to correct access violations after being notified by a public prosecutor.
In April 2002, the Attorney General sent a letter to all county and city building officials urging them to improve enforcement of the state access laws and regulations, and advising them of his intent to ensure they are aggressively enforced. The Civil Rights Enforcement Section is involved in similar investigations of other local governments who allegedly are failing to meet their statutory duty to enforce California's disabled access laws and regulations.