Effort to build wheelchair access will force San Francisco Board of Supervisors meetings to move 

It might be hard to put a price on a Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, but try $8,629.

That is how much it could cost taxpayers per meeting when the board is forced to meet outside its chambers at City Hall while a wheelchair ramp is installed.

The construction project is expected to take 10 weeks, beginning when the board takes a summer recess in August, and continuing when the board comes back to session.

The tab could run as high as $51,774 if six board meetings are held at City Hall’s first-floor north or south light courts. That comes to $8,629 per meeting. The estimate includes setup costs, security and the largest expense of $4,745 per meeting to broadcast the proceedings.

The need to hold off site meetings is the outcome of years of debate and controversy over the installation of a wheelchair ramp to make accessible the president’s podium, which currently is unused. The Board of Supervisors approved the wheelchair project in a 10-1 vote on March 1, and it was signed by Mayor Ed Lee. The ramp project alone costs $477,732.

“These costs are necessary so that our city’s legislative chambers will be accessible to all San Franciscans,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said.

In 2008, then-Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, and former Mayor Gavin Newsom had fiercely championed the ramp project.

Under City Charter, the board must meet at City Hall, but an “emergency” could be declared for the board to meet off-site. The board could meet for just $549 per meeting at the San Francisco Unified School District’s meeting room at 555 Franklin St., but the room is only available from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing on the relocation plan. As for the 10-week schedule, Department of Public Works said that’s just how long the installation takes.

“The project requires an intensive amount of work in a small physical area,” DPW spokeswoman Gloria Chan said. “The work scope includes dismantling the clerk’s desk and president’s podium, reconfiguring the wiring underneath the floor and the floor itself, rebuilding, and then installing the ramp and handrail.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com


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Monday, May 4, 2015

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