Board rejects call for $1M wheelchair ramp

A more than $1 million wheelchair ramp project proposed for the Board of Supervisors meeting room was shot down Tuesday and a proposal to use the money instead to offset health service cuts surfaced.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, said the Board of Supervisors vote was a “slap in the face of the disabled community,” and that she intended to file a lawsuit against The City to force the project’s completion.

“This isn’t for me,” Alioto-Pier said. “This is about showing our society that anyone in the City and County of San Francisco can ascend to the seat of presidency of the Board of Supervisors.”

When City Hall underwent a $300 million renovation after the 1989 earthquake, the project included accessibility improvements but did not address access to the president’s podium.

“It wasn’t that they forgot to do it,” said Mayor’s Office of Disability Director Susan Mizner. “It wasn’t that they that they balked at the cost. It was simply that they could not figure out how to do it and do it well.”

Alioto-Pier said that The City had made a “promise” that when a disabled supervisor was elected, access to the president’s seat would be solved.

The project, which was estimated at $1,175,000 — not including the cost of relocating the board for meetings during the estimated four-month construction — would install a wheelchair ramp providing access to where the Board of Supervisors president sits. The money was already appropriated for the project.

Supervisors, however, raised issues about the cost.

“It looks like this is ridiculously expensive,” said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick.

He said he wanted to see a “solution at a lower cost.”

The “sticker shock” comes as The City is facing a projected deficit next fiscal year nearing $300 million.

Supervisor Chris Daly said that given the projected deficit for next year and Mayor Gavin Newsom’s midyear cuts to health services, he plans to introduce legislation Tuesday that would take $900,000 from the project budget and use it to offset cuts to health services.

“It’s never going to be a good time for something like this because something like this always raises controversy,” Supervisor Tom Ammiano said.

IN OTHER ACTION

CAMERA ACCESS: In an 8-3 vote, allowing defense attorneys access to footage from The City’s crime surveillance cameras was approved. Supervisors Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Michela Alioto-Pier voted “no.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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