Wheelchair ramp for board chamber contingent on money

Whether a wheelchair ramp will ever be installed in San Francisco City Hall legislatives chambers has come down to money.

The City plans to borrow the estimated $450,000, as part of a larger borrowing proposal for street repair, to fund the installation of a wheel chair ramp in the Board of Supervisors chambers.

Today, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote on the borrowing proposal.

 “I have huge concerns about the disability access around Balboa Park BART station, which is a mess impacting thousands of people. It makes it really hard to spend $450,000 on the board chambers that would impact only a few people,” Committee chair Supervisor John Avalos said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has strongly supported the project and vowed to make it happen before he leaves office. “If the Board of Supervisors were a private business they wouldn’t be allowed to meet until it made the improvements,” Newsom’s spokesman Tony Winnicker said. He said government has to be accountable to the same rules as the private sector.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheel chair, had threatened to sue The City in 2008 over the lack of access after the Board of Supervisors rejected the project at that time. 

“The City should do whatever it can to make itself accessible particularly in its places of power,” Alioto-Pier said. “Otherwise the decision makers forget that they are accountable to more than themselves.”

These days no one uses what’s known as the president’s podium in the Legislative Chamber. Instead, the president sits at a lower desk in front of it. If the funding is approved, the president’s podium would be lowered three steps to 12 inches above floor level with a ramp connecting to it. The lower desk, currently used by the board clerk and the board president, would be lowered to floor level.

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