Friday, October 2, 2015

Your Feedback is Requested - Mandatory Disability Access Improvements

BOMA members have been monitoring legislation introduced by Supervisor Katy Tang: Mandatory Disability Access Improvements.

This ordinance, if passed, would relieve tenants of any responsibility for accessibility improvements or documentation establishing a technically infeasible situation or unreasonable hardship and place it squarely on the building owners.

Additionally, this legislation would establish a Disability Access Compliance Unit within the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (SFDBI) to monitor this program, set fees to administer it, provide guidance and advice on specific situations, as well as issue determinations of technical infeasibility or unreasonable hardship.

Click here for the legislative digest.

Our Government Affairs Policy Analysis Committee (GAPAC) recently met with Supervisor Tang and here are the concerns our members have regarding the measure, as proposed:
  • San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (SFDBI) Staffing
    • Ordinance compliance by SFDBI might be an issue due to workflow demand increase if this measure were to pass.
      • How can building owners be assured that the turnaround time will be a fast one?
  • Lease Negotiation
    • Our members are concerned that allowing SFDBI to be the arbiter of ADA issues in private buildings will impede the lease negotiation process. 
    • This was also an issue in 2013 when we worked with then Supervisor David Chiu on his ADA legislation:
      • Note that the same suggestions our members had in 2013, below, apply to this proposal:
        • Education 
          • Commercial property owners provide an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disclosure to tenants/potential tenants to help educate them on the requirements of the ADA implications of non-compliance.
        • Compliance 
          • Allow a commercial property owner/tenant MORE time to correct primary entries/path of travel to ADA specific requirements in a tenant space. That is, set a due date for absolute compliance sometime farther into the future (e.g., 5-10 years) with a requirement to update primary entries/path of travel before the due date if new tenant occupies the space. 
            • This suggestion was based on the San Francisco High Rise Sprinkler Ordinance passed in 1993 that had similar requirements for compliance with regard to sprinklers in high-rise buildings. 
        • Lease Negotiation Process 
          • Commercial property owners need to have the ability to negotiate the costs associated with any tenant improvement with the tenant. This includes any costs associated with ADA compliance. 
  • Building Owner is Fully Responsible for ADA Repairs 
    • From our GAPAC meeting, it’s clear this is a major source of contention with our small building owners. 
    • As mentioned above, our members need to have the leeway to negotiate who pays for the tenant improvement. 
    • Perhaps any mention of the owner paying for upgrades can be amended to include owner and/or lessee. 
  • Technical Infeasibility 
    • Readily achievable should be the term used - in other words, easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense for the tenant/owner. 
  • Post 2002 Building Exemption(Pg. 6; lines 11-15 – Chapter 11D; Sec. 1101D) 
    • Building owner/owners authorized agent must provide a written notice of exemption that provides a construction permit application dates on or after January 1, 2002. 
    • SFDBI should already have this information on file. 
As always, our members are appreciative of Supervisor Tang's early outreach to BOMA regarding this ordinance, and look forward to the continued discussion.

If you have concerns about this measure please email John M. Bozeman, BOMA San Francisco's Director of Government and Industry Affairs, at

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