Will Supes Approve $600K Ramp in Board Chambers?

Categories: Government
It'll be a hell of a lot nicer than that...
Tucked away among $48 million worth of funding, the Board of Supervisors Budget Committe yesterday approved the funding of a $600,000 ramp in City Hall. We've written a little bit about this -- the ramp was originally priced at more than $1.1 million, but, last month, downgraded to "only" $450,000.

Of course, that $450,000 figure doesn't include the $230,000 already invested in erecting this ramp. The current figure, $600,000, presumably doesn't either. Next week, the full Board of Supervisors will have their chance to vote on this project. With the city facing a projected budget deficit hovering around $450 million, will they approve a ramp that costs more than Pablo Sandoval?

Quite possibly.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd doesn't foresee drama during Tuesday's board meeting. He and Supervisor John Avalos gave the allocation the 2-0 vote it needed and "no one brought up that issue in committee."

If you're wondering why a little old ramp should cost so damn much, here's an explanation we received from a city official in the know:

The purpose of building a ramp to the top of the dais is to make it handicapped accessible. And, unless that ramp took up one entire side of the room, its construction entailed the lowering of a second, lower podium -- "and that's where the cost came in," says the city official. "Once you took out the stairs from the [lower] podium and lowered it and moved the clerk's desk forward, you're definitely touching a lot of historic fabric and creating a very pricey product."

How pricey? Well, consider that the historic dais is constructed out of Manchurian Oak -- a tree that is now extinct. Correspondingly, making the dais accessible would cost in the neighborhood of $600,000. Two different professional cost-estimators were recently called in to assess this job -- and both came up with this figure -- "within pennies," said the official.

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Joe Eskenazi
The actual file regarding the dais ramp project. This photo was taken last year, so it has grown.
The current plan calls for the pricey removal of audio and video cables from the floorboards. But, argue the project's proponents, this was something that'd have to be done in the next couple of years anyway.

While the ramp to the board president's antique dais became a symbol of a relationship between Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and former board president Aaron Peskin that devolved to the point where the next step would be bombing Pearl Harbor, Elsbernd says the issue isn't about either of them.

"This has nothing to do with Michela," he said. The current solution of partitioning off the dais doesn't meet the strict standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Could the $830,000 the city is on the hook to spend actually be necessary to stave off a lawsuit? Elsbernd won't go that far, but it is possible. It's a crazy world we live in.

As of next week, this contentious issue will likely be voted on, approved, and join the legion of San Francisco endeavors that provoke the exclamation, "I can't believe how much this cost!"

No drama is anticipated. "But," Elsbernd notes, "You never know."

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Yeah, a crazy world we live in where disabled people expect to be able to get places! Are you freaking kidding me?

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