A plan to make the historic Board of Supervisors’ chamber wheelchair-accessible carried a steep price tag and political overtones, but after years of debate a design plan was finally approved Tuesday with an estimated cost of $450,000.
In 2008, the board rejected the plan for a wheelchair ramp at a cost of about $1 million. But the decision brought sharp words from Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair. She even threatened to sue.
In July, on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Newsom revived the debate by saying he would make it happen before he left office.
It now appears the project will become a reality. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 in support of the plan, this time carrying a cost of $450,000.
Currently, 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. Under the proposal, 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.
Supervisor Chris Daly opposed it, saying he would instead prefer to keep the podium out of use forever.
Where the money would come from remains unknown, Department of Public Works Director Ed Reiskin said, but the board will likely be asked to approve a spending proposal in about a month.
“This should have been done when the building was brought up to code years ago,” Alioto-Pier said.
In a 7-3 vote, a law banning the sale of tobacco in drugstores and grocery stores with pharmacies was given final approval.
Supervisors Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Alioto-Pier opposed it. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was not present.