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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So, What's the Status of that $1.1 Million Ramp Michela Alioto-Pier Was So Fired Up About?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Heck, for $1.1 million, we'll sell you a ramp and a car to jump off it, too
  • Heck, for $1.1 million, we'll sell you a ramp and a car to jump off it, too

After the shit hits the fan, it's mordantly entertaining to look back at the issues that used to occupy us: Monica Lewinsky, President Bush actually mentioning Brave New World -- which he almost certainly never read -- during his "all-important" stem cell speech, and the supposed $1.1 million ramp to the antique dais in the Board of Supervisors room.

With budget shortfalls metaphorically reducing the city into passing on the Veuve Cliquot in favor of Riunite, the notion of a million-dollar ramp isn't exactly tenable these days. But Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier -- who has used a wheelchair sine the early 1980s and was the main advocate of the ramp -- says she's still working on getting it built. And she also claims the supposed million-dollar price tag is a fabrication -- for which she blames former Board President Aaron Peskin.

"It was never going to cost $1.1 million. That was such a gross exaggeration. That was the cost of renovating the entire chamber, which included the ramp ... The ramp itself only cost somewhere in the ballpark of $150,000," she says. "Don't forget, Aaron's a preservationist and the only thing he cares about is the beautiful, historic preservation of that room. I don't think all of my fellow supervisors understood what they were voting on. They were conned into believing there was this million-dollar ramp."

Peskin, understandibly, recalls things differently.

"It was damn close to a million dollars including soft costs, and the vast majority of that was the cost of the painstaking restoration of bringing the presidential podium down in size," he says. Sure, there were costs related to replacing audio-visual cables -- but many of those replacements were necessitated only because of work on the mammoth dais."The notion all of the costs were due to audio-visual [replacements] is just factually incorrect."

(Y'know, they can't both be right -- and SF Weekly has not had the opportunity to peruse the plans and itemize the costs. We will report back as soon as we do.)

Alioto-Pier said the Mayor's Office on Disability is still working on plans for the ramp, and she hopes a putting a future plan out to bid would lower the project's cost. As for her past "vows" to sue if the dais remains non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Alioto-Pier said she hoped it wouldn't come to that -- but didn't disavow future legal action: "I'm not saying I was misquoted, because I wasn't" she said of past news stories regarding potential litigation. "You can't ignore federal law and hope it'll go away." 

While former Board President Matt Gonzalez refused to give up his perch on the dais, Peskin insisted on using the lower "clerk's" dias -- which is accessible by ramp -- as does current Board President David Chiu. Alioto-Pier said this solution is unacceptable, as would be Peskin's notion of passing a law declaring the old dais off-limits to everyone. She says there's no legal guarantee future lawmakers won't undo such a law (Peskin counters that there's no legal guarantee that future lawmakers won't challenge the ADA).

And yet, in this the spring of our discontent, Alioto-Pier does not foresee any expenditures on a ramp anytime soon.

"We're cutting back on police classes. We're laying off city employees. We don't have money to do anything."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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