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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

City Source: Making Supes' Presidential Dais Handicapped Accessible Would Cost a Fortune

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2009 at 6:30 AM

This is how much paperwork it would take to renovate the Board of Supervisors' chamber (and they're not near finished)
  • This is how much paperwork it would take to renovate the Board of Supervisors' chamber (and they're not near finished)
Yesterday, we checked up on the status of the so-called Million-Dollar Ramp that sparked rancorous debates and threats of lawsuits among our elected officials -- and, inadvertently touched off a testy back-and-forth between Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and former Board President Aaron Peskin.

Seems like old times.

In a nutshell, Alioto-Pier -- a wheelchair user -- contends that Peskin deliberately tossed out the figure of $1.1 million to quash any attempts to alter the Board of Supervisors' antique presidential dais ("Aaron's a preservationist...") and claimed that the cost of building a ramp would only be around $150,000. Peskin countered that this dollar figure was "factually incorrect" and that building a ramp to the dais would require moving other antique paraphernalia and uprooting AV cables -- and, in short, cost a shitload of money.

Peskin concluded that all of the documents regarding the ramp and other renovations in the Supes' chambers were available for our perusing -- and boy, was he right. In fact, there they are pictured above. That's about a nine-inch stack of papers regarding the renovation of a single room. You know what? We don't have time for that right now -- but we did have time to track down a city official who knows what he's doing.

And that person -- speaking on condition of anonymity -- explained to us how much making the dais handicapped accessible would cost. And it's a lot

While the ramp itself was never going to cost $1.1 million, focusing solely on the cost of the ramp is simplistic -- and, if one insists upon it, disingenuous.

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.

Considering that, Alioto-Pier's assessment of the city's ability to pay for such a ramp seems more valid than ever: "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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