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San Francisco's Accessible Business Entrance Program

How to Comply with San Francisco's Accessibility Ordinance

How To Comply With San Francisco's Accessibility Ordinance

An ordinance amending the Building Code, San Francisco’s Accessible Building Entrance Program was passed in 2016 requiring existing buildings that are considered a place of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA to have all primary entrances accessible for people with disabilities. Under state and federal law, a place of public accommodation is generally a business where the public will enter to obtain goods and services, such as banks, day care centers, hotels, offices, restaurants, retail stores, etc.

The following steps should be completed in order to determine the Category of your building.

Step 1 – Pre-Screening Form

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection has provided a Pre-Screening Form to allow property owners to determine whether their building is subject to the ordinance or exempt. There is no fee for this by the building department and property Owner’s can complete this themselves. Buildings are exempt under the following conditions:

  1. The building was originally constructed with a permit application dated on or after 2002.
  2. The building or business is owned and operated by a recognized religious organization.
  3. The building or business is a “bona fide” private club.
  4. All of the businesses contained in the structure are not “public accommodations” thus the structure is not “a Place of Public Accommodation.”

Step 2 – Category Checklist Compliance Form

If your property does not meet one of the four conditions under Step 1, owners must engage a licensed Architect, Engineer, or a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to inspect the building and complete a Category Checklist Compliance Form. The completed form will identify non-compliant elements and propose a plan for correcting them. It will also categorize the building as Category 1 to Category IV based on the building’s level of accessibility.

Category I – The California licensed design professional or CASp will complete the checklist and other required forms, along with an administrative fee. After review and approval, the Department will mail the owner and/or tenant a Certificate of Final Completion.

Category II, III, IV – Section 5 of the Category Checklist Compliance Form will be completed by a California licensed design professional or CASp.  This includes a concise description of the all non-compliant elements and the proposed work that is necessary to provide an accessible entrance.  A full set of plans is not required at this time.

Step 3 – Barrier Removal Work

If your property falls under Category II through IV, after the Category Checklist Compliance Form is submitted to the city and the solution is approved, an application for building permits and construction will be required in order to complete the barrier removal work, unless the property meets the technical infeasible or structural infeasible exceptions. Once all work is completed and accessibility barriers have been removed, property owners should schedule an inspection to receive a Certificate of Final Completion.

Compliance Schedule

The San Francisco Building Inspection Department has issued the following compliance deadlines for each category of building:

San Francisco Accessible Building Entrance Program Deadlines effective June 1, 2018

What happens if I don’t comply?

If you fail to follow the steps to compliance, or do not file a request for technical infeasibility or unreasonable hardship, by the published deadlines, your building will be subject to code enforcement actions which may include orders to comply accompanied by penalties and fees. Furthermore, failure to remove access barriers makes you vulnerable to lawsuits by those who feel they have been discriminated against.

Accessibility, Barriers and Certified Access Specialists (CASp)

The Accessible Building Entrance Program is intended to help property owners comply with Federal and State accessibility regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These regulations can be complex and exhaustive, requiring far more than wheelchair ramps and handicap parking stalls. From parking lot access routes to smooth sidewalks; from appropriate curb heights to doorway width, appropriate door hardware and threshold limits, there are many technical specifications to consider. Even licensed engineers and architects may not be aware of the full impact of accessibility laws on the design of a building. For this reason, it is in the best interest of the property owner to engage a CASp: a certified expert in the field of construction-related accessibility. A CASp can make sure that your plan to address accessibility issues for the Accessible Building Entrance Program meets all state and federal requirements.

With CASps on staff, Partner can assist our clients through all phases of compliance. Partner can complete the initial on-site assessment, the category checklist compliance forms including building submittal, and assist with construction documents and contractor selection for obtaining bids. For further information, contact Jay Grenfell at 415-992-3755.