YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
The new Yolo County Courthouse is scheduled to begin initial operations on Monday, August 24, 2015.
However, an investigation by Yolo Sun has discovered a number of serious, even glaring deficiencies related its compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
These deficiencies have recently been brought to the attention of relevant officials at various levels of responsibility for the new Yolo County Courthouse, by means of the six-page letter from Yolo Sun‘s editor, published below:
August 19, 2015
Ms. Linda McCulloh
Judicial Council of California
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688
Ms. Julie Ann Burton
Yolo County Superior Court
725 Court Street, Room 102
Woodland, CA 95695
Dear Ms. McCulloh, Dear Ms. Burton:
With the new Yolo County Courthouse scheduled to officially open next week, I want to bring to your attention some serious deficiencies made in parking for disabled persons. These deficiencies include violations in the number of disabled parking spaces; distance from disabled parking to the Courthouse; and serious pedestrian traffic hazards between the parking lots and the Courthouse. I believe all of these issues involve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
For recipients if this letter who may not be familiar with public parking for the new Courthouse, let me describe the layout. The Courthouse itself fills the entire block on Main Street in Woodland between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The Courthouse faces Main Street and a secure, employee parking lot is directly behind the building. The Woodland Police Department fills the entire block directly south of the Courthouse.
Public parking for the Courthouse is provided in two separate lots located on Sixth Street two and three blocks south of the Courthouse. Land for
these lots was purchased from Union Pacific Railroad and is situated on the opposite (east) side of Sixth Street from the Courthouse. Lot A is closer to the Courthouse and is on the north side of the intersection of Sixth Street and Oak Avenue. Oak itself is two blocks from Main Street. The second Lot B is still farther from the Courthouse south of the intersection of Sixth and Oak. Public disabled parking for the Courthouse has been consolidated for both lots in the southwest corner of Lot A.
Following are the perceived deficiencies with the disabled parking that is being provided:
Violation of number of spaces for persons with disabilities
The ADA allows disabled parking for separate lots to be grouped together in one lot so long as the number of spaces is determined according to each of the separate parking facilities. The Courthouse has done this and is providing a total of eight disabled parking spaces in Lot A. Seven of these are regular disabled parking spaces and one is van accessible. However, based upon a total of 65 parking spaces in Lot A and 171 in Lot B, the ADA requires a total of nine disabled parking spaces for both lots (three for Lot A and six for Lot B). Furthermore, the ADA also requires that one of every six disabled parking spaces, or fraction thereof, must be “van-accessible.” Lot A contains only one van accessible parking space and based upon nine overall spaces, Lot A is supposed to have not one, but two, van accessible spaces. So, the Courthouse needs to add one more disabled parking space and it must be van accessible.
(See: Section 208.2 Minimum Number of Parking Spaces; 2010 Standards for Title II and III Facilities: 2004 ADAAG—ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities; also ADA Update: A Primer for State & Local Governments. US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division)
Unfortunately, this oversight cannot be corrected by simply restriping one of the existing disabled spaces. Van accessible spaces require wider space alongside the van, as well as direct access of a designated width to a sidewalk so as to avoid people in a wheelchair having to travel in traffic areas and behind parked vehicles.
Distance from Courthouse
As noted above, disabled parking is located in the southwest corner of Lot A, at the corner of Sixth and Oak. This places it a full two and a half blocks from the entrance to the Courthouse. While the ADA does not prescribe fixed distances between disabled parking and the building it serves, it does say that “(p)arking space that serves a particular building…shall be located on the shortest accessible route from parking to an entrance….”
(See: Section 208.3 Location; 2010 Standards for Title II and III Facilities: 2004 ADAAG—ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities)
Considering that disabled persons typically suffer from mobility and respiratory problems, requiring them to walk two and a half blocks does not seem reasonable. In fact, most disabled persons will have to walk even farther than two and a half blocks, since all persons using Lot A will first have to walk in a southerly direction away from the Courthouse in order to cross Sixth Street at the intersection with Oak. This brings up the serious issue of traffic hazards between the parking lots and the Courthouse.
Regardless of where they park in Lots A and B, all pedestrians—including the disabled—will be forced to cross at the intersection of Sixth and Oak to get to the west side of Sixth. This is the only sidewalk that goes from the parking lots to the Courthouse. The sidewalk on the parking lot (east) side of Sixth doesn’t extend beyond the edge of Lot A itself. A metal barrier has been placed there and beyond the end of the sidewalk is a dirt lot.
It’s obvious that there will be a temptation for all pedestrians—disabled and otherwise—to avoid first walking considerable distances away from the Courthouse in order to legally cross the intersection of Sixth and Oak, only to have to double back toward the Courthouse on the opposite side of Sixth. Instead, pedestrians will be tempted to walk across the planting strip surrounding Lot A or exit against traffic at the parking lot entrance on Sixth and then to jaywalk across Sixth Street directly in front of the Police Station. This would be not only illegal, but dangerous as well.
Assuming pedestrians—including the disabled—follow the signs and cross at the intersection of Sixth and Oak, they face a number of serious traffic hazards along the way to the Courthouse. First, there are no stop signs on Oak Avenue, so traffic will be turning onto Sixth Street without having to stop while pedestrians are crossing Sixth. Worse yet, all pedestrians from Lot B will have to cross both Sixth Street and Oak Avenue without traffic on Oak having to stop.
Second, all pedestrians will have to cross two employee parking lot entrances on the west side of Sixth –one at the Police Station and the other at the Courthouse itself. This, too, is something the ADA strongly discourages.
Finally, all pedestrians from both lots—including the disabled—will have to cross Lincoln Avenue, directly behind the Courthouse, without the benefit of any stop signs on Lincoln. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous given the fact that the Courthouse itself will be generating increased traffic in the area and the public parking lot for the Police Station is adjacent to the intersection of Sixth and Lincoln.
I don’t want to point out problems without offering some possible solutions.
Regarding the absence of stop signs on both Oak and Lincoln, the City of Woodland should consider adding them immediately, along with painted pedestrian crosswalks at both intersections.
In order to significantly shorten the distance that disabled persons must travel from parking lot to Courthouse, immediate consideration should be given to relocating the required disabled parking to one of the following locations: (1) Part of the lawn area directly in front of the Courthouse; (2) Renting space in the parking lot at the Wiseman Building across from the Courthouse; or (3) Rent/borrow excess space available in the parking lot of the Woodland District Office of Education building also across from the Courthouse.
The impetus for the investigation that has led to this letter was information unveiled at the Woodland City Council meeting on July 7, 2015, when it passed an ordinance establishing a Preferential Parking Area in the vicinity of the new Courthouse. This was a perfectly understandable effort by the City to preserve on-street parking for residents and businesses in the area from encroachment by visitors to the Courthouse.
In preparation for the Council hearing, a map was presented showing the two remote public parking lots, as well as restricted on-street parking surrounding the Courthouse. Most of this restricted parking is set aside for public safety vehicles and certain County officials. Despite the preparations that were being made for preferential, non-public parking near the Courthouse, it was apparent that no one at the City of Woodland level was giving serious thought to parking needs of the disabled. While it was probably never the City’s responsibility in the first place, in response to questions by Council members City staff wrote off the problem by noting that vehicles with disabled parking placards and license plates are allowed to park almost anywhere on city streets or at meters without restriction, including time limits. While it wasn’t mentioned at the hearing, the law also allows disabled vehicles to park without restriction within the newly established Preferential Parking Area. The only places where disabled vehicles cannot park is in white and yellow loading zones and in red no parking zones.
This somewhat unsatisfactory discussion of disabled parking issues led us to begin inquiring just what serious provisions were being made for ADA-compliant disabled parking. The first thing we learned is that the Judicial Council of California is responsible for construction of the Courthouse, purchase and construction of the parking lots and adherence to the ADA. However. Since the City is responsible for traffic and parking on city streets and Yolo County has assumed responsibility for issuing parking permits within the Preferential Parking Area, this letter is being sent to individuals at all levels of responsibility for the new Courthouse.
The ADA celebrated its 25th anniversary just last month and there is no denying the positive benefits it has had in bringing disabled persons into greater participation in public life. Those responsible for our new Courthouse need to seriously reconsider and correct some of the impediments that are
now apparent. I would appreciate being kept informed of progress along these lines.
cc: Martin Hoshino
Administrative Director, Judicial Council of California
Honorable Kathleen M. White
Presiding Judge, Yolo County Superior Court
Shawn C. Landry
Court Executive Officer, Yolo County Superior Court
Chairman, Yolo County Board of Supervisors
Patrick S. Blacklock
County Administrator, Yolo County
Mayor, City of Woodland
City Manager, City of Woodland