CAPITOLA -- When Senate Bill 1186 was signed into law in September, it was touted as much-needed reform, a way to curb predatory lawsuits against small businesses over the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. But a little-noticed provision of the bill will cost Capitola about $1,000 next year.
The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, prohibits attorneys from demanding money of a building owner based on construction-related accessibility violations and calls on cities and counties to collect a $1 fee from business owners to ensure the jurisdiction has a "certified access specialist" on staff or on retainer to help commercial and multi-family developers comply with the federal law.
Councilman Dennis Norton balked when the proposal to add the fee to business licenses and permits, as the law specifies, came up Tuesday night.
"The nexus should be development projects or upgrades, not existing businesses," he said.
Norton suggested the city pay the requisite amount, and Councilman Kirby Nicol and Mayor Michael Termini voted with him to reject the staff recommendation to institute the fee.
The cost to the city could be $1,000, based on a projection by finance director Tori Hannah.
For every dollar, 70 cents is to go to the local jurisdiction for the certified access specialist and 30 cents is to go into the state Disability Access and Education Revolving Fund.
"What they're trying to do is ensure compliance," said
Capitola does not have anyone on staff with the certification, so Goldstein expects to hire Jonathan Adler of Access Compliance Services, a Santa Cruz consulting firm.
"We have used him in the past," said Goldstein, describing the work as "highly technical."
State certification requires passing an exam and paying a fee of $250, which covers a three-year period.
There are four "Certified Access Specialists" in Santa Cruz County and 467 statewide, according to Monica Hassan, spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services.
Hannah pointed out the $1 fee would generate $700 a year for Capitola, not enough to cover the costs of the consultant.
She said the city of Santa Cruz is considering paying the fee and that Watsonville plans to add the $1 charge to licenses and permits.
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