California’s New Construction Regulations to Enhance Accessibility

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)–California Chamber of Commerce-supported construction regulations that will enhance accessibility have been adopted for the 2013 California Building Code. The result is a single set of requirements that meet both state and federal accessibility requirements for the first time ever and enhance accessibility for all Californians.

The new regulations were developed by the Division of the State Architect. Significant input came from interested parties across the state, including a coalition involving the CalChamber and representatives from a variety of industries, including construction, restaurant, engineering, manufacturing, property management, real estate, local cities and counties, and litigation reform groups.

The regulations also received strong support from numerous legislators, including Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

For more than two decades, California has developed and maintained its own set of accessibility regulations. While mirroring the federal standards in many instances, the state regulations have been an ever-growing source of costly civil rights litigation that in many instances focused on minute technical differences between the federal and state regulations.
This problem became so damaging to California business that CalChamber-supported, bipartisan legislation, SB 1186 (Steinberg; D-Sacramento/Dutton; R-Rancho Cucamonga), was approved in 2012 to help address the issue.

Among other things, SB 1186 established a much-needed prohibition on pre-litigation “demand for money” letters. More important, SB 1186 requires plaintiffs to specify what provisions of code have been allegedly violated and to specify how the alleged violation(s) infringed on the individual’s ability to access the facility or its services.

During the development of the 2013 state building code, the state Department of General Services reports, more than 2,500 items from the 2010 state and federal codes were analyzed to determine which provisions provided greater accessibility. Items studied varied from parking spaces, handrails, drinking fountains and signs, to transportation facilities, housing and correctional facilities.

Also incorporated in the 2013 state building code are provisions for recreational facilities, including amusement rides, playgrounds, golf courses and fishing piers.

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