Photo by Sam Hodgson
William Ballard, 77, heads through the parking lot outside the Trader Joe's and Ralph's in Hillcrest.
You might have seen new curb ramps popping up all over San Diego recently. The city installed almost 700 of them in the last six months of 2012 alone using money from an infrastructure repair loan.
The ramps allow people in wheelchairs, including William Ballard, to get up on the sidewalk rather than travel in the road.
The city, however, doesn’t do much for wheelchair riders once they’re on the sidewalk: It’s doesn’t repair or maintain the broken ones. Council President Todd Gloria calls that policy “the largest insult to the disabled community that it could possibly be.”
“We spend all this time and effort on the ramps, but it’s a path to nowhere for people in wheelchairs,” Gloria said.
This sidewalk “path to nowhere” shows one instance where the city’s efforts for the disabled have, at best, been uneven in recent years.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders cited years of neglect in funding for Americans With Disabilities Act projects when he announced early in his term that he’d make ADA spending one of his top priorities. He wanted to dedicate $10 million a year to ADA projects, paying for them through the sale of city lands.
The plan worked for a couple years. But when the bottom fell out of the economy, the city stopped selling land, shutting down the main ADA funding source. Between 2010 and 2012, the city averaged $2.4 million a year in funding on ADA projects. Spending has going up this year because of the infrastructure loan.
The future for ADA projects, however, aren’t clear. Mayor Bob Filner’s proposed budget includes just $1.2 million for them next year, though money from the city’s next infrastructure loan could add to the total.
Overall, the city estimates its ADA backlog stands at nearly $60 million, which is more than it costs to run the entire library system annually. But compared with the city’s nearly $1 billion backlog for streets, storm drains and buildings, a $60 million deficit doesn’t look so bad.
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