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$98,000 Will Be Spent on Better Access for Disabled : Oxnard: A city crackdown on motorists' illegal use of handicapped parking spaces will help finance the improvements at City Hall.

September 22, 1993|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oxnard officials agreed Tuesday to spend $98,000 to make City Hall more accessible to the disabled, and to help pay for those improvements by cracking down on motorists parked illegally in handicapped parking stalls.

Culminating months of study, the Oxnard City Council voted unanimously to use federal grant money to improve access to buildings, restrooms and other city-owned facilities.

The move is the latest step in an effort to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against the disabled.

"They gave us everything we wanted," said Mary Jane James, chairwoman of a committee of disabled residents who helped map out the city's strategy for complying with the federal law. "This is a good first step."

In an innovative approach to paying for the improvements, Oxnard officials agreed to create a two-person unit to scour public parking lots and hand out $280 citations to motorists who park illegally in spaces reserved for the disabled.

The California Vehicle Code allows cities to create civilian patrols devoted to enforcing traffic laws governing handicapped parking.

Oxnard police will establish a six-month pilot program and recruit two volunteers to work two hours a day, three days a week. The traffic enforcement duo will be trained in ticket writing and public relations and will be outfitted with vests and badges identifying them as members of the volunteer patrol.

Police estimate that the program could generate as much as $9,000 a week. Most of the money generated by citations will be earmarked for the city's efforts to improve access to public facilities.

"I think all of us have been incensed when we've seen apparently healthy people using those parking slots," Mayor Manuel Lopez said.

City staff members have been meeting since last summer to come up with ways to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The law requires all public agencies and private companies with 25 or more employees to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees and customers with physical, mental or learning disabilities.

The advisory committee established late last year to aid the city's effort identified more than $400,000 in improvements needed to make City Hall accessible to people with disabilities.

The committee whittled down that list to $98,000 in modifications that could be accomplished this fiscal year.

Included in that list is $13,500 to make bathrooms more accessible, $20,000 to install electronic listening devices for the hearing-impaired in meeting rooms, and $28,000 to install automatic doors at one City Hall entrance.

On Tuesday, about 10 disabled residents urged council members to move forward.

"The ADA is law and the city of Oxnard has been out of compliance with the law for 2 1/2 years," hearing-impaired resident Gerald Dominick told the council. "This is just the beginning of what needs to be done."

Karl Lawson, the city's compliance manager for the Americans With Disabilities Act, told council members that the first-year effort represents a true commitment to the civil rights ideals behind the federal law.

"It is a significant step forward," Lawson said. "It's turning some of these ideas and concepts into brick and mortar."

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