$1.4 Billion Sidewalk Accessibility Settlement

On January 8, 2016, the City of Los Angeles executed a settlement agreement that would require it to pay approximately $1.4 billion over a 30-year period to make its public sidewalk and crosswalk system accessible to persons with mobility disabilities. Specifically, the agreement, which provides relief to an estimated class of 280,000 people, compels the City to “install, repair, and upgrade curb ramps; repair sidewalks and walkways damaged by tree roots; repair broken or uneven pavement; correct non-compliant cross-slopes in sidewalks; install tree gates and missing utility covers; and remediate other inaccessible conditions.”

In the class action, Willits v. City of Los Angeles, Docket No. 2:10-cv-05782 (C.D. Cal.), plaintiffs Mark Willits, Judy Griffin, Brent Pilgreen and the non-profit organization, Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (“CALIF”), on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, alleged among other things, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Sections 51 and 54 of the California Civil Code, and Sections 11135 and 4450 of the California Government Code. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the City of Los Angeles, claiming that the lack of access to the City’s system of pedestrian rights-of-way deprived people with mobility disabilities of their independence – essentially relegating them to second-class citizen status.

Prior to reaching the proposed settlement agreement, the parties participated in eight full-day mediation sessions under the supervision of the Hon. Dickran Tevrizian (Ret.) and the Hon. Edward A. Infante (Ret.). In the end, the City agreed to make the necessary improvements to assure that its pedestrian facilities are readily accessible to individuals with mobility disabilities. Accordingly, the City will initially commit $31 million to accessibility improvements during each of the first five fiscal years from the date of the Court’s final approval, and then incrementally increase the amount of funding at five-year intervals.