October 25, 2002
Re: City of San Diego
Comments to Proposed Public Right-of-Way Guidelines
Dear Mr. Windley:
This letter consists of comments on behalf of the City of San Diego regarding
the Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way issued June 17, 2002.
San Diego is the seventh largest city in the nation, with nearly 1.3 million
residents, and represents the commercial, governmental, and cultural hub to the
county’s 2.8 million people. In addition, San Diego is one of the premier
vacation and convention destinations in the country, attracting more than 15
million visitors annually. Such a population naturally consists of a large
number of disabled individuals as well. Thus, it is important that we strive to
provide access along our public rights-of-way to those with disabilities, as
well as all members of society.
These comments represent various concerns from a number of departments within
the City of San Diego. Being charged with implementing these proposed
regulations, the City has a great interest in their development.
While specific sections are addressed below, we have an overriding concern with
the nature of the proposed Chapter 11 as it is currently written. There appears
to be a lack of specificity in general, making compliance extremely difficult.
The “discussion” portion of the guidelines provides a great deal of insight
lacking from the proposed regulations themselves. For example, the discussion
area relating to additions and alterations states that “compliance is ‘prorated’
based on the extent of the work planned.” This concept of “prorating” the work
is mentioned nowhere in the regulations.
This type of confusion and ambiguity in the regulations will have a chilling
effect on compliance. If it is unclear what it means to comply with a specific
section, then challenges to construction projects would be quite easy, resulting
in costly litigation and delays. Soaring costs can quickly turn a routine
construction project into a cost-prohibitive quagmire. Greater clarity and
specificity in what it means to comply with these regulations, or providing
clear discretion to the affected government entity, will help reduce the
chilling effect of challenges to construction projects.
Many States have adopted the MUTCD with an amendment providing supplemental
regulation particular to that State. We question what effect a State’s adoption
of the MUTCD, along with any State amendments, has on providing a “Reference
Standard” to these guidelines. We propose that a State’s adoption of the MUTCD
should be the recognized “Reference Standard.”
1101.3 - Defined Terms:
While some definitions are provided in the Right-of-Way Guidelines themselves,
other important terms lack interpretation. Some definitions refer to other
chapters of the ADAAG which do not relate to public rights-of-way. We have
addressed our concerns by providing suggested language below.
“Alteration” should be defined specifically as it applies to this Chapter,
considering it will be the primary trigger for implementing these regulations.
Referring to the general definition of “Alteration” provided in section 3.5 of
the ADAAG is insufficient, because section 3.5 relates to structures, rather
than streets, sidewalks, and the like. That existing definition states:
An alteration is a change to a building or facility that affects or could
affect the usability of the building or facility or part thereof. Alterations
include, but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation,
reconstruction, historic restoration, resurfacing of circulation paths or
vehicular ways, changes or rearrangement of the structural parts or elements,
and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height
partitions. Normal maintenance, re-roofing, painting or wallpapering, or changes
to mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations unless they affect the
usability of the building or facility.
This definition fails to specifically address the circumstances unique to public
rights-of-way. For an alteration to trigger compliance with Chapter 11, it
should in some way effect the accessibility of the right-of-way. Simply
rehabilitating a portion of the public right-of-way to its original condition as
a result of routine maintenance or subsurface work would not constitute an
“alteration,” but rather a “restoration.” We propose following definitions:
Any work to a public right-of-way that modifies its physical aspects to an
extent that its access is appreciably affected. Alterations include any
appreciable change to the slope, grade, or elevation of a Pedestrian Access
Route. Alterations do not include resurfacing, slurry sealing, filling potholes
or trenches, or similar work, if the effect is to restore the surface to its
original condition without appreciably affecting the slope, grade, elevation,
transition to sidewalks or other factors of accessibility. The scope of work
required to comply with Chapter 11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion
or aspect of the public right-of-way altered.
An expansion, extension, or increase in the gross surface area of a sidewalk,
roadway, or Pedestrian Access Route. The scope of work required to comply with
Chapter 11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion or aspect of the public
right-of-way which constitutes the addition.
The length of a side of a roadway adjoining a sidewalk which has a natural
ending or is intersected by another roadway. Where no natural ending or
intersecting roadway exists for more than 300 yards along the length of a
roadway adjoining a sidewalk, then an individual Block Face will be considered
every 300-yard section and remaining fraction thereof. For purposes of this
Chapter, Block Face applies exclusively to areas zoned as commercial, business
or mixed-used, and not residential areas.
An area of newly designed and newly constructed public rights-of-way, which is
not an alteration or addition. The scope of work required to comply with Chapter
11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion or aspect of the public
right-of-way which is considered to be new construction.
Elements in the public right-of-way that are intended for use by pedestrians.
This includes drinking fountains, public telephones, toilet facilities, tables,
Technical infeasibility includes those circumstances where compliance would
require alterations to existing buildings or structures along the public
right-of-way, interfering with subsurface structures or utilities, and other
factors determined on a case-by-case basis. Technical infeasibility shall also
apply to those circumstances where compliance requires a governmental entity to
acquire additional public right-of-way through the use of eminent domain,
easements, or similar legal proceedings. Where technical infeasibility is
encountered, compliance is required to the maximum extent possible.
1102 - Scoping Requirements.
The discussion indicates that only those elements affected by construction must
comply with the provisions. However, there appear to be areas of easy
misinterpretation, such as 1102.4, which states, "The pedestrian access route
shall connect to elements required to comply with Chapter 11." This could
increase the scale of work required under this chapter more than intended.
Adoption of a clear definition for “alteration,” such as we have proposed above,
would specify that only the precise features being touched in the alteration are
affected by Chapter 11, and nothing more.
The discussion relating to additions and alterations which recognize the ability
of local government to acquire right-of-way where "practicable" may have a
chilling effect on projects. While a municipality’s use of easements or the
power of eminent domain may not be technically infeasible, they generally do
involve costly litigation with an uncooperative property owner. This burdensome
and expensive process could force policy makers to abandon a worthy project.
Therefore, we propose adding language to 1102 which would have the local
government entity: "Acquire public right-of-way where practicable as determined
by the local jurisdiction."
122.214.171.124.1 Prohibited Reduction in Access.
An alteration that decreases or has the effect of decreasing the accessibility
of a public right-of-way or site arrival points to buildings or facilities
adjacent to the altered portion of the public right-of-way, below the
requirements for new construction at the time of the alteration is prohibited.
This section is somewhat difficult to read, and could be interpreted to mean
that the governmental entity also has an obligation that extends beyond the
public right-of-way to the accessibility on the adjoining private property of
buildings and facilities themselves. It appears the Board’s intent is to bring
the accessibility of buildings and facilities adjacent to the public
right-of-way up to the standards for new construction, but only to the extent
that it relates to the public right-of-way itself.
Removing ambiguity would encourage compliance, because the responsibility of the
government entity would be clear. We propose the following version for section
1126.96.36.199.1 Prohibited Reduction in Access.
An alteration shall not decrease or have the effect of decreasing the
accessibility of a public right-of-way or site arrival points to buildings or
facilities adjacent to the altered portion of the public right-of-way. Such
alterations must meet the requirements for new construction to the maximum
extent feasible, but in no circumstance shall any obligation to provide
accessibility extend beyond the public right-of-way to the adjacent private
property, buildings, or facilities.
1102.3 Alternate Circulation Path.
"An alternate circulation path complying with 1111 shall be provided whenever
the existing pedestrian access route is blocked by construction alteration,
maintenance, or other temporary conditions." Section 1111 states "the alternate
circulation path shall parallel the disrupted pedestrian access route, on the
same side of the street."
The nature of construction in some areas may not provide an opportunity to have
the alternate route on the same side of the street without placing pedestrians
in an unsafe condition, or having an adverse impact on vehicular traffic.
Section 1102.3 should recognize these situations. We propose the following
revision to section 1111.3:
The alternate circulation path shall parallel the disrupted pedestrian access
route, on the same side of the street, unless such a path will put pedestrian
safety in greater jeopardy, or impede normal vehicular traffic. In such cases
where the alternate circulation path is not parallel to the disrupted pedestrian
access route, or on the same side of the street, the alternate path shall be
direct and accessible to the maximum extent feasible.
1102.6 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions.
By failing to address unmarked crosswalks, this section creates a conflict in
the requirement to have the ramp located within the width of each crosswalk and
the desire of the advisory committee to discourage single ramp installations.
This is especially the case at unmarked crosswalks and 48" sidewalks, which are
attached to the back of the curb head. The "unmarked crosswalk" definition,
clarifying that a crosswalk is the extension of sidewalk lines, means that only
a single combined ramp could be constructed, because it is located within the
We seek clarification on how to reconcile this apparent conflict.
1102.14 On-Street Parking.
Where on-street parking is provided, at least one accessible on-street parking
space shall be located on each block face and shall comply with 1109.
It is our position that this requirement is flawed in several respects. First,
it needs to differentiate between residential and commercial areas. While the
need for accessible street parking in business areas is understandable, because
all members of society frequent these locations, the same cannot be said for
residential areas. Only specific areas where disabled individuals live or
frequent would necessitate a designated disabled spot. Anything more would be
plainly excessive, taking up space that may never be used. Currently, the City
of San Diego accommodates individual requests in residential areas for
designated disabled parking spaces. These spaces are specifically located at
accessible locations agreed upon by both City officials and the disabled
individual. With such accommodations available from local governments,
residential areas should be exempt from the requirement of 1102.14.
Second, a working definition of “block face” is needed for areas that do not
have tradition street designs which designate the beginning and end of a block.
Some “block faces” could extend great distances. Clear guidance, as we have
suggested above, would help eliminate this ambiguity.
Third, placing curb ramps at disabled spaces could very well lure mid-block
pedestrian crossing where none was intended. (See section 1109) Encouraging
these spaces to be located at the end of blocks, where accessible curb ramps
already exist, would reduce unsafe street crossings.
Finally, reserving one space per block face, using a traditional city block as a
model, is patently excessive. Many traditional block faces in the City of San
Diego, for example, have but two or three total spaces, and rarely more than
ten. The ADAAG requirements for parking lots uses a ratio of one disabled
parking space for every twenty five regular spaces, and even less frequency when
total spaces exceed 100. Requiring on-street parking to provide such an
excessive ratio of disabled parking spaces, beyond that required in other parts
of the ADAAG, would have the unintended consequence of further reducing already
sparse street parking in urban areas.
We propose using a ratio such as found in the ADAAG section 4.1.2(5)(a), where
no more than 4 percent of the total spaces are set aside for accessible,
disabled parking. Our rewritten version of 1102.14 is as follows:
1102.14 On-Street Parking.
Where on-street parking is provided, a minimum of 4 percent of the total parking
spaces shall be accessible on-street parking spaces and shall comply with 1109.
The location of these spaces shall be as near to primary destination points as
1102.15 Passenger Loading Zones.
Requiring one accessible space in 100 linear feet of loading zone space or
fraction thereof is inappropriate where there is insufficient public
right-of-way to comply with cut out requirements of 503.2, 503.3, and 503.5. We
propose adding the same exemption found for parallel parking spaces (section
1109.2) with the following language:
EXCEPTION: Compliance with this section is not required where the width of the
sidewalk between the extension of the normal curb and boundary of the public
right-of-way is less than 14 feet (4270 mm).
The grade of the pedestrian access route within a sidewalk shall not exceed the
grade established for the adjacent roadway.
EXCEPTION: The running slope of a pedestrian access route shall be permitted to
be steeper than the grade of the adjacent roadway, provided that the pedestrian
access route is less than 1:20, or complies with 405.
There should be another exemption to 1103.5. to accommodate the transitions to
level areas. For example, if one is trying to level out the landing in front of
a business to provide access to that facility, or create a driveway running
perpendicular to the sidewalk, then the adjacent transition between the level
area and the sidewalk will necessarily exceed the slope of the street. We
propose adding the following exception to 1103.5:
EXCEPTION: The running slope of a pedestrian access route shall be permitted to
be steeper than the grade of the adjacent roadway at the transition between the
pedestrian access route and a more level cross surface. In these cases,
compliance with 1103.5 shall be made to the maximum extent feasible.
1104 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions.
The wording seems to imply that ramps can only be parallel or perpendicular,
thereby prohibiting diagonal curb ramps. However, in the discussion portion of
the draft guidelines, the Board seeks to only “discourage” the use of diagonal
curb ramps. While diagonal curb ramps may not always be ideal, often they are
the best option, especially where sidewalk space is limited.
Many times crosswalks are skewed and the allowance of a ramp parallel to the
crosswalk (but not perpendicular to the road) might provide better direction. In
1188.8.131.52 & 1184.108.40.206 it is not clear why there would be concern for
specifying a minimum slope. A section 1104.2.3 could be added to state that in
skewed crosswalks pedestrian ramps should be installed in the center of the
crosswalk, or a parallel curb ramp should be utilized.
1220.127.116.11 Diverging Sidewalks.
It is unclear what a "barrier" is as it relates to this section.
1104.3.2 Detectable Warnings.
The public hearing in Portland, Oregon on October 8, 2002, was filled with blind
individuals denouncing detectable warnings unhelpful, and even presenting safety
concerns. A great number of previously submitted written comments reinforce this
sentiment. Because the blind community itself, for whom detectable warnings are
intended, objects to these surfaces, it is our position that they should not be
used at curb ramps, except when absolutely necessary. If the Board does mandate
this requirement, it is our contention that detectable warnings should only be
required for ramps where the slope is too slight for blind persons to detect,
such as a slope of 1:15 or less.
1105.2.1 Width of Pedestrian Crosswalks.
In 1105.2.1, the marked crosswalk width is increased to a minimum of 96 inches.
MUTCD section 3B.17 provides for a minimum crosswalk width of 72 inches, thus
putting these two regulations at odds. In addition, requiring marked crosswalks
to be 96 inches wide minimum while the requirement for cut through refuge
islands is 48 inches (see 1105.4), raises a question as to how these elements
would align. Reconciling these apparent conflicts would be extremely helpful.
Finally, it is unclear whether a minimum crosswalk width of 96 inches should be
measured by the area inside the crosswalk lines, or inclusive of the crosswalk
lines. We proposed the following rewritten version of 1105.2.1:
1105.2.1 Width. Marked crosswalks shall be 96 inches (2440 mm) wide minimum,
including the marked lines themselves.
1105.2.2 Cross Slope.
In 1105.2.2 the maximum cross slope of 1:48 will require "tables" at each
intersection which will degrade the ride-ability of vehicular traffic and may
compound grade problems in mid-block sections of steep roadways. While such a
modification may be technically infeasible, we nevertheless believe there needs
to be an express exemption for the 2% cross-slope and 5% running slope for
walkways at existing intersections. There are numerous six lane major
intersections in San Diego with four cross walks. An overlay or intersection
modification may trigger the requirement to flatten that entire intersection to
2%, which would necessitate regrading hillsides, condemning private property,
and countless other untenable hardships. As such, it should be clearly stated
that this requirement should only apply to new construction.
1105.2.3 Running Slope.
The 1:20 maximum running slope as specified in 1105.2.3 will not work on higher
speed roadways with "T" intersections located on horizontal curves. The super
elevation requirements of the through roadway may routinely be as much as 8% or
9%. To reduce this to 5% or less will potentially compromise the safety of the
motoring public. Thus, an exception should be provided in these circumstances.
1105.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing.
To reduce the signal phase timing to 3.0 feet per second will result in several
Lengthening signal times will increase system wide congestion and delay,
adversely impacting air quality due to greater automobile emissions. More
traffic accidents would be the result of added congestion, as those waiting at
signals for longer periods of time would be more aggressive getting through the
next intersection. This will be most problematic for signals that are part of a
coordinated traffic signal system generally used in urban areas.
A reasonable response to increased signal phase timing would be to evaluate each
crossing on a case-by-case basis. Working with the disabled community would
assist local governments in identifying those intersections where increased
crossing times are necessary. Furthermore, updated technologies could provide
for increased crossing time where specifically requested, such as systems where
pedestrians hold the crossing signal button down for three seconds to make the
signal increase the crossing time to 3.0 feet per second for that particular
The current value of 4.0 feet per second given in the MUTCD is appropriate for
the majority of situations. The proposed value of 3.0 feet per second exceeds
even the advisory committee's recommendation. If the Board is inclined to reduce
the 4.0 feet per second as currently required, perhaps a more reasonable
compromise would be 3.5 feet per second. This would provide increased crossing
times, while minimizing the adverse consequences of traffic delays, greater
pollution, and increased traffic accidents.
1105.5 Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses.
The requirement to install an elevator where the rise of a ramped approach
exceeds 60 inches will have many unintended consequences. Since overpasses and
underpasses are discretionary structures, and there are very few that will have
a ramp approach of less than 60 inches, jurisdictions may be persuaded to forgo
the installation of this type of structure rather than come up with the
significant resources necessary to construct and maintain an elevator. Such
resources not only include the cost of the structure itself, but supplying
electricity, procuring the necessary space, staffing a maintenance crew
twenty-four hours a day, and providing security for those who use the elevator.
Public safety is our primary concern. An unsupervised elevator in relatively
remote area presents unique concerns. Where use at night would be infrequent,
and by individuals or small groups of people, opportunistic criminals would find
the perfect setting for preying on their victims. Elevators are closed from
outside view, allowing the most heinous of crimes to occur inside. Even
closed-circuit television cameras are of nominal value since the response time
to the elevator would be too long to act as a deterrent. Even elevator
malfunctions present a unique safety concern, especially to passengers at odd
hours of the night.
Yet another consideration with providing an unsupervised elevator in remote
areas includes the use by homeless persons. This population is well known to
appropriate any unsupervised structure that provides shelter from the elements.
An elevator would be no different. Homeless individuals using these elevators as
a temporary home would undoubtedly deter anyone from its use.
We propose the Board eliminate this requirement all together. While we recognize
the difficulty to disabled individuals for ramps that rise to certain heights,
we must also take into account the adverse effects this type of elevator
presents to the entire population. On balance, it is clear the pros are
overwhelmingly outweighed by the cons of such a proposal, and we anticipate the
Board will act accordingly.
The requirements proposed in this section are not consistent with accessible
pedestrian considerations in other areas. There will also be unintended
consequences associated with these requirements if implemented.
In 1105.6.1, the requirement to install a continuous barrier is not consistent
with other applications where pedestrians are prohibited, yet barriers are not
required. As a matter of consistency, if barriers are required here, they should
also be required at all "high-design" intersections, and even mid-block
locations to prohibit pedestrian crossings. The different treatment for similar
pedestrian crossings is bewildering.
Furthermore, this requirement defeats the purpose of the roundabout which is to
provide an unsignalized traffic calming device. To require signals at roundabout
crossings would not necessarily improve pedestrian safety. An unintended
consequence may be drivers running the red light in disrespect for these signals
where unwarranted stop lights are installed.
The positive guidance approach is the best way to handle the concern of
pedestrians wandering through the center of the roundabout. As shown in the
discussion page picture, sidewalks and ramp locations can better address
pedestrian channelization than ugly, hard to maintain, hazardous barriers.
Whether intended or not, this section presents a requirement that is so at odds
with the objective and design of a roundabout, that it would effectively
eliminate these traffic control devices from being constructed in the future. As
such, we propose eliminating this requirement all together, allowing other
portions of Chapter 11 to provide guidance for crossings at roundabouts. At the
very most, mandate the use of traffic warning devices, such as those found at
school crossings, which would alert drivers to be especially cautious.
1105.7 Turn Lanes at Intersections.
There are already countless "slip" lanes at un-signalized intersections, and
this design is continuing to be built. Slip lanes at un-signalized intersections
provide a valuable means of allowing vehicles to make safe turns without
impeding the flow of traffic. The imposition of this requirement would
essentially eliminate slip lane design for un-signalized intersections. It
should be clarified that this section applies only to signalized intersections,
thereby eliminating the need to place traffic signals where none is needed or
Section 1106.2 - Pedestrian Signal Devices.
The public hearing in Portland, Oregon on October 8, 2002, and previously
submitted written comments should be a clear indication of the blind community’s
adverse reaction to a audible pedestrian signals. Such devices generally mask
and confuse other environmental indicators, such as traffic noise, which blind
persons must use to sense when it is safe to cross. Although section 1106.3.2.
attempts to specify some criteria for audible pedestrian signal devices, the
nature of the sound itself is not addressed. Either eliminating this section, or
adequately addressing the blind community’s concerns is needed here.
1106.2.1 Location [Pedestrian Signal Devices].
There are many circumstances where the precise device location mandated by this
section cannot be met. Subsurface utilities, fire hydrants, or other preexisting
items may directly conflict with the placement provisions of 1106.2.1. While
moving such infrastructures may not be “technically infeasible,” doing so would
nevertheless present an hardship. The "location" wording should be changed to
communicate the concept as a guidance statement rather than a mandate, or at the
very least exempting situations where preexisting features pose such an
1106.4 Directional Information and Signs.
Tactile street name signs are not required at any other location and, to require
them on pedestrian crossing hardware, changes these devices from "off the shelf"
equipment to custom devices. This presents a concern of cost, maintenance, and
efficacy. Furthermore, this section fails to specify whether the street names
should be in Braille, raised lettering, an audio message, or some combination of
these. When combining all these features along with a directional arrow and
crosswalk configuration, the unique features required at every individual corner
of an intersection would be clearly cost prohibitive, subject to constant
maintenance to ensure accuracy, and be so convoluted that the information is
more confusing to a blind person than if there were no such signs at all. This
is especially true with regard to crosswalk configurations (1106.4.3), because
there is no standard for graphic indications of intersections.
We agree that directional arrows, as required by 1106.4.1, are appropriate.
However, the other technical requirements under 1106.4 should be either omitted
altogether or be made discretionary.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces.
Although we have concerns about detectable warning surfaces (see our comment on
section 1104.3.2), we like that this area has been minimized to 24 inches. If
this section is not omitted, we would like greater clarity on whether detectable
warning surfaces would be required in other areas not specifically mentioned in
1108.2.1, 1108.2.2, and 1108.2.3, such as a pedestrian walkway that crosses into
the vehicular right-of-way without any discernable transition.
1109.2 - Parallel Parking Spaces
The requirement to provide a 60 inch access aisle is extremely burdensome and
will also have significant unintended consequences that will restrict our
ability to help the disabled community. Currently, we install handicap signs in
both residential and business areas quickly and easily to accommodate individual
and varying requests. The five-foot indent is simply out of character in
residential neighborhoods. With this requirement, we will be unable to continue
our policy of "immediately taking care of the disabled community." In the
future, the City of San Diego will have to propose a capital project to
construct a 60 inch indent aisle. This accommodation will have to compete with
other city projects for very limited resources. And, even if approved, it would
experience long delays before completion. It also means we would be unable to
respond to changing needs by moving a handicap space slightly when needed. Once
the space is installed, we would lose our ability to quickly change locations to
accommodate specific requests by disabled individuals, which is not uncommon.
Our recommendation would be to eliminate this requirement, as it fails to serve
the best long-term interests of providing on street parking to the disabled
In addition, the 5 foot minimum height of handicap signs is in violation of the
minimum requirements of the MUTCD. The section also does not define the total
dimensions required for the parking stall itself. We seek clarification on these
The restriction of non-flexible fencing material would appear to be an
unnecessary restriction. Plastic fencing products are now extremely strong,
durable, and easy to install. If erected correctly, this type of barricade would
accommodate the need to provide pedestrian channelization and protection in a
reasonable manner. Furthermore, allowing the use of this material would make it
much easier and efficient to provide protection in very short-term construction
areas, thereby encouraging compliance with this section.
These comments are intended to promote regulations that are as clear, defined,
and unambiguous as possible. The closer Chapter 11 gets to this end, the more
the Board can expect compliance from jurisdictions like the City of San Diego.
It is our goal and ambition to make San Diego among the most accessible cities
in the nation. As such, the Board should view these comments as constructive
criticism intended to promote regulations that will, in the end, provide local
governments with the best opportunity to meet the needs of those with
disabilities. If you have any questions regarding these comments, please contact
either Timothy Campen, Deputy City Attorney, at 619-533-6295, or Fletcher
Callanta, ADA Coordinator - Engineering and Capital Projects, at 619-533-3420.
Frank Belock, Director
Engineering and Capital Projects