Keep Carmel Belle Accessible!
Businesses for Accessibility Policy Reform - Box 1242 - Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
The Honorable Senator Diane Feinstein,
The Honorable Senator Kamala Harris,
The Honorable Congressman Jimmy Panetta,
The Honorable Senator Bill Monning,
The Honorable Assemblyman Mark Stone,
The Honorable Supervisor Mary Adams,
The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division,
and The California Department of Rehabilitation
Having exhausted our local channels in rectifying the matter described here, we the undersigned businesses, citizens, and neighbors of Carmel-by-the-Sea seek help from you, the higher authorities of Monterey County, the State of California, and the United States of America, to help our City of Carmel officials understand and meet their legal obligations regarding accessible businesses.
Federal ADA guidance states: “City governments are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability. Reasonable modifications can include modifications to local laws, ordinances, and regulations…In addition, city governments may consider granting exceptions to the enforcement of certain laws as a form of reasonable modification.” (https://www.ada.gov/comprob.htm)
On November 5th, 2013, the Carmel City Council voted 4-1 (on agenda item VIII.C.) to grant an exception to Municipal Code clause 17.36.030.B, which prohibits the enlargement of nonconforming spaces. Carmel Belle, a downtown restaurant with a non-conforming but grandfathered counter service, had been unable to provide wheelchair accessible space for all of its allowable seating. Following a staff briefing on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Council agreed that City law was in direct conflict with federal ADA law and should not be enforced. Therefore, the restaurant was granted permission to re-configure into a federally compliant, accessible space.
In the same motion, Council also directed staff to propose modifications to the code so as to eliminate this conflict between local and federal law. However, in a contradictory portion of this motion Council also directed that should the City fail to modify its local code, the enforcement exception for the restaurant would expire.
Years later, the City claimed that the law could not be modified and the restaurant must abandon its accessible configuration or abandon its grandfathered business model. Yet the City could easily continue its original enforcement exception or modify its policies in a number of other ways. One simple proposal simply adds a few words of clarification (see ITALIC CAPS) to the exceptions already granted in the existing municipal code, like so:
17.36.030.B. Alterations, repairs or remodeling that enlarge, extend or increase a nonconforming feature of a building shall be prohibited, except AS NEEDED FOR ACCESSIBILITY, EGRESS, OR OTHER SAFETY MATTERS, OR as provided in CMC 17.32.100(D) for historic resources. (Ord. 2004-02§1,2004; Ord. 2004-01§1,2004).
Thank you for helping our local government explore this or some other reasonable way to allow our existing businesses to comply with federal accessibility law.