On August 30, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to settle litigation brought under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by three nonprofit disability and fair housing advocacy groups that had claimed the City’s housing programs were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The agreement, which is the largest of its kind in the country, provides that, over the next 10 years, the City will ensure that at least 4,000 of its affordable housing units meet architectural standards required by the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). Those UFAS standards require substantially greater accessibility than the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Guidelines; for instance, UFAS requires accessible roll-in or transfer showers, much larger maneuvering clearances at doors, lowered kitchen counters and greater access to appliances, and grab bars must be pre-installed in bathrooms.
The City has also agreed to enforce policies to ensure that those units are inhabited by people who need the specific accessibility features provided. The City has committed to spend at least $200 million during the life of the agreement to provide the required accessibility. In addition, the City will pay a total of $4.5 million to the three plaintiff organizations, who will assist people with disabilities to transition into the newly-accessible units.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought in federal court in January 2012 by the Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC), Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley (FHCSFV), and Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF) against the City and the now-dissolved Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).
Michael Allen, lead counsel in the litigation, said: “We are pleased that the City has taken such proactive steps to address the needs of people with disabilities. This is the largest and most comprehensive accessibility settlement ever reached involving affordable housing. The broad nature of the relief is a testament to the City of Los Angeles’ commitment to increase the availability of accessible, affordable housing for thousands of people with disabilities in Los Angeles.”
Litigation against the CRA will continue.
The litigation team was led by Michael Allen, Jennifer Klar, John Relman, Scott Chang and Laura Arandes of Relman, Dane & Colfax; Dara Schur and Autumn Elliott of Disability Rights California; Maronel Barajas of Disability Rights Legal Center and David Geffen, Esquire. The case, brought in the United States District Court, is Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC), et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 2:12-cv-000551-FMO-PJW.