Paso Robles begins accessibility upgrades

Spurred by a lawsuit, Paso Robles is starting $2.2 million worth of street, restroom and parking improvements to make the city more accessible for the disabled.

Templeton resident Russell Peterson and Paso Robles resident Suzanne Smiley sued the city in 2010, saying they were unable to access certain areas of town, namely sidewalks and at Downtown City Park. Their arguments were based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The pair entered into a consent decree under which the city agreed to complete specific improvements by several deadlines.

The decree requires that curb ramps be built on Spring Street from 1st to 20th streets and eight disabled-designated parking spaces be established near the park by this summer; that a new park restroom be constructed by January; and that new curb ramps on Spring Street — as well as new sidewalks where none exist — be built from 21st to 36th streets by 2015.

The settlement also requires that $850,000 be paid to the attorney who represented the plaintiffs, according to the city. The city’s liability claims provider, Carl Warren & Co., paid the settlement money.In addition to the settlement, the liability carrier also funded two mobility devices for Smiley, officials said.

The improvements, however, are funded by the city.

The sidewalk ramp work, which cost about $1.8 million, began in April around the park and is scheduled to continue to the other required areas through October, according to the city.

The eight disabled-designated parking spaces will be established around the park and will cost $9,500.

Plans are being finalized on the new park restrooms, estimated at nearly $550,000. The city expects to put the restrooms project out for bid by the end of the month, with construction slated to last from early fall until late winter.

The lawsuit also required the city to construct an accessible route from Spring Street to Riverside Avenue, but a separate project already scheduled for 21st Street fulfills that requirement. It will be put out for bid later this year, with construction to begin in spring 2013, according to the city.

The series of projects is being funded by bond proceeds set aside by the city’s former redevelopment agency before Gov. Jerry Brown dismantled those agencies statewide earlier this year.