San Francisco’s $1 Million Magical Ramp

San Francisco’s City Hall is going to install a ten-foot-long chunk of history and it’s projected to cost over $1.1 million dollars.  This new wheelchair ramp has to be gold-gilded Yellow Brick Road that leads to the Land of Oz.  How else can one explain the extravagant costs?  

According to The San Francisco Chronicle (February 27th), “[t]hanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.”  There is no truth to the rumor that the only way to enter the chamber is by clicking the heels of one’s red ruby slippers. 

“[T]he little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.”  As in Oz, time is relative when it comes to city money. 

“The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled.  The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.” 

Over ten years later, the city realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore - the president’s podium wasn’t handicapped accessible.  “The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible.  But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.”  The ramp, at “a total of $1,123,000” will bring City Hall into its fully compliant, Technicolor glory! 

The ramp won’t look like The Yellow Brick Road, but its planning has been even more twisted and crooked: “[P]reservation architects from [a] San Francisco firm… worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.”  

Eighteen designs later, officials still lacked the heart, courage, and brain to make a decision. “No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.” 

The ramp is a gold-gilded slippery slope of spending - “[it] was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment [so] officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.” 

Excessive spending of tax dollars, on what should be simple projects, are gradually melting the city’s finances to the ground.  Projects like this lead us to believe that San Francisco’s frivolous spending may only end when monkeys fly.

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