City of Los Angeles Agrees to Undertake Accessibility Renovations at Griffith Park's Trails Café
With summer right around the corner, and the economy re-opening, Californians will soon be hitting the road to visit and enjoy all the local parks, trails and recreational facilities Southern California has to offer. People with disabilities who use wheelchairs and other mobilities aids will be pleased to learn that in the upcoming months, the City of Los Angeles will be undertaking substantial accessibility renovations to the beloved Trails Café, a rustic eatery situated just steps from the idyllic Ferndell Nature Center in Griffith Park. The City agreed to make the renovations in settlement of a lawsuit I recently litigated on behalf of a client asserting claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and related state laws. See C.L. v. City of Los Angeles et al., Case No. 2:21-cv-00609-FMO-E.
The City's Café is a charming area staple, boasting delectable offerings in a tranquil setting. Unfortunately, extensive accessibility barriers prevent people with disabilities who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices from accessing and enjoying the Café’s fare and environment in a manner similar to their non-disabled peers.
Among other issues, the Café lacks accessible parking facilities and provides no accessible route to the ordering and pick up windows. Stairs and a steep, ill-maintained vehicular way preclude wheelchair users from safely and independently reaching the Café to purchase food and drink items.
Additionally, the Café’s service counter is obstructed by a step and has no lowered section to accommodate wheelchair users.
In the outdoor dining area there are no accessible tables with sufficient knee and toe clearances to accommodate wheelchair users. Nor is any of the seating located on an accessible route. All the seating is sited on, and surrounded by, dirt and loose gravel. These surfaces are inaccessible to and unsafe for wheelchair users because they are neither firm nor level and are not slip resistant.
The ADA requires that public entities like the City of Los Angeles take the steps necessary to ensure that their services, programs and activities are accessible to and useable by people with disabilities. Providing services in the most integrated setting is one of the Act’s most fundamental principles. When public entities use or maintain ableist designs and/or fail to remove physical barriers to a facility, it isolates, segregates and stigmatizes individuals with disabilities and denies them full and equal access in violation of the ADA.
As illustrated in this case, it is not uncommon for public entities to de-prioritize making outdoor areas and recreational facilities accessible to people who use wheelchairs based on implicit biases and stereotypes about where wheelchair users “belong”. To the City’s credit, in this instance they came to the table quickly after the plaintiff's complaint was filed, acknowledged their obligations to patrons with disabilities, and agreed to make the facilities of the Café accessible without the need for drawn out adversarial proceedings. The renovations to be undertaken include creation of accessible parking facilities, relocation of picnic tables, provision of accessible seating, lowering of the Café’s window counter, creation of accessible walkways and the posting of directional signage. The remedial work will be fully completed by April 23, 2022.