El Cajon Boulevard is far from being considered a pedestrian-friendly street. The mid-city thoroughfare from Park Boulevard to 33rd Street is busy with popular hotels, bars, and restaurants. But for people who have to rely on wheelchairs to get around, the sidewalks are, according to a newly filed lawsuit in federal court, "dangerous and unsafe."
In her lawsuit, Yolanda Zaldivar says the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when construction crews poured asphalt over water pipes and hoses while crews worked on city streets. The mounds of uneven asphalt creates, according to the complaint, "uneven surfaces and excessive slopes and drops at the curb ramps. In some areas, the hoses and pipes are partially sticking out. Attempting to utilize the curb ramps under these conditions puts Plaintiff at substantial risk of tipping over and falling out of her chair."
To represent her, Zaldivar hired attorney Mark D. Potter, founder of San Diego's Center for Disability Access. Potter and his firm specialize in filing ADA lawsuits. A January 8 Reader article looked into some of Potter's lawsuits, which are typically aimed at businesses and commercial property owners.
From 2013 to 2014, Potter filed 100 lawsuits on behalf of his client Scott Schutza in federal court. Low toilets, faded parking spaces, and car dealerships that failed to provide hand controls in cars are among the rationales that prompted some of the lawsuits.
In his most recent lawsuit, Potter and his client Zaldivar target the City of San Diego.
"Defendants’ failure to ensure the accessibility of the public sidewalks and curbs along El Cajon Boulevard between Park Boulevard and 33rd Street have caused, and will continue to cause, Plaintiff to experience difficulty, frustration, inconvenience, pain, fear and anxiety, and caused her to feel conspicuous and like a second class citizen," reads the lawsuit.
"On information and belief, the sidewalks and curbs along El Cajon Boulevard between Park Boulevard and 33rd Street have undergone construction and/or alterations since January 1, 1982, yet Defendants failed to ensure that such construction complied with applicable disability access design standards contained in California Code of Regulations, Title 24. On information and belief, the sidewalks and curbs along El Cajon Boulevard between Park Boulevard and 33rd Street have undergone construction and/or alterations since January 26, 1992, yet Defendants failed to ensure that the construction/alteration complied with applicable ADA accessible standards."
The lawsuit against the city brings to the forefront San Diego's deteriorating infrastructure and growing backlog. Councilmember Todd Gloria recently estimated the city faces a $3 billion backlog on needed repairs of city streets, sidewalks, and other public services.
Earlier this month, Gloria and his council colleagues approved over $163 million from bonds to pay for infrastructure projects.