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San Francisco Out to Help Small Businesses w/ ADA Laws as Some Suits Called "Frivolous"

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Yesterday some San Francisco supervisors, led by Carmen Chu, held a press conference to discuss steps the city is taking to help stem the tide of lawsuits against small business owners under the Americans With Disabilities Act and California's Unruh Civil Right Act.

KQED's Kelly Wilkinson interviewed Carmen Chu about the issue:

Carmen Chu on disability lawsuits against small businesses

Chu said that "many people in the ADA community also feel that many of these lawsuits may be frivolous and that may give them a bad name... (But) what we really want to do is help businesses understand what they need to do to come under compliance with ADA...and help protect them... against some of these lawsuits we've seen against the city."

Chu said the city would help small businesses comply with the disability access laws through an outreach program that includes sending information by mail and going door to door.

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The initiative comes on the heels of a Chronicle article last weekend describing a spate of letters notifying businesses in Noe Valley and the Mission of their non-compliance with disability access laws.

Since November, several Noe Valley shop owners have received letters from people with disabilities suggesting that their stores may be violating state laws or federal access standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those notices coincided with a rash of civil rights lawsuits in the Richmond District in late November that led some businesses to close. That followed similar suits in the Mission District in the fall. Letters commonly precede such legal action.

Among those contacted was Bill Hoover, who has owned Gallery of Jewels on 24th Street for 21 years.

The SF Weekly also covered this issue in August and as far back as 2007, when it ran a critical profile of San Francisco ADA lawyer Tom Frankovich. The Chronicle ran an article in 2002 about another prolific ADA lawyer, Ted Omholt.

We've got a call out now to Frankovich in hopes of hearing what he thinks about the characterization of some ADA suits as "frivolous."

Update 4:40 p.m. Well I guess we can let Frankovich speak for himself. Ronn Owens interviewed him on KGO yesterday. The Richmond District Blog of San Francisco has embedded the segment in a post about all the neighborhood businesses that have been hit with ADA lawsuits.

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