Here at LRS...Architecture, our goal is always to help you understand ADA requirements and how to protect yourself and your clients. One of the best ways to protect your client from future litigation and from construction issues is to have plans reviewed by a CASp either during plan check or prior to submission.
This month we want to explain the benefits of having a CASp review during plan check and the value that brings your clients. We will also break down the various accessibility laws that impact the protections your client will receive from having their new construction reviewed by a CASp.
First, let’s talk about the newest legislation to pass in California (2019) which urges business owners to take advantage of the CASp program even if their plans were reviewed by a CASp during plan check. Assembly Bill 3002 also requires building departments issuing permits to provide the applicant with a notice about disability laws. It states, "
(a) In addition to the information required by Section 4469, each city, county, or city and county that issues business licenses, building permits for additions, alterations, and structural repairs to commercial property, or building permits for new construction of commercial property, shall make readily available, and, upon submission to the city, county, or city and county of an application for a business license or building permit, shall provide to the applicant, an informational notice to the applicant containing all of the following:
(1) General information about the compliance requirements pursuant to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.) and the state’s disability access laws.(2) An advisory to the applicant for a building permit that strongly encourages the applicant to do both of the following:(A) Obtain a consultation by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) before alteration or construction in order for the property to be in compliance with disability access laws after the work is completed, so that the applicant can benefit from the advantages of compliance.(B) Obtain an inspection by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) after alteration or construction in order to benefit from the legal protections afforded business and property owners under the Construction-Related Accessibility Compliance Act (Part 2.52 (commencing with Section 55.51) of Division 1 of the Civil Code).
While the local agencies are required to employ or retain CASp's for consulting and plan review (more on this next), it is clear from this newest legislation that the state still wants the responsibility of disability access to be placed on private CASp inspectors and plan reviewers.
Back in 2008, Senate Bill 1608 was enacted. The bill would require a local agency, commencing July 1, 2010, to employ or retain at least one building inspector who is a certified access specialist and, commencing January 1, 2014, to employ or retain a sufficient number of building inspectors who are certified access specialists to conduct permitting and plan check services to review for compliance with state construction-related accessibility standards by a place of public accommodation with respect to new construction, as specified.
It states "
(d) (1) Commencing July 1, 2010, a local agency shall employ or retain at least one building inspector who is a certified access specialist. The certified access specialist shall provide consultation to the local agency, permit applicants, and members of the public on compliance with state construction-related accessibility standards with respect to inspections of a place of public accommodation that relate to permitting, plan checks, or new construction, including, but not limited to, inspections relating to tenant improvements that may impact access. If a local agency employs or retains two or more certified access specialists to comply with this subdivision, at least one-half of the certified access specialists shall be building inspectors who are certified access specialists.
(2) Commencing January 1, 2014, a local agency shall employ or retain a sufficient number of building inspectors who are certified access specialists to conduct permitting and plan check services to review for compliance with state construction-related accessibility standards by a place of public accommodation with respect to new construction, including, but not limited to, projects relating to tenant improvements that may impact access. If a local agency employs or retains two or more certified access specialists to comply with this subdivision, at least one-half of the certified access specialists shall be building inspectors who are certified access specialists.
(3) If a permit applicant or member of the public requests consultation from a certified access specialist, the local agency may charge an amount limited to a reasonable hourly rate, an estimate of which shall be provided upon request in advance of the consultation. A local government may additionally charge or increase permitting, plan check, or inspection fees to the extent necessary to offset the costs of complying with this subdivision. Any revenues generated from an hourly or other charge or fee increase under this subdivision shall be used solely to offset the costs incurred to comply with this subdivision. A CASp inspection pursuant to subdivision (a) by a building inspector who is a certified access specialist shall be treated equally for legal and evidentiary purposes as an inspection conducted by a private CASp. Nothing in this subdivision shall preclude permit applicants or any other person with a legal interest in the property from retaining a private CASp at any time."
Then in 2012 Senate Bill 1186 was enacted. This bill would permit other defendants to file a request for a court stay and early evaluation conference pursuant to this provision, including ..."a defendant whose site’s new construction or improvement was approved by a local public building department inspector who is a certified access specialist."
To date, while the local agency is required to employ a certain number of CASp's, it is not required for every plan check to be reviewed by them. Check with your local agency to understand their policies, as they vary from agency to agency. Some agencies offer more services than others. You can always request that your plans be reviewed by a CASp; an extra fee may be charged for your review. The county offers no guarantees of compliance nor do they hold any liability if something is missed and an element is built that violates the CBC or ADA but even so, if your new construction or alteration is inspected by a CASp inspector, your client will be considered a qualified defendant should a construction-related accessibility claim arise.
In summary, always get a permit for your work but make sure to have your plans reviewed by a CASp either through the building department or a 3rd party. Have construction inspected by a CASp either through the building department or 3rd party to ensure your client will be protected as a qualified defendant. Check with your local jurisdiction to understand their policies about accessibility and CASp consulting and be aware of the additional fees that may arise.
**Also available is expedited plan review which is only available for applicants making accessibility improvements. In order to qualify for an expedited review, your plans must have already been reviewed by a Certified Access Specialist before submitting for plan check.
Next month, we’ll look at the difference between a CRASCA report and an accessibility report.