Patterico's Pontifications


Regulatory Insanity, 2: A $17,000 Dumpster Ramp for the Handicapped

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:31 am

A reader from somewhere in Southern California writes to lament the regulatory roadblocks that are severely delaying the opening of his business:

We submitted our building construction plans for the restaurant last year to the county. We had over fifty revisions including a request that the trash dumpster have an enclosure. We stated that the dumpster had a walled enclosure of six feet in height and that the dumpster was rain proof. The County stated that we must have a roof over the trash dumpster. We had the architect draw it up. The plans returned rejected.

The County now rejected the dumpster enclosure because it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. They required that we build a ramp with a locking gate at the top of the ramp for any wheelchair-bound employee. We argued that the public did not have access to the enclosure and we would not ask any employees in a wheelchair to throw out the trash. The County stated that the lack of a ramp would create a barrier to hiring a handicapped person.

The additional ramp with locking gate increased construction costs by $17,000 and it will take my employees longer to throw out the trash on a daily basis.

It sounds like an urban legend. But I have known the reader personally for well over a decade.

This is just one of many roadblocks that our system is throwing in my reader’s path. He is trying to contribute to the economy and put people to work. And government seems hellbent on trying to stop him.

I sympathize with folks who are stuck in a wheelchair. I fully support voluntary efforts to try to accomodate them — within reason. But let’s have a little common sense. Why do we tolerate laws and regulations that appear likely to spur mass pool closures this summer, when more reasonable accomodations exist? Why can’t my reader give trash duty to employees who can walk, and assign more appropriate jobs to employees in wheelchairs?

With a little level-headedness, government could allow my reader to get his business off the ground, so he can put people to work — wheelchair-bound or not.

P.S. The reader refuses to allow me to publish the funniest story of all, because his business would be easily identifiable if I told the story.

I may be able to talk him into letting me tell a third story, though. Stay tuned.

67 Responses to “Regulatory Insanity, 2: A $17,000 Dumpster Ramp for the Handicapped”

  1. Your friend is a victim of adminsturbation.

    CrustyB (69f730)

  2. Well pro football teams have to have a wheelchair accessible locker, so I believe this.

    rbj (9ae8d9)

  3. land of the free home of the brave

    my ass

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  4. ________________________________________

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and people of liberal persuasion — because they’re so compassionate, loving, wonderful, beautiful, generous and sophisticated, and compassionate and wonderful and generous, and loving and heartfelt — are driving down that highway at 250 miles per hour.

    At the driver’s wheel are all the compassionate, wonderful, loving, sophisticated, generous, sophisticated, loving, beautiful (and did I add sophisticated and generous too?) folks of California.

    Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, France and Greece (with some Detroit, Michigan thrown in for good measure) are our destination.

    Mark (31bbb6)

  5. Obviously the city government has too many employees if they are spending time on BS like this.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  6. Mark, the ROAD TO HELL doesn’t have a handicapped lane……YET.
    When Obama gets there, he’ll be focused like a LASER on that bill.

    Gus (36e9a7)

  7. How do wheelchair bound employees change the flourescent light bulbs 9 feet up??

    Gus (36e9a7)

  8. I agree with you on the main issue of the handicapped accessible trash bins.

    But now that I am one of those persons who have lower body weakness and/or imbalance, and there are others with bad hips and knees, and for whom falling is a constant hazard …. Water exercise is the best option, not to say the only option. The question is “how do we get in the pool”? Five years ago, there were no pool lifts. Now there are about five thousand. Those five thousand managed to cope.

    The saying is true: Walk in another man’s ankle brace with a cane.

    nk (dec503)

  9. Congrats for making it onto the social list!

    Icy (927b00)

  10. Icy, will you ever contribute anything on these comment threads other than venom against other commenters?

    nk (dec503)

  11. nk: “Five years ago, there were no pool lifts. Now there are about five thousand.”

    But with the new mandate, likely there will be fewer pools.

    nk, I’m sincerely happy for you but the issue is not to be decided at a personal level but at a societal one. At what point do we draw the line? Nowhere? Is it callous to even ask?

    foxbat (f0d1c7)

  12. Oh, I use a ballerina rail, or a chair, or a wall. My upper body strength is fine. I can almost walk on my hands. But I sympathise with the older or more disabled people. All my life I have been proud of my strength, agility and endurance but now that I have lost some I have come to closer connectivity who have lost more than I have.

    No, it is not callous to ask. There should be debate, we are all in this together, and everybody’s voice should count. I’m debating, not telling anybody to shut up.

    nk (dec503)

  13. Check out the elevator at the Phillies Ballpark sometime. It’s in the Bull Pen, just in case the closer is handicapped. (And they already have a ramp.)

    dfbaskwill (ca54bb)

  14. nk, I’m sincerely happy for you but the issue is not to be decided at a personal level but at a societal one. At what point do we draw the line? Nowhere? Is it callous to even ask?

    — What foxbat wrote is the same as what I meant by my one-liner, nk.

    Icy (927b00)

  15. I think he’s talking more about the way you guys have tag-teamed Dustin over and over and over again for no good reason.

    Leviticus (300e0a)

  16. Like, a general demeanor type of thing.

    Leviticus (300e0a)

  17. I could certainly be wrong.

    Leviticus (300e0a)

  18. Actually, I probably am wrong. It’s probably way more general than Dustin. And I’m projecting a little: I have been bothered by that. I’m sure nk has his own reasons.

    My apologies for projecting.

    Leviticus (300e0a)

  19. The ADA is an absolutely horrible idea, and needs to go bye bye, along with about 90% of the other crap government does.

    Dave Surls (46b08c)

  20. Too bad he won’t identify himself. Fox News would love a story like this.

    aunursa (46118b)

  21. I am sympathetic to the challeges facing those with disabilities. My daughter has mild cerebral palsy.

    But this is ridiculous.

    aunursa (46118b)

  22. If a hotel has a pool and a hot tub, as dictated, this would require the installation of 2 permanent lifts. Guaranteed the lift would be an attractive nuisance to any child at the pool.

    JD (0e9826)

  23. Nk —

    A dialogue/discussion? OK –

    Having a wheelchair-bound aunt in the house when I was growing up gives me a personal insight into the needs for public/private accommodations for the handicapped. I can tell you exactly what she would have said about the issue (I heard these words often enough): “It’s my damn problem not yours and I’ll thank you to get the HELL OUT OF MY WAY!”.

    I can tell you how she would have resolved the pool issue from a real-life incident about five yrs. before her death. There was a senior center she liked to spend time at. One day she got angry at me when I almost tipped her over getting her across the threshold. She talked to several of her cronies and co-defendants (her words not mine) and they pooled their money to buy the materials for a ramp. She then hired my dad, two of my friends, and me to build it (Yes, hired. She never accepted ‘charity’.)

    18 years later that ramp is still there – and still in use. I know because I volunteer my time there three days a week and smile each time I see it (and, in my memory, see her sitting in the doorway kvetching at her brother – my dad – about how to do it right).

    She was NOT exceptional – several of her ‘co-defendants’ were also ‘handicapped’. The difference between then and now? They were all raised in a generation that was expected to take care of themselves – not look to government to do it for them – or mandate someone else pay for it.

    Old Bob (f359d9)

  24. you can’t have cadillac regulations in a cash fer clunkerz country

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  25. “you can’t have cadillac regulations in a cash fer clunkerz country”

    And cadillac regulations will inevitably create a cash-for-clunkers economy…not that this bothers the Deeply Caring People Who Care.

    pst314 (672ba2)

  26. This government philosophy is contra the practice of liberal Europe. There is no handicapping of buildings in Europe because that would cause you to destroy the entire building. And they like to preserve their history.

    I went to a little island in the U.K. called Sark. When you got off the boat you had to climb a steep, cement stair covered in slime and moss. There was no railing. There was a rop lying on the ground in case you needed some help.

    AZ Bob (7d2a2c)

  27. See here, Leviticus. In this case, the only thing I am saying is that a reasonableness standard should be applied when deciding how ADA regulations should be implemented.

    nk wrote: “Five years ago, there were no pool lifts. Now there are about five thousand. Those five thousand managed to cope.” Please excuse me if I interpret this as “if enough people adjust to a government mandate, that in itself makes the mandate reasonable and acceptable.” In my mind this equates to our collective passivity on mandatory seatbelt laws. You don’t see anyone picketing their state house over the issue, but that doesn’t make the law any more correct.

    Some of the ADA requirements are fine and reasonable; some of them are overreaching and ridiculous. And the fact that some people are willing to capitulate, lest they face the wrath of the federal government, does nothing to prove that this requirement is reasonable and necessary.

    The latest Democratic Party spin on the individual mandate for Obamacare is an accusation that the GOP/conservatives are erecting straw men when they complain about the fines for not purchasing health insurance. What’s their reasoning, you ask? Why, because there is absolutely nothing in the Obamacare bill that requires the federal government to enforce the fines. See, you silly right-wingers? The Dems are ADMITTING to writing legislation that is designed to scare people into passive compliance. How many people are going to willingly pay the fine because, A) it’s cheaper than buying a policy; and/or B) they believe that their wages will be garnished if they don’t comply?

    You have to draw the line somewhere. Sure, every adult riding in a car should wear a seatbelt. And for those of us that value liberty there should not be a single law anywhere that requires you to do so.

    Icy (927b00)

  28. Oh, and I’m sorry if I forgot to mention it; I’ve buried the hatchet on my “feud” with Dustin. It had definitely reached the “you’re no fun anymore” stage.

    Okay, let’s talk some issues!

    Icy (927b00)

  29. It would not surprise me to find out that these city offices the bureaucrats inhabit are not wheelchair accessible.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  30. “28.Oh, and I’m sorry if I forgot to mention it; I’ve buried the hatchet on my “feud” with Dustin. It had definitely reached the “you’re no fun anymore” stage.”

    – Icy

    That’s good. Either way, I suppose it’s none of my business, and I apologize for making a scene.

    I’m (tentatively) OK with a reasonableness standard re: ADA. If rational basis scrutiny for the disabled suffices in the public sector, it should probably suffice in the private sector as well.

    Leviticus (300e0a)

  31. True story, also California. City of LA required a wheelchair ramp onto the stage at the Jet Strip night club. Just in case they hired any wheelchair bound pole dancing strippers.

    joesiohd (4a4057)

  32. we made the mistake of trying to open a business here in The Valley. after two years and more money than i want to think about, we gave up, as we still were at least six months from having all the governmental approvals we would need to open the doors.

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  33. Public image is important for a business like a restaurant. It is good for public image to hire a person in a wheelchair. It is NOT a good image to then have the wheel-chair bound employee take out the trash while the other employees are doing less demeaning tasks.

    Do the local city planners really think they are representing the wishes of wheel-chair bound residents by requiring a ramp to the dumpster? I think those confined to wheelchairs would be fine with letting someone else take out the trash.

    Mike S (d3f5fd)

  34. Government? Level Headed? Is this an oxymoron or what?

    Lightening (ad550b)

  35. This is not the local city planners. It’s federal law. Now the city doesn’t have to enforce federal law I gues sbut they oput into their code.

    Is there anybody who has the courage to amend the federal law to make it more reasonable? It may be anyway that the law itself doesn’t require and the city is maybe making its own law. The business can wait for a lawyer to sue it.

    It’s a reasonable accomodation to exempt any disabled person from doing this very minor part of the job and they have enough people so that there’s no deterrent here against hiring anybody -anyway there’s a legitimate business reason not to have a ramp.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  36. More people need minor help (fir which nobody gets any credit) than need major help like wheelchair access without having to get out of the wheelchair.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  37. Patterico – your friend should hire Sammy to represent him. Telling them that this is a federal issue, and having made a reasonable accommodation should suffice.

    JD (516dcc)

  38. This is why the Shuttle was retired. The government was going to require that it be retrofitted to accommodate handicapped astronauts. Yeah, yeah, I know we don’t have any, but we could.

    dtih (ae8333)

  39. I remember a wheelchair-bound city inspector in Santa Monica making sure our new offices were in order.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  40. must we let loose an
    Army of Greg Packers to
    expose this madness

    Colonel Haiku (11593b)

  41. This is a good companion piece to the story out of San Francisco last month about the woman who wanted to open a 1930s style ice cream shop, but had to endure two years of bureaucracy and tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs.

    It’s not as if San Francisco officials in that case — or (Los Angeles?) County officials in the case outlined in this post — set out to make it so ridiculously hard to comply with all the rules. It’s the degree to which business owners are nickel-and-dimed by this and that regulation. Each one of the regulations and permit processes may be well intentioned, but there is never anyone who is taking a look at these regulations in the aggregate and realizing how they add up into an administrative nightmare.

    I have a lot of sympathy for your reader, Patterico. A good friend of mine bought an existing restaurant in the city of Los Angeles about 10-15 years ago. It had been a restaurant for decades, mind you, and my friend did not intend to make any changes to the menu, decor, kitchen, staffing, or any other aspect of the existing operation. Somehow, though, the city managed to swoop in and “find” that the business needed about $30,000 in new equipment and new services that the existing restaurant somehow hadn’t needed until the exact moment that my friend took over ownership. And yet all the big city liberal mayors wonder why nobody wants to do business in their rotten cities.

    JVW (4d72aa)

  42. Back inthe early 80’s KNBC-TV Los Angeles carried editorials by a guy named

    Mike (c569c9)

  43. If a hotel has a pool and a hot tub, as dictated, this would require the installation of 2 permanent lifts. Guaranteed the lift would be an attractive nuisance to any child at the pool.

    And the trial lawyers are rubbing their hands together with much glee.

    the friendly grizzly (00eb02)

  44. I ran into a similar type of problem here in Ventura County years ago. This new shopping center in town kept being forced to tear out their handicap ramps because the City claimed they violated “code”. So I got the tasked of making sure they were to “code”. After taking my measurements I field designed a nice handicap ramp that had a maximum rate of 5%. Well below the allowable maximum rate of 8.33%.

    Thinking I was a super genius of sorts (totally wrong) I laid a few of them out and walked away fat, dumb and happy. They were build per my layout and the city rejected them making the contractor tear them out yet again. I knew my design didn’t even come close to exceeding the maximum rate. So I finally had a talk with the inspector. He informed me the city standard requires these handicap ramps have the maximum rate of 8.33% for a total of 6 feet and after that as long as they don’t exceed that rate, they are good to go.

    I explained to the inspector that designing stuff and then trying to build it at the maximum rate while not exceeding it is not very wise. Just having 1/8 of an inch difference in that 6 feet will cause it to be rejected and we are building stuff out of concrete, we are not building cabinets. The city doesn’t care, It’s not their money.

    They easily cost the contractor 50 grand if not way more and it was all over nothing.

    MSL (f060a0)

  45. The point of all of these horror stories is that local regulators and inspectors and bureaucrats (and local regulations and codes) are the immediate and huge obstacle, without any real input from the Feds. Even the ADA is not really involved here, except as an excuse–it’s not that the ADA actually requires a handicapped ramp to the dumpster, but that the local bureaucrats decided to impose it using the ADA as their reason. And notice that the ramp issue was not raised during the first set of revisions.

    JVW@41–There is a possible legitimate reason for the city demanding the changes from the new owner–the old owner was probably exempt under a grandfathering provision. A lot of times code changes such as these are not imposed on existing businesses/structures unless the business/structure is sold, or the existing owner makes renovations–when either of those happen, the exemption is lost and the owner has to bring it “up to code”.

    JBS (5a299b)

  46. Yikes… looks like Ron Paul will beat Gingrich.

    Leave it to Sean Hannity to give Gingrich a stage to take whacks at Romney and Santorum and puff himself up.

    Colonel Haiku (11593b)

  47. whoops, wrong thread.

    Colonel Haiku (11593b)

  48. What kind of country have we become if the man whose story this is fears that his founded and grounded concerns about monstrous bureaucratic insanity identify him?

    Joel Engel (104e96)

  49. Kah-Lee-Four-Nyah?


    All you people who don’t get out are pathetic losers.

    Detroit comes your way.

    Paul A'Barge (b8eb22)


    Pamela (95126e)

  51. Never answered Icy’s question. My point about the 5,000 pools that installed chairlifts was that they did it voluntarily, because of demand. Up where I’m at, the only free pool is Oak Park’s. The other five we go to, including the local high school and the Cook County Park District, are pay, and they are actively seeking members. A handicapped person’s money is as good as another’s. I concede that it should be the pool’s choice better than the government’s but it is not necessarily a losing proposition.

    The ramp to the trash can is a losing proposition –what customer would care– and ridiculous on its face as so many here have already said.

    nk (dec503)

  52. I concede that it should be the pool’s choice better than the government’s but it is not necessarily a losing proposition.

    — Agreed.

    Icy (927b00)

  53. My parents left me an apartment building that, to my regret, is too solid to convert into senior housing. The best tenants.

    (I will blow it up before I convert it into Section 8 housing even though I can get double the market rent from President Total Cluster**** Of A Miserable Failure.)

    nk (dec503)

  54. Comment by Mike S — 3/20/2012 @ 1:42 pm

    “Public image is important for a business like a restaurant. It is good for public image to hire a person in a wheelchair. It is NOT a good image to then have the wheel-chair bound employee take out the trash while the other employees are doing less demeaning tasks.”
    The trash needs to be taken out. What is demeaning about that? There is nothing demeaning about doing a needed job.

    Harold (17e939)

  55. How could they have approved this dumpster without considering other handicaps besides lower body mobility impairment that necessitates a wheelchair? This is remarkably thoughtless and furthermore, in direct violation with the ADA.

    This business must be required to take into consideration all recognized disabilities. For instance, we should expect the dumpster shelter to be:

    1. completely sterile at all times: prospective employees with significant immunodeficiencies would be unable to be employed should there be the risk of a dumpster with bacteria. A sterilization system should be put into place, all surfaces should be stainless steel and be chlorinated hourly, and a full-time safety inspector, should be added to the requirements.

    2. sight disability was carelessly left out of the requirements: full provisions for safe operation of the door, ramp, and disposal facility should be provided for.

    3. attention disorders: the proposal disregarded concerns for prospective employees of this difficulty. A full-time trainer, path supervisor, and investment in visible instructional documentation should be provided for.

    There are many more dis-Abilities that need to be taken into account, but I’d expect that with the hiring of a Dis-Ability Facilitator, the employer would be able to work through these needs. An estimated annual allotment of $20 million should be sufficient to cover analysis and implementation expenses that ensure no dis-Abled prospective employee is left behind.

    Flyover Fred (46c705)

  56. There’s more idiocy here that you know.

    We stated that the dumpster had a walled enclosure of six feet in height and that the dumpster was rain proof. The County stated that we must have a roof over the trash dumpster.

    OK, now think about how a dumpster is emptied. The truck comes, with the forks which it puts in the slots on the side of the dumpster, then picks it up and dumps the contents into the truck. If the dumpster pad has a roof on it, the truck must pick up the dumpster a few inches, then back out before it can raise the container and dump the garbage into the truck, lower the container, and then pull forward to place the container back in the enclosure. This is an additional burning of Gaia-harming diesel fuel, spewing yet more CO2 into the atmosphere where it will melt Antarctica and drown all of the penguins!

    That, of course, is if you are lucky. If you aren’t lucky, the truck won’t back up far enough, and when it raises the dumpster, it will tear the roof all to pieces, spreading debris and rusty nails and splinters all over the parking lot, where some customer will step on a nail or puncture a tire. And if you are really unlucky, in the process of destroying the roof, it will somehow snag the dumpster, and throw it to the ground, upside down, scattering all of the garbage through the parking lot.

    In construction, you try to idiot-proof as much as you can. Unfortunately, you cannot idiot-proof government.

    The Dana who has been in construction for thirty years (3e4784)

  57. Whilst out on the loader, I realized what the obvious solution to the dumpster problem is. Your friend will simply have to install a tracked system, which opens the doors and slides the dumpster completely out of the protective enclosure, so that the truck will not have to burn additional fuel maneuvering the container, and so that there will be no chance of the dumpster tearing down the roof.

    Of course, the rails will have to be set into the concrete, with only small grooves open, to prevent construction of a trip hazard. In fact, it may be necessary to have automatic steel covering plates, which retract only when the electric slide is in use.

    The Dana who was too stupid to realize this initially (3e4784)

  58. In most of the places I have worked at or managed the employees had to roll the dumpster out of the enclosure the night before the truck came. How a wheelchair bound employee will do this I don’t know. I am afraid to think about what the ADA will be deemed to require.

    Machinist (b6f7da)

  59. How about a ramp to come back out for the “wheelchair Dumpster-diver”?

    Sam (c99203)

  60. Sam suggested:

    How about a ramp to come back out for the “wheelchair Dumpster-diver”?

    About ten years ago, we heard some noises in the dumpster at work. It turned out that a mother raccoon and her whole tribe of babies had gotten into the dumpster, looking for food, and they couldn’t get back out. We got a board, to set up a ramp for the coons to get out, and mama led the way.

    But, one little raccoon couldn’t figure out that this was the ramp to freedom. Mama watched me, from a concrete pedestal, as I put on a pair of welding gloves — racoons have sharp teeth! — and climbed into the dumpster to get the last baby raccoon up onto the ramp to find his way out.

    Once out, mama looked back at me as she and her brood headed out to safety.

    The kind-hearted Dana (f68855)

  61. That’s sweet, Dana.

    And brave. I would hesitate to hand a raccoon for fear they would rip my face off.

    Dustin (9538d2)

  62. Dustin, that’s why I put on a pair of welding gloves. They are well-lined, heavy leather gloves, which have six inch cuffs which go above your jacket sleeves.

    My sister once had a pet raccoon, which played with the cats in the house. You could pet and play with the raccoon, but while cats know not to bite as hard as they can, tamed raccoons don’t know this, and their teeth are very sharp.

    The kind-hearted, and careful, Dana (f68855)

  63. My mom gives raccoons peanut butter sandwiches.

    Dustin (9538d2)

  64. I’m an Architect.
    The ADA was originally intended as a revision to the Building Code, like electrical wiring and door size. Most building code regulations are well written and easy to understand. For example, front doors of houses must be 3’x6′-8″ in size for emergency access. During all of the governmental BS sessions regarding the ADA they decided that everything in it would become a Civil Right. You have a Civil Right to a grab bar, a Civil Right to a boat ramp and a Civil Right to a Pole Dancing Stripper Stage. This was done so the lawyers could sue lots of people and make a lot of money. Which they do, a lot. And our businesses suffer, a lot.

    One of my favorite true stories. We were designing a manufacturing plant, back when those were still allowed in Los Angeles. The entrance to the building faced the main parking lot that was 9′ feet lower than the building on a hillside lot. The loading area was up a ramp on the side of the building. We intended to put our handicapped parking on the side so anyone arriving by car could park at the floor level of the building. Now, get this, remember the part where the ADA is a Civil Rights code? It is not permissible to make handicapped people enter the building from a side entrance. They have to enter by the same doors as everyone else, to make it “fair”. The code requires 12′ of ramp for every 1′ of rise so the ramp was over 100 feet long and cost over $50,000 in the mid 1980’s. At the time, that was enough to buy a very nice townhouse. Years later the Project Architect asked the owner if anyone had ever used his gold plated ramp. He replied, “The handicapped people all drive to the side entrance. They may be confined to wheelchairs, but they are not stupid.”

    Unlike some of our elected officials.

    tyree (84087f)

  65. Reading the comments I noticed a few people writing about “reasonable accommodation”. There is no such thing in the ADA. In the early days they thought maybe a paper cup dispenser would work instead of expensive redesigned drinking fountains. It made sense, the cups could more easily transfer water to a greater range of physical disabilities. Those kind of common sense accommodations are missing from the code now. After all, if the business needs more money they can just print it like the government, right?

    tyree (84087f)

  66. This is the most chilling line of all:

    P.S. The reader refuses to allow me to publish the funniest story of all, because his business would be easily identifiable if I told the story.

    Robert (b1a2fc)

  67. Robert, agreed. There are so many regulations in place that any business can be shut down or fined at any time. That is not a bug, it is a feature.

    tyree (84087f)

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