California Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law which requires that buildings and facilities that provide goods and services to the public, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 & went into effect in 1992.
Buildings and alterations constructed after 1992 must comply with the requirements of the ADA.
Buildings and facilities constructed prior to 1992, ar required to make changes to facilitate accessibility that are “readily achievable”, which is defined as, “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”

California Building Code
In addition to the ADA, California has it’s own requirements for accessibility compliance which are described int he California Building Code.  Current codes effective January 1, 2011.

Civil Rights Movement – 1950 – 1980
Section 504 – part of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act – required hospitals, universities – any place that received federal money – to remove obstacles to services and provide access to public transportation and public places.  Compliance was expensive and the government failed to enforce it.
April 5, 1977 US Disability sit-in to force the signing of regulations enacting Section 504.
Outgoing phone calls were blocked and hot water was turned off.  Local support was widespread.  Businesses donated supplies, members of the Black Panther Party cooked food, and the mayor sent in portable showers and mattresses.
4 week sit-in at the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare in San Francisco – 100 disabled demonstrators – on April 28th, HE Secretary Joseph Califano endorsed the regulations.

Unruh Civil Rights Act / Calif. Civil Code – Section 51 – 1959
Outlaw discrimination based on … any mental or physical disability.
“All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.
Modified in 1992 to include – “violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 shall also consititute a violation of this section.”

Calif. Civil Code – Section 52
Whoever denies, …is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages, ad any amount that may be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, up to a maximum of three times the amount of actual damages but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000), and any attorney’s fees.

Calif. Civil Code – Section 52 (b) Whoever denies the right…through threats or sexual harassment…is liable for the actual damages…plus…$25,000 & attorneys fees.

SB 1608 Calif. Civil Code – Section 55.56 e.
Statutory damages may be assessed pursuant to subdivision (a) based on each particular occasion that the plaintiff was denied full and equal access, and not upon the number of violations of construction related accessibility standards identified at the place of public accommodation where the denial of full and equal access occurred.

10 Responses to California Laws

  1. Helpful website thank you. I am just back from a business trip to LA. You folks are so far ahead of us here in Canada as I took many photos of examples of Build Code compliance which we do not have. We have taken baby steps with the AODA for the province of Ontario in Canada. We are looking to your website to guide us as we are the AODA experts in Canada and need to see what the leaders are doing. JE Sleeth Sr Consultant OPC Inc

  2. Belinda Long says:

    “The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1900 & went into effect in 1992.” Please note the need for correction of the year the law was signed as posted under the heading “ADA” above. “1900” should be 1990.

  3. timothy a wiley sr says:

    I am trying to find the current fine amounts for ada parking violations. Can you please assist me with this?

  4. Amanda strober says:


    my landlord painted a few spots on our street blue and put up handicapped spots, but informed all tenants those spots are specially marked snd to be saved for specific tenants. I parked in on of the spots when with my disabled father, (he is legally blind spot for i drive him everywhere) I put up the place card and helped him into the house, when I went to leave 20 mins later I had a sticker.saying i was going to be towed on my window and a note saying im not allowed to park there. so i requested the landlord to make a spot for my father as well, and she said no, that he had a garage and that’s his parking spot (even though the garage is much further away and is very poorly paved, he is legally blind and trips in all the potholes. ). is it legal to deny him a spot where she made spots for others, because he has a garage? also, is it legal for her to just paint the city curb blue and put up a poll and sign? can I find out if these are city approved, and if so, how?

    • Dwight Ashdown says:

      It’s difficult to respond, without seeing the specifics of the project, I can say this, however:
      1. there are specific requirements for the number of accessible parking stalls to be provided, based on the total number of parking stalls in the project.
      2. there is no such thing as parking stalls “painted to appear as public accessible parking”, that’s assigned to specific tenants.
      3. there are very specific requirements for the configuration of accessible parking stalls, including slope of surface and position and size of adjacent loading aisles.

  5. deen says:

    Hi there!

    I have a few questions. What is the requirement for a new business owner to rent a 50 year old building(store front) that doesn’t have a ADA bathroom? The building itself is 50 plus years old. It will be for a day spa. Does the bathroom have to be updated? And if so who is reliable? Thank you for you time.


    • Dwight Ashdown says:

      It depends on a couple of things.
      First of all, if you are doing construction for the new retail space, for which you’ll need a building permit; if the cost of construction is $150,000 or less, you will be required to spend an additional 20% of the cost of construction on accessibility upgrades. The accessibility upgrades would generally start at the front door and proceed through the place of business. If the cost of construction exceeds $150,000, then the 20% doesn’t apply & you would be required to make the business fully accessible.
      Secondly, it depends on your business’s financial resources. You will be required to make “readily achievable” accessibility corrections. Readily achievable is defined as, “easy to accomplish and without much difficulty,” so that means one thing for a “mom & pop” business & something else for a multinational corporation.
      I hope that helps.

  6. John says:

    My association that I live in has a parking regulation that only permits me to park an RV within the association property for only up to twelve times a year to load and unload and six times a year for periods of up to three days maximum. I have a disabled adult child that lives with us and is under our care. He has a CA handicap permit because of his permanent disability. We use the RV to take him out on outings on a daily basis but yet the board members of my association will not approve a variance for me to park the RV in my own driveway. My driveway is sufficiently long to more than accommodate the RV without impacting the street or driveway. Any advise anyone can give me to win this battle?

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