Lawyer targeting 23rd Street merchants for ADA violations

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Lawyer targeting 23rd Street merchants for ADA compliance violations
The Veterans Center at 23rd Street. (By Mike Kinney)

The Richmond City Manager’s Office and community advocates are warning about an attorney who is targeting businesses on 23rd Street for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In many cases, businesses are threatened with litigation if they don’t pay the lawyer, City  Manager Carlos Martinez’s weekly newsletter states.

According to the report, many of the merchants have made payments to the attorney. The attorney’s actions are viewed by critics as a form of legal extortion. And it happens across the country.

In response, merchants along with Darlene Drapkin, founder of Urban Transformation, a nonprofit helping to revitalize the 23rd Street merchants corridor, have organized a meeting set for Thursday, June 6. Assistant City Attorney and ADA Coordinator Bruce Soublet, Sr. will present opportunities to merchants, available through the City and funded by business license fees, to have their businesses inspected by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp).

The CASp “who would provide them with a report informing them of what needs to be done to bring their property into compliance,” the City Manager’s newsletter states.

Recent amendments to California law, such as inspection and certification, can offer merchants some protection from attorneys aiming to extract payments from small businesses via ADA compliance issues, the city said.

Thursday’s meeting will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Veterans Hall  at 968 23rd St.

In addition, the NFIB Small Business Center also offers advice on this issue. Below is a brief video from the national advocacy group.