Monica is a Santa Monica tenant and wheelchair-user who had been parking her modified, lift-equipped van in the same space for more than five years. Her parking space was sized and marked for accessibility to wheelchair users, and is the only type of parking which Monica can safely use. In March of 2014, the manager of her large apartment complex notified Monica by letter that all parking would was valet only, and that she must either park in a city parking lot (where accessible parking is first-come, first-served) or purchase valet services at the unaffordable rate of $150 a month.
Monica knew that she absolutely needed accessible parking close to her apartment for her own safety and independence. The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office contacted the management company and advised that even if all tenants had been switched to valet parking, the management must make an exception to the policy and allow Monica to self-park in the accessible space. This exception is reasonable – she has been using the space for at least five years without hardship to the building owner, and her space is already painted and sized for this use. Conversely, the valet policy would unfairly force her to relinquish both her modified van and her independence every day. And every time a valet staff would take her vehicle, Monica would have to re-adjust the seat and steering wheel so that she can drive out of her electric wheelchair.
Within three days, the management and ownership of the building agreed to restore Monica’s parking space with no extra charge.
The City Attorney’s office argued that the owners and management’s attempt to take away Monica’s parking would be in violation of state and federal rules that require a housing provider to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants. See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b), Cal. Govt. Code § 12927(c)(1); Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1(b)(1). “A reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f). Under these laws and associated cases, providing accessible parking to wheelchair-users is one of the most common types of required accommodations.