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City Hall's $700,000 Ramp Will Actually Cost $1.1 Million 

Wednesday, Sep 7 2011

Last week, the Chronicle ran a piece itemizing the costs of the $700,000, 10-foot ramp to the president's dais within the Board of Supervisors' chambers. While it's good to run a story periodically reminding San Franciscans that we are spending vast sums of money on a 10-foot ramp, it's not exactly breaking news.

The same alarming numbers cited in the Chron were laid out in a Budget and Legislative Analyst's report from early February. It's all in there: the $477,732 budgeted for parts and labor; the $170,641 already spent in planning costs; the $51,042 estimate for alternative housing for the Board of Supervisors meetings for six weeks. This is, again, to create a 10-foot-long ramp.

Leave it to San Francisco, however, to ensure that a $700,000 ramp actually costs far, far more. As anyone who's financed a home, car, or education knows, one easy way to do that is to buy now and pay later. That's right: The city is paying for its new ramp via debt financing.

The funds to plan and construct the ramp are part of $48 million in "certificates of participation" — which function similarly to general obligation bonds, but voters don't get to weigh in on them. Assuming an interest rate of 6.5 percent, Budget Analyst Harvey Rose calculates that interest and financing costs on the ramp will come out to $439,648. So, over the course of 20 years, that ramp should cost San Francisco around $1.1 million. To those wondering if the ramp will be worth its weight in gold: At the sky-high current rate of $1,800 per ounce, the ramp would have to weigh around 38 pounds. So, no, it won't.

Susan Mizner, head of the Mayor's Office of Disability, notes that the price of the ramp represents one-third of 1 percent of the money poured into revamping City Hall in the last 25 years. Others have noted that the cost of making the president's dais accessible via ramp could have been dwarfed by the cost of an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit — and if the city lost, the ramp would have to be built anyway.

In the end, San Francisco is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. Either way, tons of public money will be spent. That, in this city, is a prerequisite.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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