Supervisor Eric Mar: top abusive lawsuits

Greetings and Happy Chinese New Year!

I'm looking forward to a festive, and hopefully, dry parade this year to ring in the Year of the Tiger, which coincidentally is also my birth year. Growing up, I remember marching every year in the Chinese New Year Parade, rain or shine, and dodging firecrackers thrown at us by other kids in the crowd. Today, with these fond memories in mind, I still take my daughter and her friends to the parade every year.

I will be hosting a Chinese New Year celebration on Feb 26 in my office at City Hall, Room 284, between 5:30-7:30 p.m. Please come and join us in celebrating the Year of the Tiger.

Our office has received many calls from small businesses on the Clement Street and Geary Boulevard corridors over the last year alerting us of abusive Americans with Disability Act (ADA) lawsuits. The main attorney involved tends to target small businesses, run primarily by monolingual or limited English speaking immigrants, and by manipulating them into paying him tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars, by suing them for noncompliance with the ADA.

This behavior significantly sets these small businesses back from implementing their compliance plans, and also greatly threatens our much loved neighborhood serving businesses, which make the Richmond District such an attractive, convenient and diverse place to live. If attorneys continue to file these lawsuits and succeed in taking substantial amounts of money from our small businesses, they will suffer more during these tough economic times.

Some good news: Last year, Senate Bill 1608, authored by Democratic Sen. Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, passed at the Legislature. SB1608 was crafted by the California Chamber of Commerce, business groups, disability rights groups and consumer attorneys and is designed to promote and increase compliance with laws providing equal public access in places of business to individuals with disabilities, while reducing unwarranted litigation that does not advance that goal. The San Francisco Office of Disability supports the bill, as well as the San Francisco Office of Small Business.

The most important thing that small businesses can do is to hire a certified access specialist to inspect their business to ensure compliance with the ADA and obtain an inspection report as proof that they have been inspected. This inspection report can be used to temporarily provide relief from an ADA lawsuit while the business is working to implement a plan to bring their facilities up to compliance. Although accessibility improvements can be very costly, there are tax credits and incentives that can make significant improvements basically cost neutral.

To learn more about SB1608, please visit the Web site at If you are a resident and know that your favorite small business has been targeted, please share this information with them. If you are a business owner, you can access information and guidance through the SF Office of Small Business at (415) 554-6134.

Coffee with Eric: On Friday, Feb. 19, from 10 -11 a.m., I will be at the Toy Boat Cafe at 401 Clement St. Meet me and other Richmond District residents and share what's on your mind!

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, contact my staff at (415) 554-7410 or e-mail [email protected].

Eric Mar is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 1.