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Hammond v. City of Red Bluff

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 20, 2014

CITY OF RED BLUFF and DOES 1-10, Defendants.


TROY L. NUNLEY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant City of Red Bluff's ("Defendant") motion to dismiss Plaintiff Richard Hammond's ("Plaintiff") complaint. (ECF Nos. 1, 5.) For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss is DENIED.

I. Facts

Plaintiff is a resident of Red Bluff, California. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Plaintiff frequently travels to historic downtown Red Bluff, which is serviced by on-street parking in the vicinity.[1] This on-street parking does not include "designated accessible parking stalls" (ECF No 1 ¶ 15) and therefore cannot accommodate his modified van. Plaintiff must park further away from his intended locations and is made to feel unwelcome in Red Bluff, among other difficulties. ( See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11-21.)

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on May 8, 2014, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. ; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. ; and California's Disabled Persons Act ("DPA"), Cal. Civ. Code § 54 et seq. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on June 19, 2014. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss on July 29, 2014. Defendant filed a reply on August 7, 2014. (ECF No. 8.)

III. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." On a motion to dismiss, the Court assumes all factual allegations are true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). A court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference that can be drawn from the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). While a plaintiff need not allege "specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief, " Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508), "a claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Nevertheless, a court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.") Additionally, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

Ultimately, a court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement, it demands more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 678. This plausibility inquiry is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

IV. Statutory Framework

A. Americans with Disabilities Act

Congress enacted the ADA in 1990 to "remedy widespread discrimination against disabled individuals." PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661, 674 (2001). The ADA aims to provide a "clear and comprehensive national mandate" and "strong, consistent, [and] enforceable standards" in eliminating discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b). The ADA addresses both the "outright intentional exclusion" of disabled individuals, as well as the failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices. PGA Tour, 532 U.S. at 675 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(5)).

Title II of the ADA prohibits public entities, such as state and local governments, from denying disabled individuals the benefits of or participation in "services, programs, and activities." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. The specific obligations of public entities under the ADA, and the standards for determining an ADA violation, are delineated in part under 28 C.F.R. § 35.150 and § 35.151. See 28 U.S.C. § 35.149; Pierce v. County of Orange, 526 F.3d 1190, 1214 (9th Circuit 2008). Sections 35.150 and 35.151, in turn, reference the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards ("UFAS"), the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design ("1991 Standards"), and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design ("2010 Standards"), for design specifications for handicap-accessible buildings, structures, pedestrian routes, etc. Defendant is a public entity, and thus is subject to Title II of the ADA and its implementing regulations.

B. The Rehabilitation Act

The RA, on which the ADA is based, was enacted to empower disabled individuals to "maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society." 29 U.S.C. § 701(b). "There is no significant difference in analysis of the rights and obligations created by the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act." Zukle v. Regents of Univ. of California, 166 F.3d 1041, 1045 n.11 (9th Cir. 1999). See 42 U.S.C. § 12133 ("The remedies, procedures, and rights set forth in [the RA] shall be the remedies, procedures, and rights [applicable to ADA claims]"); Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 631 (1998) (stating that courts are required to "construe the ADA to grant at least as much protection as provided by the regulations implementing the Rehabilitation Act"). The Court thus applies its analysis of Plaintiff's ADA claim to his RA claim.

C. California's Disabled Persons Act

The California DPA provides that individuals with disabilities or medical conditions have the "same right as the general public to the full and free use of streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways...public facilities, and other public places." Cal. Civ. Code § 54(a). A violation of the right of any individual under the ADA constitutes a violation of the DPA. Id. § 54(c). The Court thus applies its analysis of Plaintiff's ADA claim to Plaintiff's DPA claim.

V. Analysis

Defendant's argument for dismissal is that the statutory schemes referenced by Plaintiff (ADA, RA, and DPA), the relevant implementing regulations (e.g. 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.150-51), and the design guidelines referenced in the implementing regulations (e.g. UFAS, or the 2009 or 210 standards) do not explicitly require handicapped accessible on-street parking. Defendant argues that absent this requirement, there is no cognizable claim. (ECF No. 5-1.) The Court finds that the decision in Fortyune v. City of Lomita 766 F.3d 1098 (9th Cir. 2014) forecloses this argument.[2]

In Fortyune, plaintiff was also a physically disabled individual making use of a wheelchair for mobility. Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Lomita under the ADA and California's DPA, alleging that he experienced difficulty, discomfort, and fear for his safety when frequenting facilities in Lomita, because none of Lomita's public on-street parking was accessible to people with disabilities. The City of Lomita moved to dismiss, arguing that absent ADA implementing regulations specifically targeted at on-street parking, it was not required to provide accessible on-street parking. Id. at 1100-1. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

The Ninth Circuit reasoned, first, that a lack of specific regulations do not eliminate a statutory obligation. Id. (citing Reich v. Mont. Sulphur & Chem. Co., 32 F.3d 440, 444-45 (9th Cir. 1994) (asserting that regulations are meant to "amplify and augment" statutory obligations)). Second, the Ninth Circuit held that "existing regulations do require accessible on-street parking." Id. at 1102. Those regulations are 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.150 and 35.151. Under § 35.150, public entities must "operate each service, program, or activity so that the service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." 28 C.F.R. § 35.150(a). On street parking is a "facility" within the meaning of the regulation. Fortyune, 766 F.3d at 1102, n. 3. While public entities have some flexibility in handling existing inaccessible facilities, "at bottom, the regulation mandates program accessibility for all normal governmental functions, including the provision of on-street public parking." Id. at 1103. The other regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.151, governs only facilities that were constructed or modified after the ADA's effective date (June 26, 1992), which is the allegation here. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 14.) Section 35.151 requires that newly constructed or altered facilities meet the technical standards set forth in the UFAS, the 1991 standards, or the 2010 standards. While none of these standards address on-street parking, "nothing in 28 C.F.R. § 35.151 suggests that when technical specifications do not exist for a particular type of facility, public entities have no accessibility obligations." Id. at 1103. Further, interpreting the regulation otherwise would be inconsistent with the broad mandate contained in subsections (a)(1) and (b)(1), that "each" newly constructed or altered facility be readily accessible. Id. at 1103.

In the instant motion to dismiss, the Court finds no dispositive difference between the allegations in Fortyune and the instant claims. Therefore, for the reasons discussed in Fortyune and outlined above, Defendant's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 5) is DENIED.

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