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Small Businesses in Alameda Targeted With Spate of Americans With Disabilities Act Lawsuits

ALAMEDA (KPIX) -- Mark Rogers, owner of Lola's on Park Street in Alameda, didn't realize there had been an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit filed against him until some unexpected mail began arriving.

"I started to receive letters from attorneys offering to help me with an ADA lawsuit," Rogers told KPIX.

Rogers was one of dozens of business owners along Park Street hit with an ADA lawsuit recently, all from one plaintiff: Orlando Garcia. If that name rings a bell, it's the same person behind over a thousand similar ADA complaints in San Francisco's Chinatown and on Irving Street in the city's Sunset District.

Across Park Street, Colin Cross of Lauren's Closet got a similar notice.

"We started reading the complaints and they are a carbon copy of each other," Cross said.

The suit asserts that Lauren's Closet, a children's consignment store, had unlawful barriers that prevented entry.

"I looked and I checked, the door is the right width, the slope is the right slope. What is it?"

The story is the same at Lola's.

"They said that the landing on the ramp wasn't level. Now that is the entrance right here. Now I have to hire a specialist to answer all of these questions and for a couple of thousand dollars give me a survey. But, I took my iPhone and stuck it on there, it's under the right slope, it's level. So I have the feeling they throw these out and hope something sticks," said Rogers.

Both business owners say the settlement cost $4,000 to $6,000 plus paying Garcia's attorney fees could put them out of the business after barely surviving the pandemic. Businesses up and down Park Street are hiring certified access specialists to make sure they are in compliance with the ADA to try and stave off suits.

"I'm watching my bank account go down as I hire more and more people who know to take care of the situation. I have no idea what it will ultimately cost, none. I hear some of the other people who go through this on the block and they're $15,000, $30,000 -- that's a lot of money for a small mom-and-pop store," Rogers said.

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