Municipal Planning Morass = Disability Discrimination Travesty

A weird, complicated, simple, dramatic, Aspen-based soap opera of a legal case started trial yesterday.  The City of Aspen is suing two wealthy condo-owners and the developer/landlord of the rest of the building for privatizing the only accessible entrance.  It’s a smaller but more disturbing version of the “poor door” controversies in New York and other cities, where affordable housing tenants are forced to use a side entrance to mixed use buildings. Elise Thatcher of Aspen Public Radio interviewed me about it on Monday and posted the Court’s decision granting in part and denying in part the City’s motion for summary judgment. In short, JW Ventures, a developer in Aspen, Colorado, constructed a building in downtown Aspen to include two “market value” apartments, three “affordable housing units,” and two restaurants.  It also had, as required, an accessible entrance from the sidewalk with an elevator serving all apartments and the two restaurants, as well as an alley entrance and service elevator.   Fast forward to today:  the owners of the two market value units — a couple who combined them into a single apartment (the “Fancy Apartment”) — have asserted that the street-side accessible entrance and elevator are theirs alone, and that tenants of the affordable units and patrons of the restaurants must use the alley entrance and service elevator.  The legal case, brought by the City of Aspen to enforce its own ordinance, centers around the city’s conflicting actions with respect to building and condo plans.  I’ll get to the untested ADA and Fair Housing angles in a second. I want to start in the middle and slightly to...