If you build a new home or remodel an old one in Santa Monica, Calif., you may be forced to make it handicapped-accessible if a proposed city ordinance goes into effect.
"We are trying to keep doors open," Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein said, "and open them wide so everyone can be a part of our community."
The proposed ordinance would require homeowners to make doorways three feet wide, install extra-large downstairs restrooms, build ramps and maybe even put in elevators to their front doors.
Not everyone is happy about the proposed regulations.
"The Americans With Disabilities Act requires reasonable accommodations," the Pacific Legal Foundation's Jim Burling said. "It doesn't require accommodations that are going to bankrupt or make it impossible for people to use their property. And that is precisely what this proposal as described would do."
City Rent Control Board member Alan Toy disagreed.
"This is certainly not a new thing, that we are asking people to make accommodations for the sake of a community at large," he said. "I use a wheelchair myself, and I am concerned that there is very little housing for people with disabilities — not just in Santa Monica, but any large city."
Homeowner Jacquie Banks says building her dream home would have been a nightmare if the city had forced her to make it handicapped-accessible.
"That would be my decision, my personal decision, that I need to care for myself or my family," she said. "I don't think it should be mandated by the government."
Builders and architects agree that the cost to homeowners would be onerous.
"To go back and make something that was inaccessible accessible at the cost of the homeowner is unquestionably unfair," architect Phillip Kudelka said.
The mayor vows handicapped accessible homes will be law by fall. But civil-rights attorneys promise lawsuits from homeowners who still believe that when a man's home is his castle, the government can't tell him how wide to make the door.