This is a situation from 15-20 years ago, but I feel like I never got a real answer:

This took place in Redwood City, California. We had a building that could accommodate more or less 500 people and had a large parking associated with it. When we started to use the building, there was no proper markings on the ground; I mean there used to be, but they had faded a long time ago.

So new lines were painted and quite soon we got the visit of a few city officials, like the fire marshal, etc for inspections.

The city requested we allocate a percentage of the parking spots as handicap spots, nearby the building entrance. We made the argument that there was no employee with disabilities and we'd certainly accommodate if the need would arise. To this they countered than a visitor may need it, but this was a software development place without any visitors and not even a reception desk.

To make a long back and forth short.. we had to mark the spots as allocated for handicap.

Over time, employees were using them because of the proximity to the entrance and, although no tickets were given, somehow the city got to know about it and told us to not allow this.

This was wasting about 10 spaces (don't remember exactly), and anyone from the Bay Area knows how valuable are parking spots there.

So, my question: During the 3 years I was involved with the place, these parking spaces had absolutely no utility. There was never any visitor (besides deliveries and there was an area for that) and never a single employee with physical disabilities. I do recognize the importance of these parking spaces where they can be used, but in that case it was wasted space. To be the devil's advocate, it could have been conceivable that a city inspector with disability would have visited us, but certainly not 10 of them at the same time.

Are there provisions that would allow to not reserve the spaces for cases that never happen, understanding that these spaces could be created on demand if needed?

  • 2
    Incidentally, I have seen instances where a business, having more accessible parking spaces than ever get used, will eventually perform exterior renovations, at which point they relocate the access ramp from lot to sidewalk to be a few parking spaces to the left or right of the entrance door. Then, when they repaint the lines, the required accessible parking spaces are centered on the ramp, rather than the door, which complies with ADA, while also providing a non-accessible space in the "prime" position, for persons able to navigate steps, directly in front of the door. Sep 25, 2020 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


No, even if not used, they are explicitly required by federal law!

The History of handicapped parking started in the 60s. In the late 1960s, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination against disabilities and then the Amaricans with Disabilities Act entered Congress in 1988. It passed as law in 1990 and included section 4.6 Parking and Passenger Loading Zones (linked in its 1998 revision):

4.6 Parking and Passenger Loading Zones.

4.6.1 Minimum Number. Parking spaces required to be accessible by 4.1 shall comply with 4.6.2 through 4.6.5. Passenger loading zones required to be accessible by 4.1 shall comply with 4.6.5 and 4.6.6.

4.6.2 Location. Accessible parking spaces serving a particular building shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel from adjacent parking to an accessible entrance. In parking facilities that do not serve a particular building, accessible parking shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible pedestrian entrance of the parking facility. In buildings with multiple accessible entrances with adjacent parking, accessible parking spaces shall be dispersed and located closest to the accessible entrances.

4.6.4* Signage. Accessible parking spaces shall be designated as reserved by a sign showing the symbol of accessibility (see 4.30.7). Spaces complying with 4.1.2(5)(b) shall have an additional sign "Van-Accessible" mounted below the symbol of accessibility. Such signs shall be located so they cannot be obscured by a vehicle parked in the space.

So, how many do you need? Well, 4.6.1 points to

4.1.2 Accessible Sites and Exterior Facilities:


(a) If parking spaces are provided for self-parking by employees or visitors, or both, then accessible spaces complying with 4.6 shall be provided in each such parking area in conformance with the table below. Spaces required by the table need not be provided in the particular lot. They may be provided in a different location if equivalent or greater accessibility, in terms of distance from an accessible entrance, cost and convenience is ensured.


Except as provided in (b), access aisles adjacent to accessible spaces shall be 60 in (1525 mm) wide minimum.

(b) One in every eight accessible spaces, but not less than one, shall be served by an access aisle 96 in (2440 mm) wide minimum and shall be designated "van accessible" as required by 4.6.4. The vertical clearance at such spaces shall comply with 4.6.5. All such spaces may be grouped on one level of a parking structure.

The table demands that for 500-1000 2% are handicapped parking. As a result, your 500 parking lots would demand 10 handicapped spots, at least one of which needs to be van accessible.

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