Bringing a developer’s perspective to the table is Latrobe resident Douglas Wiele, 61, who was recently reappointed to the California Commission on Disability Access by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Wiele was first appointed to the commission in September of last year but that term expired in December.
Wiele has been the founding partner and president of Foothill Partners Inc. since 1994. Prior to that he worked at Whitney Development Co. and at McMasters and Westland Commercial Real Estate.
He is vice chair of the California Business Properties Association and is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Old Monterey Foundation. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of San Francisco School of Law, the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley and the National Trust for Historical Preservation in Washington, D.C. He and his wife have lived in El Dorado County since 1997 and have three children.
Wiele said his role on the commission is “to speak from the perspective of developers. I think it’s important to give back. And part of what I do to give back is being involved in the California Business Properties Association (CBPA).”
As the vice chairman of CBPA, he sees that it’s his job to keep an eye on the Legislature to make sure that the laws represent their interests. “Our association has a close relationship with the Governor’s Office,” he said. “The commission is there to advise the Legislature on interests related to those with disabilities and I’m there on behalf of the CBPA and the commercial real estate industry.”
Admitting that he’s still in the process of learning what the commission does, he said one task they have been working on for a while is looking at what seems to be a proliferation of lawsuits related to failures to comply with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). They have studied why certain law firms are more active in this than others and why certain issues are hotter than others, he said. The commission wants to find a way to reduce the amount of litigation and educate parties to fix problems before they become litigious.
“Basically we’re there as a resource speaking on behalf of those who deal with the ADA regardless if it’s a person dealing with a disability, an architect, a contractor or property owner — we are the interface between them and the Legislature,” he said.
Wiele said the rash of abusive ADA lawsuits finally resulted in the Legislature outlawing lawyers shaking down small businesses with minor ADA compliance problems.
“We just published a study in draft form on the commission Website that, among other things, identified the top 10 issues on which there is litigation and if there is a concentration (of those kinds of lawsuits) among certain law firms,” he said. Wiele said he believes there will be further action on the part of the Legislature in response to the study.
The developer said the perspective he brings to the commission comes from his experience in building different kinds of projects. “I know firsthand what are some of the unintended consequences of well-intended legislation as developers try to accommodate ADA provisions,” he said.
In one example, he talked about trying to build apartments over retail stores in Monterey. In order to accommodate the handicapped, he would have to build an elevator rather than a lift, which would substantially raise the cost of the rental units. “We are well-intended in working on accessibility issues,” he said, “but are creating affordability issues in the state. And there are a number of instances like that,” he said, adding that he hopes he can bring that perspective to the commission.
Saying that he finds the work on the commission to be interesting and enjoyable, he reiterated that this is his way of giving back.
“It’s not enough to take. I’ve been coaching my kids to be part of the community and culture building,” he said. “This is a small way to do it, but it’s gratifying and I’m delighted the governor signed off on my appointment.”
Wiele’s appointment requires Senate approval.