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Santa Barbara County Courthouse Tower Now Open To People With Disabilities

Elevator now reaches the top; stairs were only way to reach the observation deck prior to Friday

After a 30-year wait, Bonnie Elliott visited the top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower for the first time on Friday, thanks to upgrades to the elevator that made it assessible to people with disabilities.
After a 30-year wait, Bonnie Elliott visited the top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower for the first time on Friday, thanks to upgrades to the elevator that made it assessible to people with disabilities. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk Photo)

Bonnie Elliott moved to Santa Barbara 30 years ago from the San Joaquin Valley. She was a scuba diver, and immediately fell in love with the city.

When she heard that people could take an elevator to the top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower, she was thrilled. She headed to the clock tower and couldn't wait to check out the view.

But she couldn't do it.

The elevator didn't reach the top. It reached the floor below, then people had to walk up stairs to glimpse the view.

Elliott, who uses a wheelchair, did not reach the top that day, or any day. 

That all changed on Friday. For the first time, Elliott took the elevator to the top of the courthouse, in her wheelchair, and marveled at the views.

Bonnie Elliott and Victor Suhr take in the expansive views from the top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower on Friday. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk Photo)

"It's outstanding," Elliott said. "It's a billion-dollar view."

Elliott joined a group of county officials and disability advocates for a special ceremony to celebrate the new elevator, which is now compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

 The project, paid for through federal stimulus dollars and bond money, cost about $1 million. The elevator has been closed since March. 

Despite the improvements, people who use wheelchairs will have to take two separate elevators to reach the top. The main elevator that rises from the first floor to the tower does not have a ramp; it has stairs.

So people who can't use stairs or who are in wheelchairs must use a different elevator on the other side of the courthouse, to get to the second floor. From the second floor, they can then travel to the main elevator and go to the top. 

One of the people to reach the top Friday was Victor Suhr, who has had polio since he was 7 years old. He was unable to reach the top of the tower because he felt extreme pain when he walked up the stairs.

Those days are over. 

"This is very helpful," he said. "I am glad they made it more accessible."

County officials were thrilled with the opening of the elevator.

"This is amazing," said Greg Chanis, assistant director of General Services for Santa Barbara County. "This is an incredible day for the county. I was lucky to be up here on my first day in Santa Barbara. Bonnie had to wait 30 years."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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