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All regulation from the TSA to the local building officials is optimized to sound like a good idea. Who could be against health or safety? And that then becomes the thin end of the wedge, as the requirements and fees spiral from there.

1. Sprinklers and fire exits? Arguably necessary.

2. ADA compliant bathrooms and wheelchair ramps? Not part of a reasonable MVP[1]. What if every website "had to" be readable in Braille and multiple tongues on day one, before one had the revenue to pay for that sort of thing?

3. As for "building permits", they are just a tax by the local government[2], like red light cameras:

  In his opposition, Inks said the permit would 
  "incentivize" code enforcement officers to go out and find 
  major violations to bring in revenue. He added that city 
  officials already get paid a salary. 

  "To be clear ... this is about raising money," he said, 
  adding that similar permits and fees in other cities have 
  led to "further noncompliance" and the "collapse" of code 
  enforcement efforts, which led to the necessity of giving 
  property owners an "amnesty" period.

  Inks pointed out that small businesses were already being 
  hit with fines for "petty" violations, such as a $500 fine 
  on the Milk Pail Market for selling pumpkins in the   
  parking lot.  
In other words: give these guys an inch and they'll take a mile, asserting their author-it-ay the whole way. It always starts with something reasonable sounding (fire codes) and then moves to incentivizing the government for uncovering more violations and more fines. And it's very hard to figure out all the violations ahead of time [3]:

  As we wrote earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) 
  is continuing its program of in-depth investigations of 
  hotels to determine whether they comply with the Americans 
  with Disabilities Act or ADA. The investigations are 
  called "sweeps" because they target all hotels in a given 
  geographic area. There is also some basis to believe that 
  the sweeps may now also focus on certain industries such 
  as hotels, restaurants and other places of public 
  accommodation.

  ...

  In my experience, even the best design professionals   
  typically have an inadequate knowledge of all of the 
  accessibility standards. And local building official 
  approvals provide no protection against accessibility 
  violations.
Like all regulation, the ADA stuff is optimized to sound like a good idea. Who could be against providing access for the disabled? Then you realize the Department of Justice is spending scarce resources conducting sweeps on business owners, and that the total cost for a large ADA upgrade can easily be millions of dollars per facility. Just one example [4]:

  Owners and managers of swimming pools at hotels, city 
  recreation centers and public parks are scrambling to 
  install mechanical chair lifts to comply with new federal 
  requirements that all public pools be accessible to 
  disabled swimmers.

  Some hotels fear the cost of the equipment or fines for 
  noncompliance could put them out of busines

  The law doesn’t affect private clubs or pools owned by 
  neighborhood associations that aren’t open to the public.
  It’s a massive and expensive undertaking. The Association 
  of Pool and Spa Professionals says its research shows that 
  between 235,000 and 310,000 pools require the upgrade. 
  Manufacturers estimate the lifts run $3,500 to $6,500, and 
  installation can double those costs. Altogether, owners 
  could face combined costs exceeding $1 billion.
A billion here, a billion there...soon you're talking real money. Anyway, this sort of thing is a big part of the reason that Bay Area housing prices are so high. And it all starts with taking regulators at their word that they are out to protect your health and safety.

POSTSCRIPT: There's at least one obvious alternative to rule by unelected regulators. We already have reviews of everything else under the sun on Google, Amazon, Yelp, Zagat, Consumer Reports, and the like. Some of these reviewers we trust with life and death decisions, like Consumer Reports' car safety ratings. So just do the same for those codes that are truly crucial (e.g. fire codes), by allowing different certification authorities to compete. Maybe you start by expanding the domain of the Palo Alto and Mountain View fire departments such that they overlap, and a certification from either is sufficient to do business such that you get some competition into the mix. With just a little bit of choice, you'll suddenly see much more reasonable and cost-conscious behavior from regulators.

  [1] I know it's "the law". But there are unjust laws.
  [2] http://www.mv-voice.com/news/show_story.php?id=2260
  [3] http://hotellaw.jmbm.com/2010/06/ada_defense_lawyer_implications.html
  [4] http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x596769962/New-ADA-access-rules-may-scuttle-swimming-at-some-hotels



"1. Sprinklers and fire exits? Arguably necessary."

"Arguably"? No, they're absolutely necessary. It's a multi-tenant building. Why should my property and livelihood be threatened by your inability (or lack of desire) to follow the fire code?

"2. ADA compliant bathrooms and wheelchair ramps? Not part of a reasonable MVP[1]."

A reasonable MVP should include the ability for a social, interactive space to be inclusive. And sorry, it's not the same as a startup deciding what features to include in their initial launch (which arguably happened a long time ago - this, now, is when the details need to be nailed down). Oh, and the ADA is Federal Law, precisely because of businesses and such that felt that discriminating against a subset of the populace was an "acceptable" omission (for their "MVP" or otherwise).

"3. As for "building permits", they are just a tax by the local government"

That they are. Building permits are a method of more fairly distributing the cost of amenities and public services. You have ongoing property taxes for maintenance and upkeep, but a development may trigger a review - is water, power, sewage, traffic control, parking, adequate? Such reviews cost money. I'm confused though, how you then chose to quote an out-of-context example about "some" (unnamed) cities choosing to root out code violations - something not entirely the same, and actually largely designed to find people who have chosen to skirt their community obligations by not using the permit process.

For the record? I'm absolutely for the Hacker Dojo and wish more existed around here (and / or that I had the time / ability to found one).

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http://mv-voice.com/news/show_story.php?id=5207

  The city also began pressing for more codes to be met. 
  Weekly rattled off what appear to be significant costs: 
  $150,000 to make three bathrooms compliant with the 
  American Disabilities Act, $130,000 for fire sprinklers, 
  and potentially thousands more in building permit fees and 
  other improvements. 

  "They want us to commit to a traffic study, build concrete 
  walls around the dumpster and have the landlord re-slope 
  the driveways," Weekly said. 

  City staff said that it hasn't been determined whether the 
  building has adequate exits and parking. 

  City officials say code enforcement officers saw the Dojo 
  advertising events online that would exceed the Dojo's 49-
  person occupancy limit for a building without fire 
  sprinklers.
As I said, it always starts with things optimized for optics like fire alarms (who could be against that?), but the moment you start digging you get the requirements for "traffic studies" and "concrete-enclosed dumpsters".

----

ORIGINAL POST:

Well, I think we're at a basic philosophical impasse here. I'd argue that you probably have never dealt with the details of the regulatory process, and that if you did, you might feel differently; regulations are by their nature safety or security theater, optimized for optics. Most of the startups who've encountered specific regulations (Uber, AirBnB, Square, among them) tend to be much more skeptical of their wisdom than the public at large.

But, even more deeply, we don't want to live in the same societies.

You don't want to live in a place where crazy hackers can pack 50 people into an area zoned for 49, or have a building without a wheelchair-accessible bathroom. Stated in a less flip way, you don't want to be on the hook for the risks taken by others, and you want to force them to comply with certain cultural mores that you consider the basics of civilized society.

By contrast, I don't want to live in a place where other people can impose irrational regulations without concern for practicality, cost, or consequences. I don't want to live in a place where other people aren't content with making their own places wheelchair-accessible, but want to impose their own ethical code on me as well, via fines and DOJ sweeps, among other mechanisms.

Ultimately a lot of this boils down to population density and the extent to which someone can choose risk freely on their own. I'm very skeptical about the necessity of the ADA and cynical about the regulators enforcing the building permits process; you are not. I believe that government should be focused more on preventing actual crimes than doing sweeps for ADA violators; you may believe the lack of said accommodations to be discrimination, and therefore a reasonable priority for the federal government. So I think we'll have to just agree to disagree here.

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The other day I went past the República Cromañon on the bus. The street in front of it has finally been reopened. It's been closed ever since 196 music fans were burned to death because its operators thought the fire regulations were "safety theater", and chained shut the emergency exits.

You can compare the death tolls from similar earthquakes in places that have effective earthquake building codes (like Chile) and places that don't (like Haïti). That's not "theater". That's hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, prevented.

Fire used to be a major killer in the US, a century ago, far more than violent crime ever has been. People were routinely killed in panicked stampedes out of burning, or supposedly burning, theaters. Fire codes have reduced fire deaths to a tiny fraction of what they used to be.

I don't think this is a "basic philosophical impasse". I think you're just not aware of the relevant facts. Maybe if you're aware of them and just choose to ignore them, that's sort of "philosophical", in the sense that you're being insufficiently philosophical, perhaps even misosophical.

I strongly support my friends at Hacker Dojo who are undertaking the necessary improvements, and I encourage you to support them too, by donating money if possible.

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A century ago, people also lit Christmas trees with candles (electric Christmas lights were not widely available until 1903).

Here's the thing about 'relevant facts': you could each have a mountain of them (the same mountain, even): and still reach diametrically opposing conclusions, precisely because this is a philosophical debate.

As with most political debates, this one can easily be reduced to two schools of thought: either the individual exists for themselves, wherein the highest moral value is liberty, or the individual exists at the behest of society, wherein the highest moral value is servitude.

In the case of the latter, it is a part of society's mandate to protect itself from the individual. The only question becomes, how far do you go? As evidenced by this thread, intelligent people can disagree about what is reasonable or necessary.

Science/<Deity> help us if we continue our relentless march toward democracy, where the answer to that question increasingly derives from society's lowest common denominator.

Edit: Exposition/self-indulgent philosophizing.

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I think individual human beings have inherent moral value, but "society" and the state do not. Contrary to your assertions, this does not entail that there should be no enforced fire codes. Enforced fire codes have proven to be a relatively inexpensive and highly effective way to preserve large numbers of individual human beings from horrible deaths. Even when they illuminate their Christmas trees with candles.

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Don't forget positive liberty. The gilded age had copious negative liberty but very very low positive liberty. Democracy is definitely not the answer, but libertarianism is probably the greatest political threat to civilization as a whole at the moment. Meritocracy is the right course, the government needs to be stronger and needs to enshrine positive liberty as a human right.

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I don't think you understand. In this debate, it's only possible to take one of two positions: put another way, either you believe people should be controlled, or you believe people should be free.

I have a fundamental disagreement with the premise of 'positive' vs. 'negative' liberty, because it conflates separate, unrelated issues (as a corollary, I also reject the notion that anything someone else has to provide for you can be considered a 'human right').

And let's not forget that the Gilded Age also saw the rise of labor unions. See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmzZ8lCLhlk, especially the last 2.5 minutes.

In my opinion, the only acceptable definition of 'liberty' in a political context would be something like 'one's ability to live free of coercion and violence from others'.

Since this necessarily extends to everyone, not just me, a free society therefore requires a strong judicial system, not only to protect persons and property from physical harm, but to prevent things like fraud, collusion, or any other activity that deprives an individual of life, liberty, or property absent their informed, uncoerced consent.

Believe it or not, if such a society existed, providing equal protection under the law, it would certainly be superior to what we have in the US today (consider that no one went to jail during the banking crisis, despite the number of laws [especially fraud laws] broken).

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Equal justice under the law is one component of positive liberty.

The gilded age saw the rise of Marxism and labour unions precisely because the super-rich domination of the world was so depraved, complete, and horrible.

A recognition of positive liberty is very very basic to understanding the human condition. Without access to food, water, shelter for every child, no concept of liberty is possible. The positive/negative liberty concept is important precisely because it exposes the stupidity of the 100% classical liberal approach, which HAS been tried and HAS failed.

The job of the state is to improve human lives, not to conform to some stupid dead ideology that is making a modern resurgence because propaganda has become so very ubiquitous and powerful.

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Yeeeahhh... you didn't watch the video, did you?

Also, false. The founding fathers were pretty explicit about what our inalienable rights were. Food, clothing, and shelter do not number among them.

Again, you have you realize that, philosophically, the assertion you're making is that the government has the right and duty to take from one group of people, and give to another. Once you make that okay, well... here we are now.

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You really don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

I don't give a shit about the founding fathers. I am philosophically asserting that positive liberty is a legitimate philosophical concept, a worthwhile concept, and in fact I believe that the widespread adoption of the value of "positive liberty" will be the next ideological step forward for humanity.

The bridge between our species right now and our species in a Star Trek future is our recognition of positive liberty as a human right.

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> You really don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Hahahahaha. Oohhh, but I do, because I've debated your kind more times than I care to count. It's you who doesn't have the wit to see we're talking past each other, again, due to differing philosophical premises. The difference is, at least on an intellectual level, I understand the premises underpinning your philosophy (provably erroneous though they may be), whereas you're not even capable of understanding mine.

> I don't give a shit about the founding fathers.

Welp, if you live in the US, you might consider finding a new country of residence, as they're the guys who set down the rules for this one.

> I am philosophically asserting that positive liberty is a legitimate philosophical concept

Are you familiar with the term 'cognitive dissonance'? As soon as you assert that the government's responsibility is to provide for the 'greater good', you lose all practical constraints on its power, and end up in a society like the one we have now, with eminent domain [1], civil asset forfeiture [2], the war on drugs, the war on terror, indefinite detention, etc., etc.

> The bridge between our species right now and our species in a Star Trek future is our recognition of positive liberty as a human right.

Riiiighhht... because governments are known to do such a great job at tasks that don't involve breaking things and killing people. Hell, even space travel (a product of the Cold War, let's not forget) is now being primarily taken up by the private sector.

"This post brought to you by Statism: ideas so good, they have to be mandatory." [3]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London [2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJd4Q4u5cqU [3] https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-InolyZZdONU/UACaMEHsPmI/A...

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Do you have trouble understanding that other people have different opinions than you?

I'm fully aware that I'm a statist. You think I don't know this?

To say that statism is philosophically indefensible is complete bullshit. Tons of philosophers have defended it and it's very much alive and well. Statism remains the most popular form of government in the world. Statism has produced the greatest governments in history.

In conclusion, I think it's quite sad that you don't even realize people like me exist. You seem to think that my existence as a calm, confident, well-informed statist is somehow impossible.

You really don't seem to be listening to me. How many times do I have to say that I find the arguments in favour of statism and positive liberty to be convincing and valid?

Honestly, classical liberalism has been tried and it is bullshit. It was a good idea in its time but we have surpassed it. There are better forms of government.

Also, I don't give a shit about the founding fathers and I'm under no obligation to. They were smart back in their day but now they are old and dusty and should go die. Humanity must progress.

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Well, as I said, it always starts with things like fire codes and then goes from there to spending tens of thousands on traffic studies. $15,000 for fire alarms might be ok. $150,000 for wheelchair accessible bathrooms is, in my view, overkill. They charge $100/month; that would mean at least 125 memberships just to pay for the bathrooms.

But, just taking your specific example for a second, that actually seems to argue in favor of my point that these regulations are safety theater...because the Cromanon people received a permit!

  www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/world/americas/21briefs-7MEMBERSOFBA_BRF.html?_r=1

  ...evidence showed that the club was given a permit 
  although it lacked basic measures like fire extinguishers.
A permit was issued, but the place wasn't safe. So that argues in favor of the concept that it was safety theater. Just like how the TSA doesn't actually protect against terrorism, it just tries to appear like it does.

As for the next move, this is a Rorschach test. One response is to increase the stringency of the regulation, indirectly fining all other businesses for the Cromanon incident. An alternative response is to penalize the regulators involved, in the same way that Arthur Andersen paid a penalty for giving a thumbs up on Enron.

The key difference is whether there is one government regulator or many distributed and competing reviewers. If there is only one regulator, the inevitable result of any terrible incident will be to monotonically ratchet up regulations on everyone, TSA style, with the only concern being PR and no heed for costs. Alternatively, if there is competition among reviewers, then that organically leads to an ongoing assessment of whether a particular rule is worth the costs or not.

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The point of the codes isn't to fit it into the Hacker Dojo's budget. The point of the codes is to make buildings safe, accessible, etc. I'm sure every business would like to not pay for wheelchair accessible bathrooms if they could get away with it - calling it a 'MVP' or just not being able to afford it. That is no excuse to not making your place accessible and safe.

How are we even debating this? Do we really think people in wheelchairs shouldn't be able to use the bathroom? Pretty much every fire/accessibility regulation seems like something I'd want from every building I step foot in.

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The numbers matter. Look at the article above (http://mv-voice.com/news/show_story.php?id=5207).

They were quoted a charge of $150,000 to add three wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. Do you think that is really the best use of money at inception? Can't they say "we'll add that when we get to 1000 members, we can't afford it right now, please go to the Starbucks next door, here's a map"?

It's pretty damn hard to raise $150k. That is easily more than a year's income, after tax, for a highly paid engineer in the Bay Area. Even with national publicity from the New York Times they've raised about $50k. And it's sort of difficult to raise $150k for the bathrooms.

This is a gold-plated feature for a garage group without money, it's not a reasonable early feature. And that's before the traffic studies, concrete enclosed dumpsters, and other things the city wants. The ironic thing is that several people in this thread support the regulations while also saying things like:

  For the record? I'm absolutely for the Hacker Dojo and 
  wish more existed around here (and / or that I had the 
  time / ability to found one).
But the reason that more don't exist around here is the price tag: more than $250k for a simple coworking space that attracts negative attention from city bureaucrats. For comparison, that is 22X the average YCombinator investment.

We must thank god YC itself hasn't attracted their attention. I guess pg could pay them off now, but might have been touchy in the early days.

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Asian slums are one product I'd rather not import. Your attitude will turn back the clock on civilization. You want to revert to slums, workhouses, child labour, the crushing poverty of indentured servitude. Your approach was tried before and found lacking.

Human life and dignity is more important than saving silicon valley a few dollars.

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Cromañon was issued permits because the regulations weren't enforced, because the city government was corrupt. How is that an argument for not having or not enforcing the regulations?

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>Most of the startups who've encountered specific regulations (Uber, AirBnB, Square, among them) tend to be much more skeptical of their wisdom than the public at large.

What a surprise, the people whom the regulations prevent from making more money are less convinced about their wisdom than the people whom those regulations are ostensibly designed to protect.

>you want to force them to comply with certain cultural mores that you consider the basics of civilized society.

I would imagine that there are certain cultural mores you consider to be the basics of civilized society that you're okay with forcing people to comply with. Like, say, the illegality of stealing.

>I don't want to live in a place where other people aren't content with making their own places wheelchair-accessible, but want to impose their own ethical code on me as well, via fines and DOJ sweeps, among other mechanisms.

What if I were to say, "I don't want to live in a place where other people aren't content with allowing black people in their restaurant, but want to impose their own ethical code on me as well." It's certainly a bit of an exaggeration, since it doesn't cost you anything to allow black people in your restaurant whereas a wheelchair accessible bathroom does, but quite obviously this isn't as black and white (no pun intended) as you make it out to be.

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To my mind, regulators could effectively issue recommendations but that should be where their power stops. If you do not want to have sprinklers and fire exits, it should be your responsibility, and your responsibility as a person entering that building to understand the risks of being there - and refuse to enter/stay inside if you think the lack of sprinklers/fire exits is posing you a serious concern.

And you mentioned it is a multi-tenant building - then why has this issue not been a major problem until now with the other tenants?

Same with wheelchair ramps and all. This is part of the "inclusive" madness nowadays, where you have to satisfy all human beings on Earth and make sure you do not discriminate anyone. Life is about choices, and choice is a nice word for discrimination. If the hacker dojo does not want to include wheelchair ramps and all, they are losing out on talented handicapped members who could benefit the whole community. And that's they choice/their problem. It's not up to the State to say what choices they should make. And when you start like that, then you should also have doors with indications for blind people, and bumps of the floor for blind people to follow when they walk and so on. It never ends when you start considering "EVERYONE ON EARTH" as a potential client/customer of your space.

And "Federal Law" does not justify anything. Before the official Law authorized Slavery and other monstrous things, the "Law" does not make anything right in moral terms.

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>your responsibility as a person entering that building to understand the risks of being there - and refuse to enter/stay inside if you think the lack of sprinklers/fire exits is posing you a serious concern.

I'd rather read an impenetrable 10 page EULA than examine an entire building (with absolutely no expertise) for the possibility that it might kill me.

Maybe a compromise would be that the inspectors would show up, do their code inspection, then put a big sign lined in blinking red neon on every external door that says every single thing that's wrong with the building, how it doesn't care about the disabled or whether you burn to death.

Could even become trendy amongst the laissez-faire set.

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This putting-up-signs thing has happened in a way, and we know how this turns out. In some rural areas there are places where the fire brigade is not paid for through local taxes, homeowners have to contract individually with the fire services to come.

When a homeowner has a fire put but failed to pay the firemen the fire brigade does come out, makes sure that the inhabitants are safe, and then lets the house burn down and makes sure that is does not spread to the neighbors, who have paid for fire service.

Next thing that happens, everyone hates on the fire brigade because they did not put out the fire. People need to be prevented from shooting themselves in the feet.

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Well if they did not pay for the fire brigade, what do they expect ?? It's like wanted the cake without paying the bill. I do not see anything shocking in your story. If I do not pay for a service, for an insurance, I am not supposed to get the benefit from it. It's perfectly natural.

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This attitude doesn't conform to observed practice. Every time this happens people from that community come out, saying the firemen should have stepped up even though that party did not pay. There seems to be a feeling that we are our brother's keeper.

(There's also the other problem that when someone's house burns down, such a person will likely become a ward of the state, and that can't be allowed to happen. That's why in some countries it's mandatory to carry fire insurance.)

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there is a vanishingly small percentage of establishments for which is makes economic sense to be accessible to various forms of handicapped people. the federal ada laws are a way of spreading the cost of catering to the disabled across all of society, rather than concentrating it on the heads of the disabled themselves.

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No, you need the codes. The world is not just you. If your building starts blazing, it's not going to just stop. Those people called firemen have to go and stop it, put themselves at greater risk by saving your rickety building before it destroys the buildings of others that did bother to follow codes. Now the firemen have to go, the ER gets full, etc all because you didn't think much of the regulations. Now, we the tax-payors have to foot the bill and the firemen potential male unnecessary sacrifice, etc. You can't pawn off safety as assumed risk because society has to deal with the repercussions (you can get out paying by just going bankrupt or shooting yourself, whatever but we still have to pay).

Now, I think for Hacker Dojo, there potentially is a bit of unfairness going on but this is about a larger point.

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I dont agree with your point. You fail to understand several things. I believe that when you have a building you need to be insured on your property, right ? Then, the lack of proper fire safety devices in your building should raise the risk on your property, and therefore raise significantly the cost of your building insurance. Should your building burn in flames and spread around, damaging a few other buildings around, your insurance would cover the costs (just like your car insurance covers the costs when you injure a 3rd party in an accident). On top of that, the surrounding property owners could sue you for financial reparations for lost opportunities (business, rent, etc...) for which you would have to pay.

In the end, anyway, the insurance contract would cover most of the damage costs. That's why insurance systems exist and are usually mandatory. And the free market should reflect the cost of having no fire protection in your property. Net, you would not need to have regulations to enforce that, the costs themselves would probably entice you to get at least minimum fire protection, based on the insurances recommendations.

Seriously, most people seem to be believe that regulations have existed forever and that civilization was born with it. On the contrary, the amount of regulations we deal with nowadays is a very recent thing in History, and most people lived before with other systems in place to ensure their safety without the need of Big-Ass Governments.

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Not to be mean but I don't think you have any idea whst you're talking about. Lawsuit is your answer? Really? So you damage my priority, now I have to get a lawyer to sue you. You file bankruptcy or kill yourself, I'm now left holding the bag.

Insurance? Really, insurance? If you don't like building codes, who says you're going to get insurance?

What if you start getting behind on your bills? Now I'm left holding the bag again.

Your argument is a strawman. No one says governments have always existed and civilization could nor have existed without them. That's stupid, why say that? It's a fact that things were much more dangerous and more likely to be fatal before regulations that enforce minimum safety standards. So yeah, civilization would exist, it would just be more dangerous. What a silly argument.

Also, if what you said was true about this magical insurance compliance then there wouldn't be any buildings in active use that don't conform to minimum safety because we have this free market with perfect actors that pay their bills or some such nonesense.

Now, the second thing, how is your magic lawsuit/insurance fix going to bring back the dead? Or do they have to stay dead due to your rickety building because that's one thing the magic free market can't do.

Come on this is hard to take seriously, and yet I'm accused of not understanding the issues.

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Most startup offices don't have wheelchair ramps. Just take a tour of the offices on castro street, home of startups like Mozilla, Meebo, and Outright. Most of those buildings have restaurants on the ground floor and offices on the 2nd floor. Most of these offices don't have ADA complaint bathrooms either.

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What happens if you've got an office with 15 people and then one becomes disabled, or a strong candidate (who you'd otherwise hire) is disabled? Retrofitting may or may not be feasible; moving offices sucks. I'd be tempted to do wfh/offsite, but that may not be adequate for ADA reasons or civil lawsuits.

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Did you know that governments aren't businesses? You're applying principles of making money to governments. Governments ARE NOT there to make money. They are there to serve the public interest. Concepts like profit and minimum viable product do not apply.

Governments are good and they exist for a reason. You are arguing in support of all kinds of unsafe, unenlightened, harmful, discriminatory practices all under the heading of "it's not profitable" which is complete bullshit. The government is not there for the sake of your profit. They are there to protect the interests of the public. It's not okay for a business to just tell the disabled to fuck off, or to create a situation where a fire will result in mass deaths. Living in a civil society means you have obligations to your fellow citizens, you have an obligation to install sprinklers so you don't kill people and burn down the block and an obligation to be inclusive of those who are different.

Your entire post is nothing but a selfish, narrow-minded rant in support of your own short-sighted bottom line. You would happily destroy any semblance of civilization if it increased your income by some tiny fraction. That is not enlightened, that is pathetic short-sighted selfishishness.

You are the dark side of entrepreneurialism. The entrepreneur who wants the disabled to be excluded because serving them isn't profitable. The slumlord who thinks it's fine to let his property be a fire hazard because he "owns" it.

Your "ownership" and "private property" is nothing but a social construct designed specifically to promote the greater good. Your property rights are not a natural law, they were created by the government, gifted by the government, enforced by the government.

With an attitude like that, you will seriously bring back Marxism. This country is already seeing a violent backlash against selfish, destructive, short-sighted greedy business owners who blame the government for everything. With that rhetoric people are going to start wanting to guillotine Silicon Valley, since Wall Street is up on the chopping block already.

Tech people are supposed to be socially conscious. We're supposed to be political animals who care about our communities and the progress of civilization. This ignorant railing against the government is nothing but people who never studied the Gilded age, back when your laissez-faire capitalism was demonstrated and failed. These regulations are there because the market does not solve certain issues. Grow the fuck up and realize you're living in a society full of many people and there are human interests that trump your profit-motive.

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Your post completely ignores the point ramanujan was making, and merely makes vague emotional appeals to the reader.

"Won't someone think of the children?"

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Actually, my post just gets at the heart of his comment. I am not fooled by his surface level criticism. I am seeing through to the underlying motivation that presents this kind of highly deceptive bullshit.

There are many problems in the world. People who make it their business to attack governments for supporting wheelchair access and fire-codes are engaging in a special kind of evil.

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> 2. ADA compliant bathrooms and wheelchair ramps? Not part of a reasonable MVP[1]. What if every website "had to" be readable in Braille and multiple tongues on day one, before one had the revenue to pay for that sort of thing?

I could NOT disagree with this more strongly. It is simply NOT acceptable to discriminate against people or exclude them, and it would NOT be acceptable to create a website that isn't readable with a screen-reader. What do you mean by "readable in braille"? I suspect you have little notion as to what making things accessible really entails.

As for the larger point: this is the law. Whether you agree with it or not, every single office has to comply with this. Why should these guys get an exception just because you like what they're doing? How could the city possibly justify giving them an exemption and not every Tom Dick and Harry that asks for one after that point?

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>>ADA compliant bathrooms and wheelchair ramps? Not part of a reasonable MVP

>I could NOT disagree with this more strongly. It is simply NOT acceptable to discriminate against people or exclude them

If that was the law, then Edinburgh Hacklab[1] wouldn't be able to exist, at least on its present premises. This would not help any wheelchair users, but it would harm non-wheelchair users. if a law helps no-one and harms plenty, it's a bad law.

Come to think of it, it would also be necessary to demolish and rebuild most of Edinburgh Old Town to comply with an everywhere-wheelchair-accessible policy. I do not regard this as practical.

1: http://edinburghhacklab.com/

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Pretty sure the laws in the UK don't apply retroactively, but just state that new builds have to be accessible, which is hard to argue against.

> if a law helps no-one and harms plenty, it's a bad law

True, but you're picking a single example unfairly. You could make this claim about any building and accessibility - "if we have to make it accessible or get rid of it, we'll get rid of it, then no one is helped". You're missing that the law provides an overwhelming incentive for buildings to be accessible (after all, not everyone is going to pick the "fine we won't build it then" option). Without this law, far fewer buildings would be accessible, which definitely would harm wheelchair users.

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> it would NOT be acceptable to create a website that isn't readable with a screen-reader

Let's imagine a website with... infographics like http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/ If it was a commercial website, should the government intervene? Maybe make them buy or make a special font to create their chartslike https://www.fontfont.com/how-to-use-ff-chartwell instead of using images? No? How is it different from a special lift to the pool?

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Over a certain threshold, the government can and does intervene. Accessibility lawsuits against large internet retailers are not uncommon, and whining that it's all about the images doesn't cut it. Of course, if no-one uses the website, no-one cares.

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There's clearly no necessity to make a site about pretty images accessible to the blind. But that's a straw man akin to asking about how running shoes should be optimized for the legless.

>How is it different from a special lift to the pool?

Because lots of people in wheelchairs swim, and some people just go to the pool to float?

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All of which ignores my first point that the owners of Hacker Dojo failed to do their due diligence here. IANAL (neither a lawyer nor a libertarian) but a couple hours with the right lawyer perusing their lease upfront and none of this would be happening because either the lease would have been amended to let them off of it in the case of this sort of event or they'd have been told to walk away and build this somewhere else.

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With all due respect, I don't believe it ignores it; see for example this snippet:

  In my experience, even the best design professionals   
  typically have an inadequate knowledge of all of the 
  accessibility standards. And local building official 
  approvals provide no protection against accessibility 
  violations.
If you've worked on large construction projects, you'll find that municipalities vary greatly in what they decide to enforce and how they decide to enforce it. It's not always predictable up front, and in this case as in many others, it changes over time [1]:

  The Dojo, which is used as an office and collaborative 
  space by 300 programmers who pay a $100 monthly fee, has 
  been open since late 2009. Until last fall, Dojo board 
  members say city officials had been relatively permissive 
  as the Dojo operated without building permits in an 
  industrial garage space, and was welcomed by some 
  officials as a sort of incubator for tech start-ups. 
The key to avoiding regulation is to avoid attention from city government:

  "We had a small celebration, but it wasn't a big, crazy 
  celebration" Weekly said. "That kind of pushed them over 
  the line. They were starting to see us as a commercial 
  event space." 

  ..  

  The city also began pressing for more codes to be met. 
  Weekly rattled off what appear to be significant costs: 
  $150,000 to make three bathrooms compliant with the 
  American Disabilities Act, $130,000 for fire sprinklers, 
  and potentially thousands more in building permit fees and 
  other improvements. 

  The Dojo also lacks a required fire alarm, which could 
  cost $15,000. Without one, city officials say they'll seek 
  the closure of the Dojo by the end of the month.

  "They want us to commit to a traffic study, build concrete 
  walls around the dumpster and have the landlord re-slope 
  the driveways," Weekly said. 

  City staff said that it hasn't been determined whether the 
  building has adequate exits and parking. 

  City officials say code enforcement officers saw the Dojo 
  advertising events online that would exceed the Dojo's 49-
  person occupancy limit for a building without fire 
  sprinklers.
And this is all imposed with no regard for costs:

  The Dojo has had to cancel numerous money-raising events 
  and classes that easily attract more than 49 people. "Our 
  membership is down considerably" without the classes, said 
  Weekly. "We lost dozens of members. We had classes on 
  machine learning and Android programming."

  Also cancelled was a job fair in which employers and job 
  seekers switch roles: programmers sit at tables presenting 
  their work to potential employers who make the rounds. 

  "We've gotten dozens of people hired from these," Weekly 
  said. The event brings in up to 150 people and "raises a 
  good chunk of change. But we can't run it this year and 
  these people can't get hired."
Again, it always starts with reasonable sounding stuff (fire alarms) and then you start getting Mountain View asking you to burn money on traffic studies and building walls around the dumpster.

  Weekly said the Dojo has enough money -- $15,000 -- to put in fire alarms.

  "We just wish they would take into account the reality of 
  the situation," he said. "What I don't think they realize 
  is this is a volunteer-run nonprofit. We don't have 
  millions of dollars coming out of our ears because we are 
  affiliated with numerous computer-related things."
[1] http://mv-voice.com/news/show_story.php?id=5207

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The great thing about the issues that you raise here is that they can be impacted by voting for city council members who are more supportive of startups. I'm not familiar with city politics in Mountain View, but maybe if the community got behind candidates who were in favor of relaxing these restrictions there could be some change there.

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Isn't that backwards? I'm in favor of making things easier for startups in most cases but here, I feel like people should bias towards making things safer and more accessible, even if that means a bunch of startups can't find a place.

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This is quite possibly the least informed comment I have ever seen on HN, and that says a lot.

In other words: give these guys an inch and they'll take a mile, asserting their author-it-ay the whole way. It always starts with something reasonable sounding (fire codes) and then moves to incentivizing the government for uncovering more violations and more fines. And it's very hard to figure out all the violations ahead of time [3]:

This is a flat-out lie. Building codes are written for the sole purpose of guaranteeing minimum safety standards in a jurisdiction. The reason that California has such stringent building codes is that California is the most earthquake-prone state in the nation. Our building codes may increase the initial upfront cost of building, but they are estimated to have saved billions yearly in prevented property damage and loss of life. Compare, for example, the typical yawn that Californians give to a Richter-4 earthquake to the devastation that similar-strength quakes have had in Mexico, Europe, Asia, and (ironically enough) the U.S. East Coast.

The ADA exists to make sure that all people have access to a building open to the public (it does not apply to buildings which are not open to the public). This generally means any business. The civil enforcement provisions may be overzealous, but they were also added in because they were once necessary.

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Speaking of uninformed comments, weren't you the guy pounding his chest as a lawyer about how no companies actually take international tax law into account, who then got tooled when the Double Irish was pointed out?

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3565426

You were colossally wrong about something ostensibly in your domain of expertise, and then too you said something similar ["I do international tax for a living. I laughed so hard at this line I started crying."].

You seem to thus have a history of making hostile, bold, unsubstantiated statements. OP might be wrong, but at least provides links and argument. You simply cite the ADA at its word, while conceding en passant that enforcement might be "overzealous" [ya think?].

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What the hell kind of comment is this? "Weren't you that guy that got burned on that other thread"? Weren't you the tax lawyer who was wrong about tax law? What is that even supposed to mean? Don't write things like this here. Agree, disagree, loathe, whatever, but leave emotions from unrelated past threads in the past.

A debate about international tax law with a tax lawyer on a thread about fire codes?

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Lol. No, in fact you were the one who tried to "tool" me.

You attempted to point out that: Well, if you are an international tax lawyer, obviously moves like the Double Irish show that the base of incorporation matters quite a bit: which is not true.

The Double Irish is a matter of where a company is headquartered, which has a distinct legal meaning that is not the same thing as a company's "base" of operations. The difference: headquarters = management; base = actual business activities.

The double irish takes advantage of a peculiarity of Irish law (which no longer exists in its original form) that did not impose income taxes on companies incorporated in Ireland but HQ'd in another nation. This loophole has since been closed (but companies taking advantage of it were grandfathered to prevent them from leaving Ireland). A variation of the Double Irish is still feasible today, but generally does not offer the same benefits as the original Double Irish.

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Look, you were just wrong, and you know you were wrong. The substance of your comment was that multinationals just consider tax a cost of doing business, and that new taxes alone wouldn't motivate them to consider moving operations overseas.

That's flatly wrong. The distinction between US and Irish tax code is and was indeed highly material. And one you were not aware of, despite being an "international tax lawyer". Moreover, the Double Irish is by no means the only workaround. Microsoft has a pretty sweet thing going with Puerto Rico:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/28/microsoft-tax-haven...

And there's a lot more where that came from:

http://www.businesspundit.com/25-corporations-that-pay-less-...

Clearly there actually are a myriad of strategies which multinationals can use to minimize their tax bill by exploiting differences between countries, and even more clearly those countries with the most favorable tax regimes are the ones chosen as places to expand. Which is exactly the phenomenon whose existence you denied:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3565426

So tell me this: why anyone would want to engage you as an "international tax lawyer" if you don't have the knowledge to actually, y'know, help them minimize their tax bill?

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Clearly there actually are a myriad of strategies which multinationals can use to minimize their tax bill by exploiting differences between countries, and even more clearly those countries with the most favorable tax regimes are the ones chosen as places to expand. Which is exactly the phenomenon whose existence you denied:

I said nothing of the sort, and HN can read the comment you linked. My comment claimed only that taxes not being the primary motivating factor for locating a business, because they are not. I do not deny the existence of favorable tax regimes, because I have helped clients use them, but (and this is the important part), only the non-operating, "holding" companies can take advantage of most of these favorable tax regimes. The actual operating, money-earning entities generally are located in the actual country of operating, regardless of taxes. (See for example, any holding company structure, including the Double Irish, in which an "IP holding company" is located in Ireland, HQ'd in the Caymans, and licenses the IP to the actual money-earning entities.)

So tell me this: why anyone would want to engage you as an "international tax lawyer" if you don't have the knowledge to actually, y'know, help them minimize their tax bill?

Last year, I helped a variety of client reduce their global tax liablity by roughly 28-35%, on average. And that's they key: global tax liability. My job is to look at the final numbers. Accepting a higher local tax rate (i.e., losing one battle) is sometimes necessary to achieve a lower total global liability (i.e., winning the war).

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It sucks that you feel the need to reply to comments like that.

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