An ordinance before the Santa Monica City Council at its June 22 meeting that would cut the number of allowed taxicabs in the city nearly in half was delayed until this fall. Around one hundred taxicab employees greeted councilmembers and attendees with protest signs and were ready to bombard the dais with testimonials. That enthusiasm will have to wait until the council hears the issue in September.
The decision was postponed for both procedural and scheduling reasons based on a last-minute recommendation from City staff, explained Rod Gould, the city manager.
The city charter requires a two-step process to award any kind franchise in the city. The first step is the adoption of a resolution declaring the intent to hear the matter. This must be followed within 60 days with the actual adoption of the franchise.
“Sorry for the inconvenience for the many people who came down, but we want to do things the right way,” said Mayor Bobby Shriver from the dais.
Looking at the council’s schedule of meetings this summer with the Land Use and Circulation Element and other important matters, Gould explained that his staff found it difficult to find a meeting followed by a second required meeting anytime soon. The earliest the matter could be procedurally address is September, with the second required meeting in October, said Don Patterson, the City’s business and revenue operations manager. This would push implementation of the ordinance back to January 2011.
“We think the public will be well served by the delay,” Gould said. “It will give people plenty of time to be adequately noticed and will allow for plenty of public dialogue on the matter.”
A 2008 study by NelsonNygaard Consulting Associates of taxicab operations in Santa Monica found that the City’s open-entry taxicab permitting system allowed the operation of too many cabs for the market. In July 2009, the Council adopted an ordinance replacing the open-entry permitting system regulating taxicab services in Santa Monica with the franchise system.
This move was aimed at addressing issues of pollution, traffic congestion, parking problems, operating standards, an oversupply of taxicabs in the local market and other effects of the open-entry system. The franchise system limits the number of taxicab companies to no more than eight companies and limits the total number of vehicles in the taxicab fleet to 250.
“The goal of the whole process was the have a high quality and a predictable service of a taxis in Santa Monica,” said Patterson.
Currently, there are 44 taxicab services operating in Santa Monica and a total of 463 taxicabs. The ordinance would trim the number of taxicab services down to five companies with a total of 250 taxicabs (50 each). But that leaves 39 companies banned from picking up customers in the City.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) for citywide taxicab franchises was issued on January 14, with a March 19 response deadline in which only 13 qualified proposals were received – meaning 31 companies did not apply.
Those that did were evaluated based on the criteria of specific emission, mileage standards, and other measurements.
Based on the evaluation, City staff recommends:
• Bell Cab Company
• Independent Taxi Owners Association
• Metro Cab Company
• Taxi Taxi
• Yellow Cab Company
The way the licensing would work is that only these five companies would be allowed to pick up customers in Santa Monica. Any company can drop customers off in Santa Monica if they were picked up elsewhere.
Patterson was quick to clarify that it is only the staff’s recommendation that will allow only five taxicab companies in the city. Ultimately, it is the council’s decision on the exact number of companies allowed to operate.