March 1, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Taxicab Kickbacks Outlawed In Santa Monica:

Customers of taxi drivers and hired drivers at local businesses, such as hotels, in Santa Monica may not have known the vehicle they were accessing may have bribed someone for their business.

That will change after the city council’s meeting at Santa Monica City Hall on Sept. 27., as Santa Monica businesses may no longer accept money from hired drivers and allow them preferential access to potential customers in return.

The commonly affected businesses include hotels, night clubs, and restaurants.

A few taxi drivers pleaded with council members at the Sept. 27 meeting to end graft-like conditions at the various establishments they serve in Santa Monica. The taxi drivers alleged doormen, bellhops, or other associate accepted cash from a hired driver in order to gain access to traveling customers ahead of Santa Monica-licensed taxicabs, many of whom apparently awaited those same customers.

“When patrons of a hotel, restaurant, night club, or other business establishment need a taxicab or other vehicle-for-hire, they frequently will request the service through a doorman, bellhop, bartender or other employee of the establishment,” Taxi Franchise Program Coordinator Salvador M. Valles said.

“What the customers do not know is that in some instances the employee of the business is, in effect, selling their trip to the taxicab or other vehicle-for-hire driver in return for monetary compensation. Such practices cause business to go to the companies and drivers that are willing to pay for access to customers, instead of to those that deliver the best service.”

One taxi driver put the situation in simpler terms.

He said many honest taxi drivers, whom are licensed to operate in Santa Monica, are the victims of unfair competition, claiming corruption favoring unlicensed vehicles-for-hire.

“If you don’t pay, you get skipped (for someone who will),” Metro Cab Company driver David Foster told council members. “They (will) call in another company or someone from your company who will pay (money).”

Foster and other taxi drivers outlined a situation where taxicabs are essentially going toe-to-toe with town car-style hired drivers for customers.

At Santa Monica area hotels, for example, taxi drivers customarily line up by the main entrance area to potentially serve guests who seek transportation. When a hotel guest requests a bellhop for taxicab service to the airport, taxi drivers claim the bellhop will pass on them and instead direct the guest to a town car driver. Apparently, the town car drivers are willing to kick back some cash to the bellhops – colloquially referred to as “cookies” – for the privilege to bypass the taxicabs already waiting in front of the hotel.

Foster told council members that, at times, the situation had become rough and taxi drivers had to “run off” the town car drivers, many of whom operate as “de facto taxicabs.” There have been occasions where a taxi driver has waited in a taxi line for as much as an hour for a potential customer, only to be passed up for a town car-style driver who provided a “cookie” to the bellhop or concierge.

“I have every right to be on that property servicing the guests of Santa Monica,” Foster said. “So when the doorman excuses me and gives somebody else a ride because I don’t participate in the crime of giving the bribe, I’m being punished for doing the right thing.

“The people who are doing the wrong thing are being rewarded.”

Taxicabs must be permitted to operate in any given city; the permit allows taxi drivers to wait for customers in taxi lines, be hailed by customers walking on a sidewalk, or be set up by a bellhop or concierge to meet a hotel guest.

De facto taxicabs, or hired town car-style drivers, are not authorized to do any of the above; instead, hired drivers are generally solicited directly from individual customers.

The council hoped by passing the ordinance, regulating the taxicab space in Santa Monica would be a little easier.

“By changing the law in the ways that are recommended here tonight, we’ll be making it illegal on both sides and making this a much easier thing to enforce,” Council member Kevin McKeown said in response to the alleged kickbacks.

Prior to the passage of the ordinance, it was illegal to make the bribe, but not illegal to take the bribe.

Follow The Mirror on Twitter: twitter.com/SMMirror

Follow The Mirror on Facebook: facebook.com/SMMirror

in News
Related Posts

Video: Closing Down Westside Oil Field?

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Officials are discussing closing a Westside oil field sitting on hundreds of acres of prime coastal land. Learn more in...

Pico Neighborhood Affordable Housing Project Breaks Ground

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Over 70 units of affordable housing come to area near Woodlawn Cemetery By Sam Catanzaro A 70-unit-plus affordable housing development...

Large Properties Drive-up Santa Monica Home Sales Amid Pandemic

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Annual report shows single-family home sales rising By Sam Catanzaro Interest in large properties with five-bedrooms or more helped drive-up...

Santa Monica Police Arrest Parolee for Setting Stolen Car on Fire

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

Alex Omar Aguirre arrested by Santa Monica Police Department By Sam Catanzaro A Santa Monica resident this week watched as...

Video: Closing Streets to Allow for More Outdoor Dining?

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

A drunk driver recently crashed into a Santa Monica outdoor dining area, bringing attention to a proposal that would close...

Dozens of Santa Monica Restaurants to Participate in dineL.A.

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

First ‘spring’ season of culinary event to begin first week in March By Kerry Slater Dozens of Santa Monica restaurants...

Video: Free LA Metro Rides Could Begin Soon

February 24, 2021

February 24, 2021

LA Metro could begin offering fare-less rides as early as next year as part of a $300+ million program. Learn...

Danny Trejo’s Tacos Coming to Santa Monica

February 24, 2021

February 24, 2021

Popular restaurant owned by legendary actor coming near Promenade By Kerry Slater Legendary actor Danny Trejo is bringing his popular...

Violent Crime Declining in Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beat – February, 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Violent Crime Declining in Santa Monica * Santa Monica Animal Shelter...

Santa Monica Convicted Felon Indicted for Multiple Firearms Charges After Shooting into Neighbor’s Yard

February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

Jason Walsh faces federal prison time for January 9 incident By Sam Catanzaro A Santa Monica man previously convicted for...

Westside Hotel to Homeless Shelter Sparks Debate

February 21, 2021

February 21, 2021

A proposal to convert a Westside hotel into a homeless shelter has sparked a debate. Learn more in this video...

Housing Backers Start Facing Post-Pandemic Reality

February 21, 2021

February 21, 2021

By Tom Elias, Columnist The mysterious blindness that apparently affected California’s top legislative housing advocates all through 2020 seems to...

Santa Monica Awarded Over $5 Million for Affordable Housing Production

February 21, 2021

February 21, 2021

The California Department of Housing and Community Development has announced two awards to the City of Santa Monica for future...

Asian Woman in Brentwood Verbally Assaulted in Racially Motivated Attack

February 18, 2021

February 18, 2021

While walking near the intersection of Bundy and Montana an Asian woman was verbally assaulted by a man walking his...