DOWNTOWN — Despite a temporary restraining order against enacting City Hall’s recently passed taxi cab franchise system, Santa Monica officials will be allowed to move ahead with administrative steps to set up the new system, a Los Angeles County judge ruled last week.
Under the judge’s order, City Hall will be able to conduct background checks on cab drivers, compile its database of cab companies’ fleets and make other preparations to enforce the new law while the temporary restraining order remains in effect.
The ruling, issued by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien, was in a case brought last month by five Armenian-American-owned cab companies that alleges City Hall exhibited racial bias as it picked five franchisees out of a field of 13 applicants. None of the Armenian-American-owned companies was selected.
Attorneys at City Hall have called the allegations baseless and plan to argue the case should be dismissed.
The new franchise system, which had been set to take effect this month, was passed by the City Council in December and would limit the total number of cabs allowed to operate in Santa Monica to 300.
Don Burris, an attorney representing Metro Cab, one of the five chosen companies, said all sides agreed to the arrangement allowing City Hall to proceed with administrative steps before O’Brien issued his order.
He said the agreement showed that “there was a great deal of cooperation between counsel” for both parties.
A hearing to determine whether an injunction against the new taxi cab regulations will be in place while the discrimination lawsuit proceeds has been postponed until Jan. 19. It had been scheduled for Jan. 7.
Burris and other attorneys for the companies that were granted franchises last month requested the delay. The other four companies that received franchises are: Taxi Taxi, Bell Cab Co., Independent Taxi Owners Association and Yellow Cab Co.
The complaint from the plaintiffs, who are represented by the firm Geragos & Geragos, originally named only City Hall, but was later amended to include the five taxi companies that were awarded franchises.
Burris said his client and the other franchisees were included in the lawsuit because they have an interest in its outcome. There is no allegation any of the companies participated in discrimination, he said.
An attorney for the Armenian-American-owned companies could not be reached on Monday.