CITY HALL — Officials’ planned taxi-cab overhaul, which the City Council had been set to vote on Tuesday night, will have to wait at least a few more months.
The long-studied plan to greatly reduce the number of cabs and cab companies allowed to operate in Santa Monica was pulled from the council’s agenda at the last minute Tuesday for procedural reasons, city officials said.
Deputy City Manager Elaine Polachek said City Hall staff realized the council needed to take two votes, rather than one, on the proposal, under which “franchises” would be awarded to five taxi-cab companies and all other companies would be banned from picking up fares inside the city’s limits. The total number of cabs allowed in the city would be reduced from 463 to 250.
Polachek said the first of two votes on the proposal could not be held Tuesday night because the second vote was required to take place at least 20 days after the first vote, but no more than 60 days after the first vote. With full agendas for two meetings in July and only one meeting planned for August, she said the taxi-cab decision will be delayed until September.
City Hall officials had planned to enact the new rules for cabs in August, but will now likely wait until Jan 1. to roll out the new system, said Don Patterson, Santa Monica’s business and revenue operations manager.
Despite the postponement, by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, about 100 cab drivers had gathered in front of City Hall to protest the proposed franchise system.
Under the proposal, 39 of the 44 companies licensed to operate taxis in Santa Monica would be pushed out of town.
But City Hall officials denied the delay had anything to do with some cab operators’ displeasure with the recommendations for the franchise system.
“We’re standing by the recommendation,” Patterson said. “The recommendation was the result of a detailed, thoughtful process that the committee went through.”
The committee that selected five companies — two of them based in Santa Monica — out of 13 applicants for franchises, was composed of City Hall staff from the finance, police and community and cultural services departments, a Bayside District Corp. staff person and a representative from the city of Los Angeles. The companies recommended to receive franchises are: Bell Cab Co., Independent Taxi Owners Association, Metro Cab Co., Taxi Taxi and Yellow Cab Co.
While the City Council is free to decide which companies should be awarded franchises in September, and how many cabs each should be allowed to operate, Polachek said staff does not plan to re-think its recommendation before then.
“Only the date will change. Nothing will change as far as the recommendation,” she said.