By Claire Harlin
In an effort to address long-term parking issues, traffic congestion and public complaints, Del Mar city staff on April 2 brought before the City Council a proposal to limit the number of taxicab permits allowed in the city.
The council determined, however, that it should not dictate the number of operating cabs, but instead directed staff to draft an ordinance providing criteria for caliber of cab service. The ordinance would also give the city the right to revoke cab licenses. The council also expressed an interest in giving preference to energy-efficient cab companies.
“I don’t think we need to be regulating the number of taxis,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “It’s OK to have permits regulate the quality of service and give preference to energy issues, but I think the city getting into what’s the right number of taxis per city is not right. I’d rather see the market do that in a natural way.”
The discussion was in response to the council’s July request that city staff explore a franchise system that would limit the number of cabs and begin a competitive proposal process to replace the existing system. Staff discovered, however, that under state law taxicab franchises are generally used when allowed by a city charter, and Del Mar’s city charter doesn’t provide that allowance.
Del Mar currently issues year-long permits, and there is no limit on how many permits are issued. Del Mar has more than 190 active taxis in operation with 25 companies. In a recent report, city staff stated this “excessive amount of taxicabs … results in excessive traffic, noise, pollution and parking problems.”
Last year, the city adopted an emergency ordinance that restricted cabs from parking or stationing in certain areas and established a taxicab stand zone.
Councilwoman Lee Haydu said one of her concerns regarding the number of cabs in the area is that during peak seasons cabs circle the neighborhoods while waiting on pick-ups.
“In the race season we may have 75 circling and that’s not good,” she said.
Councilman Mark Filanc said he would hate to see the community “undercabbed.”
“It provides a valuable service to the community,” he said. “There’s no law against a cab coming into town and driving around.”
The council agreed that there is not a metric for determining the right number of cabs, especially since the need fluctuates from season to season, and from weekend to weekend.