By Claire Harlin
Random checks, driver appearance guidelines and incentives for environmentally- friendly vehicles are a few highlights of a proposed ordinance introduced May 7 by the Del Mar City Council to establish more stringent regulations for local taxicabs. The ordinance will see a second reading on May 21 and, if adopted, will be become effective on June 20.
The new ordinance follows direction from the council on April 2 to “enhance regulations to provide a better caliber of taxicab service,” according to a city staff report. That direction was the outcome of an original proposal to limit the number of cabs to address parking and traffic issues. But considering the fluctuating need for cabs from season to season, the council determined it would not be in the city’s best interest to dictate how many taxis are in operation. The city also looked into a franchise system, however, staff discovered taxicab franchises would not be allowed under Del Mar’s city charter.
The proposed regulations address both vehicle and operator standards. The ordinance states cabs must have a credit card reader, GPS that is visible to passengers and proper posting of rates on outside doors. As for operators, the ordinance prohibits smoking at any time, and states drivers “must dress in a neat and clean fashion.”
Local cab driver Michael Ross expressed concern that “neat and clean” is not specific enough language. He told the council that in other cities with such regulations, the law spells out specifics on what can and cannot be worn.
City Attorney Leslie Devaney agreed that, from a legal standpoint, “it would probably be better if it was spelled out.”
Mayor Carl Hilliard said “neat and clean is enforceable.”
“It has a meaning that is generally understood,” he said. “If it becomes a problem, then we should at that time be more specific.”
The ordinance states that operators of environmentally-friendly vehicles, as defined by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), will have the taxi operations permit fee and taxicab sticker fee waived for two years. However, Councilman Don Mosier expressed disappointment that there is no timeline regarding environmentally clean vehicles.
“We are at a time when there are a lot more clean vehicles being produced and they are all coming out now,” he said. “While we’ve got this ordinance in front of us, if we want to be a little more active we can make the timetable more firm on cleanliness for taxicabs.”