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Public Be Damned: Taxi Drivers Matter More to City Hall Than You

It’s stories like this that remind the newspaper man in me why I love LA, I mean really LOVE.

For pure in-your-face, public-be-damned audacity it’s hard to beat the City Council’s sudden mad rush to lift the ban on taxicabs parking for more than three hours at a time on residential streets.

Campaign money, influence peddling, back room deals — it’s all there between the lines of how a motion by Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl back October 2007 germinated into this assault on our neighborhoods, quality of life and sense of place.

Bans on commercial vehicles parking 232123123.jpgovernight or for long periods of times in front of homes and apartments are routine in cities across the region even in LA. They make sense because of the visual blight of advertising and the limited amount of street parking.

The problem that was brought to the City Council’s attention by Hahn and Rosendah — undoubtedly with the assistance of top lobbyist Ken Spiker Jr. who makes a fortune representing both billboard companies and taxicab operators — is where can taxi drivers park if there’s no off-street parking at their homes.

The council duo acknowledged in their motion that “it makes sense to prohibit” commercial vehicles and their signage from parking in neighborhoods.

“This restriction does not allow the numerous taxicab drivers who live in the City of Los Angeles to park on streets outside their homes during non-working hours. Taxis are no different than any other passenger car or van except for the exterior signage. These hard-working individuals often have no other parking option and it makes no sense to penalize taxi drivers simply because of their livelihood.”

The motion sat dormant for 11 months until last September when Department of Transportation General Manager Rita Robinson reported back to the council that the problem is really non-existent, that city parking enforcement is so lax taxi drivers are rarely cited.

Robinson looked at the parking ticket record of the city’s 2,239 cabs over a three-year period and found they were issued a total of 5,319 parking citations — 705 for parking too long in a residential area.

In fact, 80 percent of the fleet had no such citations; 308 just one, 93 just two, “33 vehicles had three tickets, eight vehicles had four tickets, eight vehicles had five tickets, two
vehicles had six tickets each, one vehicle had seven tickets, one had eight
tickets, and one had 13 tickets.”

That works out to 0.15 tickets per cab per year and only “a very small percentage (2.34%) of total taxi vehicle operators” get one or more tickets a year.

She recommended that her report be filed away and forgotten, saying “It is submitted for informational purposes only and no further action is required.”

But that isn’t what happened. Because 53 taxi drivers have even a once a year problem, the council is moving forward on letting 2,239 taxis to park in residential areas and opening the floodgates to all kinds of commercial vehicles with all kinds of signs getting the same right.

We already have sign trailers standing alone trashing out neighborhoods and 4,000 illegal billboards the city does nothing about and digital billboards going up everywhere and now the city wants to let commercialism invade where we live and our children play and we look out on our trees and gardens.

Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel took the lead back in November by putting the pressure on Robinson for a new report but it didn’t surface until March 12, nine days after she won election as City Controller, the public’s watchdog on city government..

At that meeting, GM Robinson did an about-face and with what reads like the gritted teeth of a politicized bureau recommended that “the City Council direct the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance to amend Los Angles Municipal Code Section 80.69.2 to exempt taxis from restrictions prohibiting commercial vehicles from parking in residential areas for periods exceeding three (3) consecutive hours.”

She reiterated what she reported last September “There had not been a substantial number of these types of citations issued in the past three years, and that allowing this exemption may set a precedence for other types of commercial vehicles requesting this same type of exemption in the future.”

She also reported that she had complied with the council’s orders to survey other cities in the area. “We did not find any city that specifies in their local code that taxicabs may park in
residential areas…Most of the cities surveyed do specifically limit commercial vehicle parking (which includes taxicabs) in residential areas.”

But orders and orders and Robinson parodied the council’s willingness to enact this ordinance by calling for several meaningless conditions.

“They should obey all posted or painted signage and curb markings, including any requirements to obtain permits in preferential parking districts. It is recommended that just one taxicab be allowed the exemption per residence.”

She also noted that bandit taxis would benefit from the ordinance since it would be “discriminatory” to exclude unlicensed cab drivers and that many taxis display advertising on the vehicles.

“It is unknown how local residents will react to the sight of taxis (with advertising) parking for extended periods in their neighborhoods.”

For that line alone with its wry wit, Robinson deserves forgiveness for not telling the council to take this ordinance and shove it.

The community is already taking action in that regard.

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4 Responses to Public Be Damned: Taxi Drivers Matter More to City Hall Than You

  1. in Eagle Rock says:

    The council persons like to take credit for good things and pass blame for bad things to the dept. heads or whoever had the been left standing when the “musical chairs” tune stopped. You might remember over the Christmas holidays that the parking meter rate hikes and hour of operation extension began. When Council came back in January, their hearings in response to the backlog of holiday season complaints of constituents had them acting like the orders were being carried out behind there back. Council made the decisions on parking and that’s was partly to help out fill in cash for the budget deficit.
    Now taxis get poorly handled too, and residents will come out short. There is an approach in the law that is called a balancing test, weighing the benefits against the burdens of whatever is being examined. For a few taxis drivers to cause a city-wide modification sounds a bit disproportionate and I doubt would prevail if any appropriate balancing test happened.
    My CM, Huizar, being a grad of UCLA Law, may have a handle on this idea and should have shown some leadership here. Isn’t that what the CMs constantly state in their praise fir each other during the Friday Dog&Pony shows? Yes, “leadership”
    They could simply have made up a permit/pass for parking that would apply to the few if such action were absolutely necessary for whatever they think is necessary. Instead, by creating modifications on a wholesale level to the city orndinances, they have made a mountain out of a mole hill, carving out an exception for a select few in public transportation.
    You might remember the settlement in the billboard dispute “settled” by the city attorney, also creating distinctions among billboard companies including terms on restricitons describing which companies were subject to restrictions and which were not. Such differences where what led to the court determining that the restrictiions were unenforceable as flawed by the diferential treatment not passing legal muster.
    City council would do well to work on prioritizig what they do and looking into the future for what liability their work may create in actually generating unnecessary litigation due to poor crafting of laws, and here, unneeded laws. But, what else is new?

  2. Kim Kaufman says:

    Don’t see any place to contact you directly. Do you know anything about this privatizing of parking in LA? I think I heard it on KPCC last week. Don’t see how that would save us any money, what with private companies having to look out for the profits for their shareholders. Like your blog.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “It is unknown how local residents will react to the sight of taxis (with advertising) parking for extended periods in their neighborhoods.”
    For that line alone with its wry wit, Robinson deserves forgiveness for not telling the council to take this ordinance and shove it.
    The community is already taking action in that regard.
    I don’t know what you did to make the Councilmembers see common sense, but thanks for that!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This taxi scam issue is not new. Follow the money. Go back a few elections to 2000 and then just follow them down the line.
    It sucks.

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