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New law to regulate taxis

DEL MAR — In response to complaints about traffic and safety from residents and business owners, City Council unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance to regulate taxis, during their July 11 meeting.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, restricts cabs from parking or waiting in any area of the city between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and establishes the four parallel parking spots in front of Jimmy O’s Sports Bar on 15th Street as a dedicated taxi stand zone from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The availability of cabs is important late at night when bars close to prevent alcohol-related collisions and fatalities.
The taxi-zone spaces will be identified with appropriate signage and curb markings. Violators will be fined $43. Cab drivers may stop in any available parking space at any time to load or unload passengers.
Gretchen Crowson, assistant to the city manager, said cab drivers create significant traffic circulation and pedestrian safety issues when they stop, start and make U-turns attempting to solicit fares from people on the sidewalks.
“In addition, taxicabs often wait or stage in public parking stalls for possible fares during the day, and sometimes for hours,” Crowson said. This limits the number of parking spaces for restaurants and retail customers, she said.
Jim Coleman, whose insurance business is on Camino del Mar, said he was highly in support of the new law. “I couldn’t be happier about it,” he said, noting that the problem has grown by huge amounts over the last six months.
Coleman said he has photos of about a dozen taxis taking up parking spaces.
“We all agree, at 10 o’clock when people are staggering out of the bars, we want taxis there for them,” Coleman said.
“What we don’t want are the taxis in front of (the restaurants) at 7 o’clock at night taking up parking spaces meant for the customers, being rude to the…people on the streets, hanging around the back of the cabs, having their cigarettes, putting them out in the streets,” he said.
Jen Grove, executive director of the Del Mar Village Association, described the problem as “an epidemic.”
Camino del Mar at 15th Street has become the center of the universe for taxis, Grove said. “Why? I do not know, but clearly Del Mar is the place to be on 15th.”
Resident Bill Michalsky said he also supports the ordinance, but recommended adding late-night designated zones farther south on Camino del Mar and near coastal restaurants such as Jake’s and Poseidon.
Although council members agreed with the suggestion, Mayor Don Mosier said multiple zones could create an enforcement problem, at least initially.
In addition to the urgency ordinance, which required a four-fifths vote to pass, council members adopted the new law as a first reading for a regular ordinance.
No taxi drivers spoke at the meeting, but they and other members of the public will have an opportunity to provide additional comments during the second reading later this summer before the law becomes permanent.
Council members also directed staff to develop a taxi franchise that would create centralized dispatching and reduce the number of cabs that can operate in the city. Del Mar currently issues 190 taxi permits annually.
“Public safety is being compromised because of the excessive number of cabs in the city,” Crowson said. The franchise will allow the city to control and manage how cabs are operated and receive additional revenue, she added.
The franchise is expected to improve service and decrease impacts on parking by permitting cabs to stage in remote lots, such as City Hall. The city can also require the use of environmentally friendly vehicles.