Santa Monica City Taxi Franchise Inches Forward
A ruling last Thursday in a contentious Santa Monica taxi franchise lawsuit will let the city inch forward with it’s preparations while leaving the future of its new licensing system undecided.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien forced the city’s plans to a complete halt with a restraining order two days before Christmas.
But he modified his order last week to allow the city to complete its administrative preparations for the franchise. If the court eventually gives its go-ahead, Santa Monica will be able to put its plans into gear right away.
He also postponed the next hearing in the case to January 19, when Santa Monica attorneys must show why the court should not grant a preliminary injunction.
“We are comfortable in our legal position,” Deputy City Attorney Meishya Yang told the LookOut Tuesday.
“The city’s position is that the evaluation and awards process was fair,” she said. “It’s the plaintiffs’ burden to prove that there was discrimination.”
The City Council approved the new taxi franchise system to cut down on the number of cabs on the street and reduce pollution.
On November 9, 13 companies applied for city franchises, and five were granted at a four-hour council hearing. Protestors at the hearing complained that hundreds of cabs were being forced off the road.
Six of the rejected companies are owned by Armenians who claim that they and their 300 employees were victims of racial discrimination.
Citing a lack of transparency in the application process, they filed suit against the city as The Taxi Drivers Association of Santa Monica, and plan to plead for a temporary injunction to stall the city’s plans in the January 19 hearing before the Los Angeles Superior Court.
While unwilling to go into detail about the city’s legal arguments, Yang said that the plaintiffs will have to prove to the court that they have a “likelihood of success” if the case goes to trial and that they will suffer “irreparable harm” if the court doesn’t issue a temporary injunction stopping the city from going ahead with its plans.
In the meantime, the city is now free to go ahead with driver testing and vehicle inspections and “all the administrative preparations prior to implementing the franchise,” Yang said.