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City Council's vote to appeal ride-sharing regulations falls short

October 23, 2013|By Laura J. Nelson
  • William Rouse, the general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab, takes questions from the media as hundreds of Los Angeles area taxi drivers circle City Hall to protest ride-sharing services.
William Rouse, the general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab, takes questions… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

A sharply divided Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday failed to muster the votes needed to file an appeal challenging California’s rules for ride-sharing services, capping months of debate about the city’s role in regulating the new taxi competitors.

The appeal motion, which failed 7 to 6, would have laid the groundwork for a lawsuit against the California Public Utilities Commission. The PUC last month created the nation's and the state's first regulations for firms such as Lyft, Uber X and Sidecar.

The council members who voted for the appeal were Gil Cedillo, Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, Bernard C. Parks, Curren Price, Nury Martinez and Bob Blumenfield. The motion needed eight votes to pass.

Instead, the council voted unanimously to ask the PUC for certain changes and additions to the law, which will be discussed in further detail by a council committee. The proposals could include limits on greenhouse gas emissions and fingerprinting requirements for drivers, said Councilman Mike Bonin, who sponsored the motion. The city has until next September to request changes.

“A new economy is emerging,” Bonin said during a brief interview Wednesday. “The right way to address this is to create a new structure, rather than trying to make this industry meet existing definitions.”

Ride-sharing services use smartphone apps to connect drivers to people who need a ride. Drivers, who use their own cars, often charge less than cabs. The Los Angeles taxicab industry, long a political force at City Hall, has maintained that the apps give the firms an unfair business advantage because they are not regulated or inspected by the city.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has voiced his support for the ride-share companies, and has said he would work with the city’s nine franchised taxi companies to “adopt similar innovations.”

Several council members, however, said the new PUC regulations put Los Angeles drivers and passengers at risk.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who sponsored the appeal motion, said the PUC did not have enough staff to enforce the regulations. Drivers will be required to undergo criminal background checks, receive training and carry insurance policies with a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage.

 “We will do this until we have the first couple disasters, and then we will have to rethink it anyway,” Koretz said. “Why not do it now?”

Cab companies and their owners have provided at least $5,200 in donations to Koretz’s campaign and office holder account since 2009, the year he was elected to the council. Councilman Curren Price won his seat this year after a Political Action Committee set up by the taxicab companies spent nearly $27,000 on his behalf.

That same committee spent more than $49,000 to promote the candidacy of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who took office on July 1.

“This, quote, new emerging industry, wants to be exempt from a criteria and a standard that is well-established,” Cedillo said.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.


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