Note: San Francisco laws ordinarily originate with the local elected legislators, the Board of Supervisors. An alternate method is to use the initiative process, in which a matter is put directly to the voters. If a law is passed this way, it cannot later be modified except by another vote of the people.

Proposition J would change the existing law, which itself was passed through the initiative process. The only way the existing taxi law can be changed is through a vote of the people.

Since the existing law was passed in 1979, there have been several attempts to change it. All have been turned down by the voters. Proposition J, the most recent attempt, is believed to have been prepared by legal counsel for the San Francisco Taxicab Association. The SFTA then persuaded the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to place the proposal before the people for 5 November 1996 vote.

If the general public votes in favor of Proposition J, it will then become the basic Ordinance for the regulation of San Francisco's taxicab industry from 15 December 1996.


PROPOSITION J

ORDINANCE PROVIDING FOR
REGULATION OF TAXICAB OPERATIONS

An ordinance providing regulations, policies and procedures relating to the issuance of taxicab permits by the Police Commission; regulations for the establishment of rates of fare; limitations on lease, rental or hire agreements; provisions for limited transferability of permits; right to purchase health and disability coverage by taxicab drivers; providing for the issuance of regulations by the Chief of Police; respecting various provisions of Appendix F to the charter of the city and county and Part II, Chapter VIII, Article 16 of the San Francisco Municipal Code; and providing a severability clause.

Be it ordained by the people of the City and County of San Francisco:

Section 1. The people of the city and county find that:

(a) Better Service. It is in the public interest to promote better taxi service for all San Franciscans. More taxis are needed during peak use times. Further, an emphasis on para transit (disabled and senior transit services) is at the heart of this effort to reform the current service structure.

(b) Security and Opportunity for Cab Drivers. It is in the public interest to enhance the security of and economic opportunities for drivers within the taxi industry by creating guidelines as to how much drivers can be charged for rental and lease fees of taxis by the taxi companies and cooperatives. In addition, cab drivers should be able to participate in medical and insurance programs. Security and opportunities in the industry must include all of its stake holders: taxi companies, taxi cooperatives, permit holders, drivers and the public.

(c) Stable Industry. In order to promote a more stable taxi industry, it is important to encourage young people to join the industry. Since the passage of Proposition K in 1978, turnover of taxi permits (licenses to operate taxis) has been slower than expected, discouraging young people from joining the industry. The line for permit applicants is backlogged, forcing an applicant to wait twenty years to obtain a permit. In order to achieve greater participation, we need a more rapid turnover of taxicab permits.

The current system has created absentee owners who have forced up the price of permit fees. Drivers pay more for rental and lease fees paid to cab companies, while their meter rates have remained frozen.

This public interest ordinance reforming taxicab operations addresses all of these issues.

Section 2. Taxicab Permits.

(a) In addition to those requirements and qualifications provided by law, the Police Commission shall only issue a permit to operate a taxicab to a natural person who has for five (5)of the ten (10) years immediately preceding the issuance of the permit actively driven a taxicab in the city and county, on a full-time basis; provided, however, permits may be issued pursuant to Section 7 of this Ordinance.

(b) Whether submitted before or after the effective date of this Ordinance, applications for taxicab permits shall be processed and considered in the order of their position on the list of applicants maintained by the Chief of Police. Such applications do not constitute nor do they create vested property interests in the applicant but are instead in the nature of an expectancy.

(c) Qualifications for and limitations upon the issuance of permits to operate a taxicab, including the active driver provisions of applicable law, shall continue to have no effect upon those natural persons who held one or more taxicab permits on June 6, 1978.

(d) Subject to approval of the Chief of Police, which approval shall not unreasonably be withheld, each color scheme permit holder may employ a reasonable number of managers to oversee its operations who also hold a permit to operate a taxicab. During the period of such employment, the requirement of active driving set forth in Appendix F to the charter of the city and county shall, if applicable, be suspended.

(e) The Police Commission may in its discretion suspend the requirement of active driving set forth in Appendix F to the charter of the city and county, if applicable, during any periods of disability or illness, incapacity due to age or other similar condition.

Section 3 Limitations on Rates of Fare and Related Charges.

(a) Any and all fees charged by or paid to a taxicab permit holder, whether by hire, rental or lease agreement in whatever form, for the privilege of operating said permit or permits (herein "lease fees") and any and all fees charged to or paid by a driver, directly or indirectly, for the privilege of operating a taxicab permit for a specified period (herein "operating fees") shall be governed by and are hereafter subject to the provisions of this section.

(b) Except as otherwise expressly provided in this section, no permit holder shall charge or be paid lease fees in excess of those being charged by or paid to said permit holder as of May I, 1996, and no driver may be charged or compelled to pay operating fees in excess of those in effect as of May 1, 1996

(c) Commencing March 1, 1997, and biennially thereafter, the Controller shall determine and certify the percentage of increase or decrease in the cost of living during the two-year period ending January 1 of that same year, as shown by the consumer price index (CPI), United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, or a successor publication. The rates of fare for taxicabs shall then be adjusted in accordance with the percentage change in the CPI, rounded upwards to the nearest cent, to take effect on April 1.

No single adjustment shall exceed 7.5% after aggregating the cumulative percentage change in the CPI since the last adjustment.

(d) On the same biennial schedule as rates of fare are adjusted, lease fees and operating fees may be adjusted upward and shall be adjusted downward if applicable, by no more than one-half of the percentage change certified by the Controller for rates of fare for taxicabs, rounded upwards to the nearest dollar.

(e) This section shall have no application to bona fide collective bargaining agreements setting compensation and benefits paid to taxicab drivers.

(f) When a taxicab permit or color scheme permit is first acquired after May I, 1996, lease fees and operating fees shall not be charged or paid in excess of the established rate thereof as of May 1, 1996, adjusted upward or downward as appropriate under subsection 3(d) above.

With the assistance of the Controller, the Chief of Police shall determine the established rate for lease fees calculated monthly, and operating fees on a per shift basis, by ascertaining the average rates therefor as of May 1, 1996. These rates shall be determined by means of a survey of the existing taxicab fleet conducted with in sixty days of the effective date of this ordinance.

Section 4. Transferability of Permits.

(a) For a two year period from and after the effective date of this Ordinance, a person who has held a taxicab permit for at least ten years may transfer the permit for consideration to a natural person who (i) as of May 1, 1996 held a position on the list of applicants for taxicab permits maintained by the Chief of Police, and (ii) at the time of the transfer would be qualified for the issuance of a permit to operate a taxicab under subsection 2(a) above and applicable law.

No transfer may be made to a person who already possesses a taxicab permit, nor may any permit so transferred be maintained in more than one name

(b) In order to transfer a taxicab permit as herein provided, the permit holder shall submit an application therefor to the Police Commission. On at least a biannual basis, the Commission (or its delegate) shall conduct a noticed public meeting where each permit for which an application for transfer has been received shall be made available to the person who (i) satisfies the criteria set forth in subsection 4(a) above, and (ii)offers the highest qualified bid therefor.

(c) No permit may be transferred unless and until (i) the city and county receives from the successful bidder a transfer fee in the amount of ten thousand dollars, or twenty percent of the consideration to be paid for the transfer of the permit, whichever is greater, and (ii) the Police Commission approves by resolution the transfer.

(d) The Police Commission shall issue guidelines to assist it in determining whether to accept a bid as qualified under this Ordinance. The guidelines shall include provisions designed to protect against profiteering in the transfer of permits and afford the maximum practicable access to the transfer process.

(e) After the expiration of the two year period provided in subsection 4(a) above, a permit may be transferred to a natural person who at the time of the transfer holds a position on the list of applicants for taxicab permits and who would be qualified for the issuance of a permit to operate a taxicab under applicable law.

(f) Upon the death of a permit holder, the permit(s) held shall revert to the city and county by law, subject to reissuance at the discretion of the Police Commission.

(g) Permits authorized by Section 7 of this Ordinance shall not be subject to transfer as provided herein.

Section 5. Health and Disability Insurance.

All color scheme permit holders shall provide to persons engaged to operate taxicab permits, including permit holders, the opportunity to participate in group health and disability insurance programs sponsored or afforded by the color scheme permit holder.

Section 6. Rules and Regulations.

The Police Commission shall have the exclusive authority, subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors, to formulate, propose and adopt appropriate rules and regulations for the safe, efficient and lawful operation of taxicab permits, including provisions affecting training, education and testing of drivers; insurance; record keeping; and equipment deemed necessary for the safe transport of both drivers and passengers. The Commission shall also have the exclusive authority, subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors, to propose and adopt fee schedules consistent herewith for the issuance and renewal of various permits and licenses required by law for the operation of taxicabs.

Section 7. Restricted Permits.

(a) Subject to the restrictions set forth in this section, the Police Commission is hereby directed to issue permits to operate a taxicab in the name of each color scheme permit holder that, on a quarterly basis, is certified by the para transit broker as a participant in good standing in the para transit program of the city and county. These permits shall be subject to immediate revocation by resolution of the Police Commission in the event the permit holder is decertified by the para transit broker.

(b) The number of permits to be issued under this section shall at no time exceed 10% of the total taxicab fleet, calculated as of May 1, 1996. No color scheme permit holder shall be issued permits that exceed in number 10% of the total number of permits operated by the particular color scheme, calculated quarterly by the Chief of Police, rounded to the next lowest whole number. If fewer than 25 permits are operated, no permits as provided in this section shall be issued to the color scheme permit holder.

(c) Permits as in this section provided shall be continuously operated from 0600 on Monday through and including 0600 on Saturday, holidays excluded, and at no other times.

Section 8. Penalties.

(a) Any person violating a provision of this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor or an infraction, to be charged in the discretion of the District Attorney. Upon conviction of an infraction, the maximum fine is $100 and/or community service. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the fine is $500, community service, and/or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than seven days.

(b) In the event that any person operating a limousine, van or unlicensed taxicab is found in violation of permitting or operational provisions of Part II, Chapter VIII, Article 16 of the San Francisco Code (Police Code), specifically Sections 1078, 1140 and related sections thereof, the person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment in the county jail for six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

(c) Any person found in violation of the provisions of Section 3 of this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $5,000, imprisonment in the county jail for six months, or both such fine and imprisonment

Section 9. Severability.

If any section, subsection, subdivision, paragraph, clause or phrase of this Ordinance or any part thereof is for any reason held unconstitutional, invalid or ineffective by a court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity or effectiveness of the remaining portions of this ordinance or any part thereof. It is hereby declared that this ordinance and each section, subsection, subdivision, paragraph, clause or phrase thereof, would have been passed irrespective of the fact that any one or more other sections, subsections, subdivisions, paragraphs, clauses or phrases had been declared unconstitutional, invalid or ineffective.

Section 10. Interpretation.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, rule or regulation to the contrary, the provisions of this ordinance shall govern and control the regulation and operation of taxicabs, taxicab permits and the other subjects generally and specifically referred to herein.

Section 11. Effective Date.

The effective data of this Ordinance is December 15, 1996.

Back to the Taxi-L Regulation Page