The Daily Californian Online

City Council to address cab drivers' complaints

By Kelsey Clark
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Category: News > City

Michael Restrepo/Senior Staff
After six months of delays, the Berkeley City Council agreed to address a list of city taxi drivers' grievances, which include allegations of illegal cab operation, at its May 3 meeting.

Despite a six-month lag, the Berkeley City Council will respond May 3 to a letter of grievances submitted by taxi drivers concerned about issues surrounding the current status of city taxicab services.

The Berkeley Taxicab Association sent a letter Oct. 4 to City Manager Phil Kamlarz addressing the formation of its association and outlining a list of 13 grievances in addition to requesting a meeting with city officials to discuss its concerns.

The City Council initially agreed to address the association's grievances at a Feb. 14 meeting, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, but members from the association boycotted the meeting because they were not specifically invited to attend.

"We boycotted because we were not specifically invited," said Said Ali, chairman of the association. "We wrote the letter to them, so they have to write to us and invite us ... Up until now they have not called us for a meeting."

The council will formally address the association's grievances May 3 due to Worthington's March 29 submittal of a request to the City Manager's office for a formal response to the association.

"(The letter) is being presented as an information report, as if there's nothing for the City Council to do - I don't believe that's the case," Worthington said. "I think we need to provide additional direction to show that we actually want to see things fixed."

While the council's report will respond to the grievances laid out by the association in the October letter, the only two areas the council distinguishes as options for possible future action are police officer training in taxi code violations and additional taxi stands in the city.

A proposed training bulletin for Berkeley Police Department officers would help educate officers on proper taxicab violations and increase awareness of illegal taxicabs in the city. Currently, according to Ali, 30 percent of the association's business is taken by illegal taxicab operators.

"It's not the question of training or learning," Ali said about police enforcement of illegal taxicab operations. "It is a question of implementing."

In addition to the possible training bulletin, the city plans to reinstate a taxi stand at Hearst and Euclid avenues that was eliminated when the curb was painted red for an unknown reason, Worthington said.

The possibility of establishing two new taxi stands - one on Bancroft Way near Sproul Hall and another on Piedmont Avenue north of International House - is being pursued by the city's Public Works Transportation Division.

However, some grievances listed in the report - including multiple annual vehicle inspections and the temporary suspension of taxicab permits - did not merit possibilities for future action by the city, and instead many were responded to with references to the Berkeley Municipal Code.

"We are not happy with the way they are handling it because it is taking too long and too slow," Ali said. "We do not know what will come out of it. I'm not happy yet."

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