Anaheim City Council members Tuesday night granted rights to three taxicab companies to continue providing taxi services in the city for the next 10 years.
The three companies — Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County, A Taxi Cab and California Yellow Cab — will split the maximum 255 cabs allowed to operate in the city.
More than half the cabs — 155 — will go to Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County.
The council voted 3-2 to approve the allocation, with Mayor Tom Tait and Councilwoman Lorri Galloway voting against the proposal.
The split vote reflects a contentious council divide that first erupted when council members granted a $158-million tax subsidy to a hotel developer.
On Tuesday, council members disagreed over the companies’ shares of taxicabs.
Tait supported the recommendation of the city’s taxi advisory committee, which called for 10 more cabs for A Taxi Cab and California Yellow Cab.
Tait said the greater allocations for the two cab companies seemed like the fairest move.
“To give even more to Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County might seem fair to them, but it seems triply unfair to the others,” Tait said.
The taxi advisory committee rated Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County the best of the three companies based on a variety of factors, including experience, finances and fleet sustainability.
“They [Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County] successfully demonstrated that they are the most experienced, provide great service to Anaheim, and receives the least amount of complaints,” a city staff report reads.
However, the advisory committee recommended an increase to all the cab companies’ shares based on the amount of cabs allowed in 2000. Back then, Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County had 130 taxi cabs, while the other two companies had 50 taxis each.
So while Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County already had the right to 155 taxis, the advisory committee recommended the company be allowed 135.
Tait said that he wanted to make sure the process for rating the taxi companies was fair, and he asked city staff whether the committee members had ties to any of the companies. The advisory committee was composed of hotel industry representatives, city officials, a city resident and a hospital representative.
A city staffer said there were no ties between the committee members and the taxicab companies.
However, there are ties between two council members and the owner of the company that was awarded the largest share of taxicabs. Council members Gail Eastman and Kris Murray sit on the advisory committee of Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR) along with Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County owner Larry Slagle.
SOAR, in a campaign funded heavily by the Disneyland resort, spent tens of thousands of dollars to help elect Eastman, Murray and Tait in 2010.
Slagle’s firm also has the exclusive right to provide taxis to Disneyland and two resort area hotels because, Slagle said, only his firm had met certain service level requirements. A Taxi Cab has sued Disneyland and the hotels over the issue.
SOAR submitted a letter to council members supporting Slagle’s firm. “They [Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County] show a level of service, commitment and professionalism that is unmatched in the industry,” the letter reads.
Eastman and Murray, who voted in favor of awarding Slagle’s company a larger share of the taxicabs, said involvement in the community was an important factor in their decision.
And unlike the other two companies awarded franchises, Slagle’s company is based in Anaheim.
“They [Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County] are just committed in a deep, personal way,” Murray said. She declared that the quality of service of Slagle’s company had not slipped, so allowing the company a larger share of the taxis was not simply awarding the “hometown team.”
And because Slagle’s company already had the right to 155 taxicabs, reducing that number based on their 2000 allocation seemed like a penalty to the advisory committee’s highest-rated firm, Murray and Eastman argued.
“It seems inherently unfair to take away from someone who had the most outstanding score,” said Eastman.