Taxi shortage fueling disorder?

June 2, 2010

By Dennis Eamon Young Photo


Despite the fact that cab owners in San Luis Obispo say there’s no shortage of taxis in the area, local bar owners and others contend there is a big shortage, especially on weekends when some patrons physically try to flag down a passing cab.

“The people can’t go home because they don’t want a DUI, but they can‘t get a cab or it will take hours, so they wait for a cab and a fight breaks out,” said Michel Olaizola, the owner of Buffalo Bar and Grill.”

The three cab companies that have permits to pick up riders in the city of San Luis Obispo run combined fleets of 25 cars that pick up riders in areas throughout the county. In comparison, the city of Santa Barbara, which has almost twice the population of San Luis Obispo, allows 42 companies to provide rides with as many as 260 cars on the road, said Santa Barbara Police Technician Holly Perea.

In Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, taxi companies are not required to go before the council for approval and there are no limits to the number of cabs that can compete for business in the city. Before their cars hit the road, they must provide documentation to the police department that they are in compliance with city requirements.

In San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande, prospective cab companies are required to go in front of the council and demonstrate there is a need in the community for more cabs. In San Luis Obispo, at these hearings, existing cab company owners have told the council that competition could destroy their businesses.

A council report written by transit manager John Webster in January asks the council to approve five permits for Surf Cab while noting that business owners have had problems getting along in the past:

“The city has had mixed experiences with multiple taxi operations in recent years, as there have been some occasional problems with services provided by the operators…with occasional minor conflicts between the permitted operators. Staff has not received any complaints that there are too many taxis servicing the city.”

Nevertheless, high demand, overloaded phone circuits and an alleged cab shortage have lead to frustration, drunk in public arrests and, in some cases, violence in downtown San Luis Obispo.

“I have had them not answer the phones or say they will be here in 20 or 30 minutes and then it’s an hour or two later,” said Eric Beaton, one of the owners of Creekside Brew. “It is a huge problem.”

By Dennis Eamon Young Photo

If a caller can get through, it often takes well over an hour for a driver to arrive for a pickup on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Proponents of more cabs also contend that having intoxicated people wait hours for a ride increases aggressive behavior and instances of outside urination in an area where the public bathrooms are locked at night.

Flagging down a taxi is an almost impossible feat with some going as far as jumping on the cab’s hood to force the driver to stop while others use their fists to fight off competitors for a ride home.

“I have had people jump on my cab as I pass a tavern,” said Paul McGill, part owner of Surf Cab. “I let them crawl in and the caller has to wait.”

Cab company owners argue that there is not enough business throughout the day to support additional taxis.

“There is absolutely no need for the city council to issue more permits,” said Jeff Goldenberg, the owner of Beach Cities Cab which has 20 permits and runs up to 17 cabs on the weekends. “It will ruin business for other vendors and none of us will be able to make a living.”

And while it may appear to the public that San Luis Obispo has more than a dozen cab companies, it may be because Goldenberg markets his company under nine different phone numbers and names which include Central Coast Taxi, Nipomo Taxi, Five Cities Cab and SLO Cab Company. They, however, all route to the Beach Cities Cab phone line and none have any taxis of their own.

Meanwhile, police officers haul off an unusually high number of downtown attendees for being drunk in public. San Luis Obispo holds the dubious honor of being either the highest or one of the top ten per capita cities in California for drunk in public arrests during the past 10 years, according to the California Department of Justice Criminal Justice Statistics Center.

For example, in 2008 San Luis Obispo Police arrested 865 people for drunk in public while Santa Barbara Police, with approximately double the population, arrested 347 people for drunk in public.

“The point is there are not enough cabs,” said Bill Hale, one of the owners of six downtown bars who contends handing out numerous citations discourages people from going downtown and supporting the economy. “We need to do things to encourage people to come downtown and part of creating a safe environment is getting people home safe.”

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bobfromslo is on to something . how about those wonderful people at the downtown association create a fund of some kind from the businesses that liquor-up their customers to PAY FOR a bus (not with my tax dollars ) that runs from maybe midnight till 3 am thursday / friday / saturday / holidays …. like the trolly or an old school bus or whatever with a slopd on board or following in a cruiser to take their patrons to designated places around town where they could have a shorter walk home instead of driving a car . this would stop a lot of the vandalism / urinating / vomiting ( buckets on the bus ) . also , i have seen drunks that can not get their car key in the door lock let a lone drive home saying they don’t want a ticket for over night parking ( no parking downtown from 3 am to 5 am for the street sweeper which is not funny because the sweeper only wks 5 days a week but the pd gives tickets six days a week ) . with remote power locks it’s easier than ever for a drunk to get behind the wheel .

as a side note , i agree with the tickets , but maybe a warning the first time , we have got to keep the down town clean.

A few years ago, Dial-a-Ride offered service downtown to ferry the bar crowd home after they were done drinking downtown, using the vans and/or small buses they are using still. The program was discontinued after too many of the drivers were too concerned for their personal safety; dealing with young, often belligerent drunk college aged men who did not understand that the program was not the same as a taxi. The driver would take a route to drop off the riders in as much of a circular route as they could to end up going back towards downtown, but too often the drunk student(s) would get upset that they were not the first ones being dropped off and they would get way too confrontational. Perhaps the young men running Meathead Movers should train some of their drivers and movers to drive small buses and vans and they could offer a service similar to what Dial-a-Ride used to offer. If the buses or vans were driven by bouncer types, perhaps there would not necessarily be the confrontations that used to happen. I do agree that the City council needs to let go of the “oversight” that has only made the situation worse by effecting a monopoly on the residents of San Luis Obispo.

The fact is that alcohol is fueling the disorder in the downtown area. When did it start being someone else’s fault because you go downtown and get too drunk to drive or walk home? Whatever happened to self respect and responsibility? Maybe there aren’t more taxis because they don’t care to drive loud, obnoxious people home who seem to take pride in drinking too much and acting stupid while their parents pay the bills.

taxpayer, the BAC for a DUI driver is currently .08%. That is often 2 drinks for a person. People don’t have to be drunk and obnoxious to be considered impaired. DUI means ‘driving while impaired’ ie: reflexes might be diminished, it doesn’t mean “driving while drunk” and being a jerk. Are you an a** hole after 2 beers? Most people aren’t but they are still considered “impaired”. Now take it someplace else.

I might add that I don’t dispute the fact that people should not drive while impaired and I don’t dispute the legal qualification of being impaired at .08%. I DO NOT DISPUTE.

I DO DISPUTE that a police officer can upon his or her own discretion arrest a citizen on a drunk in public charge with no proof, no guide lines and no recourse (the citizen has no right to demand a BAC test) to prove otherwise. THIS IS WRONG.

Tell that to the family of someone whose been killed or paralyzed for life because of someone “driving while impaired”.

taxpayer, are you drunk or impaired or high on something.? You are attempting to equate a DUI driver who is considered criminally impaired or under the influence to someone who is standing on the street and is a danger to no one. . Are you trying to adopt the .08% to everyone, even if they call a taxi and choose not to drive?

By the way, DUI stands for “driving under the influence”.

there are two offenses, DUI and DWI. DUI is driving under the influence, DWI is driving while impaired.. That aside, taxpayer doesn’t seem to have any solution other than these people shouldn’t drink. I say this is a free country, and there’s nothing wrong with young people being a little stupid sometimes, as long as they do not hurt others or infringe on their rights. It is not right to force people into criminal situations if they would otherwise be responsible. Let the market determine the number of taxi cabs and taxi cab companies. SOMEONE will be more than happy to take the money of rude kid’s and provide taxi service, especiaily when there is competition.

Cabs or no cabs, that does not excuse being DIP. And how do the bars “fuel the economy?” That being said, Santa Barbara is probably more rowdy, and bigger, so why the disparity in arrests?

“Santa Barbara is probably more rowdy, and bigger, so why the disparity in arrests?”

Like I said, To my understanding a drunk in public charge is discretionary. If a police officer doesn’t like you he can arrest you and charge you.

As far as I know there is no BAC proof necessary and the accused doesn’t have the right to demand proof with a BAC test, so technically you can be arrested for a DIP even though you might be legally able to drive! Can anyone weigh in on this? This is my understanding based on someone who was arrested for a DIP after ( what they say was for) telling off a LEO. They had to retain an attorney and they got the case dropped but I’d like to hear if it’s really true that the discretion of a LEO is really that “WIDE OPEN”. Because if it is, then something is very very wrong all the way around and especially in SLO.

Hello Cindy,

I will answer your question.

California Penal Code Section 647(f)

Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty

of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:

(f) Who is found in any public place under the influence of

intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any

combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance,

or toluene, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care

for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of

his or her being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any

drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any

intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs

or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public


As you can tell, and many others suspect, there is no definitive method for determining a whether or not a person is drunk in public. Yes, it is purely discretionary [by law enforcement] whether or not one is drunk in public. I can say that arresting for drunk in public is a simple arrest (a.k.a. not a large amount of paperwork involved) and ultimately is an effective tool for removing people who clearly are not manageable or are problematic to the public or businesses. I am former Law Enforcement and currently a bouncer in SLO.

That being said… yeah, more cabs… send more cabs!

This is an outrage. Since when can anyone can be arrested anytime based on an officers opinion? What the &^%*?! That isn’t even exceptable in this day and age. I guess we now have the answer to the disparaging % of arrests for DIP as compared to populous in SLO.

To The86r – Thank You for the confirmation. I have also read your subsequent post (down the page) and this is interesting. I understand why the law was enacted and it can serve a useful purpose. The problem as I see it is that it appears to be too loose. I agree that it clearly wasn’t ever intended to be used to make an arrest for “contempt of cop”. I am not so naive as to believe that this law hasn’t been abused on occasion. What I don’t understand is this:

Why is it that the accused doesn’t have a right to a blood test that will confirm their BAC and any possible drugs that are present in their blood stream (which are “active”) at the time? The law considers that the accused is either way too high on something as to be a danger to themselves or others, or it assumes that the accused is crazy. It’s certainly easy enough to confirm ones sanity as they will be released from a possible 72 hour hold in the county psych ward within several hours of the initial admission if they are found competent but why are they not allowed the right to prove the degree of their intoxication if they are simply jailed and deemed intoxicated? Here is where the flaw in this law lies IMO. I have no doubt that the greatest % of these cases are deemed as

intoxicated and simply jailed without benefit of a medical examination.

In light of this information, I suggest that if anyone is ever arrested for “contempt of cop” and charged with 647f, they should say that they are suicidal. Get it on record that you said you are suicidal. They will have to take you to the county hospital and then you can tell a shrink your side of the story and ask to be tested. It sounds like this is the only way that an innocent person can document the degree of their intoxication and garner an opinion from a reputable professional that examined them within a time frame that can stand up in a court of law and serve as a viable defense. I might be wrong but I don’t see any other way as the law currently stands if you are innocent. By innocent, I mean not a danger to yourself or others or so high that you can’t comprehend what is expected of you. Would anyone care to weigh in on my opinion?? I’d love to hear a better way or better news surrounding this concern, I’m surely no expert but I am curious.

One thing for certain, this law called 647f or DIP is begging to be abused. It needs to be tightened up and a citizen needs to be afforded a right to challenge with scientific evidence.

Interesting deduction regarding “contempt of cop”. Your interpretation could become a reality provided a law enforcement member was of less than sound moral character. You are also correct that unlike other crimes, 647(f) requires no scientific proof, or even a 3rd party opinion.

Cindy, this is the most abused law there is. Second would be 415PC-disturbing the peace. Some of our leo ‘s cant tolerate smart asses questioning their authority. These false arrests have nothing to do with anyones safety, but with ego and power trips. I cant count the numbers ive seen over the years, i cringed every time it happenend. I used to read some of the reports and was just amazed at the lack of the articulation of the facts supporting the supposed crime of “drunk in public” . Most of these cases are thrown out if challenged far enough through the system because no DDA is gonna make an ass out of himself in front of a jury. I agree, the best defense to an attitude/contempt of cop arrest is to identify as many potential witnesses as possible and yes get that medical care before booking if you can. There is a reason the number of arrests in slo is disproportionate with the rest of the state. If the guy doesnt commit a crime, he shouldnt be arrested for a “catch all” like some leo’s treat these “F” arrests.

Are you serious? If you drink a beer and step outside, you can be cited for being drunk in public. I once had an officer threaten me with a DIP charge unless I stood on the other side of a line on the sidewalk. Having a cab available means you can go directly from a bar to a cab and home. Not having a cab available may mean that when closing time comes, you try to walk home only to get charged with a D.I.P.

How do bars fuel the economy? I’m not even going to touch this one, rather you should go check out a textbook on economics. Any small business, whether it be a bar, a restaurant, or a clothing store, fuels the economy.

The main element of the 647(f) charge is; “… is unable to exercise care

for his or her own safety or the safety of others” as a result of their intoxication. The intention of the law was to remove drunken derilicks from public, not to use the law as the punishment for “contempt of cop” by a mouthy college student. I know first hand the abuse of “f” arrests. The officers and municipalities are usually lucky there are not more citizen complaints and/or lawsuits arising out of these friviolous arrests.

In fact, 647(g) Mandates (SHALL is used) the following; ” When a person has violated subdivision (f), a peace officer,

if he or she is reasonably able to do so, shall place the person, or

cause him or her to be placed, in civil protective custody. The

person shall be taken to a facility, designated pursuant to Section

5170 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, for the 72-hour treatment

and evaluation of inebriates. A peace officer may place a person in

civil protective custody with that kind and degree of force which

would be lawful were he or she effecting an arrest for a misdemeanor

without a warrant. No person who has been placed in civil protective

custody shall thereafter be subject to any criminal prosecution or

juvenile court proceeding based on the facts giving rise to this

placement. This subdivision shall not apply to the following persons:

(1) Any person who is under the influence of any drug, or under

the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug.

(2) Any person who a peace officer has probable cause to believe

has committed any felony, or who has committed any misdemeanor in

addition to subdivision (f).

(3) Any person who a peace officer in good faith believes will

attempt escape or will be unreasonably difficult for medical

personnel to control.

I guess our cops make alot of attitude arrests instead.

mkaney….if you drink one beer and you are drunk and you step outside and are obnoxious and call attention to yourself from a LEO you could get a DIP. I doubt one beer would get you drunk so let’s not get over dramatic here.

As far as your almost getting a DIP, let me guess, you were waiting in line to get into your 3rd or 4th bar of the night and were being stupid and the cop asked you to simply do what you were supposed to do and wait on the right side of the line. Funny thing is, you were probably drunk.

“It will ruin business for other vendors and none of us will be able to make a living.”

Welcome to economics 101.. as there is money to be made, people will enter the market until it becomes unprofitable. Then people will exit the market, until an equilibrium is reached. This is how the correct amount of resources are allocated. What the current cab companies, along with the city, is doing is trying to practice mercantilism. Frankly, it probably illegal because taxi service does not qualify as a natural monopoly yet they are practicing anticompetitive behavior.

On a personal note, taxi cab service in this town sucks, it is a ripoff, and some of the drivers have serious attitude problems.

I suspect that you are correct. They are creating a monopoly for one cab company while blocking fair competition at the cost of the public. I do believe that this needs to be addressed. This behavior is rather unacceptable and I believe it is also illegal. People should not have to wait 2 hours for a cab to arrive and of course the cab drivers are rude, disrespectful and a rip off. They have the City Council in their pocket and hence, no competition so the citizens are at their mercy.

I’ve also heard that SLO has an unusual high Drunk in Public arrest rate as compared to all other cities. Well if someone is left sitting in a bar 2 hours after they decide to leave and believe that they should not drive then it is to be expected that they will have one or two more drinks not to mention that this is a big money maker for the city so why not keep them hanging around after they leave a bar. Lack of cabs is actually promoting DUI drivers and is a safety hazard.

I plan on addressing the SLO CC next week during public comment about the issue of the two drug smuggling officers that remain on paid leave, maybe bringing this up would also be a good idea. I know of a few other people who will be attending, is there anyone else here on this blog interested?

You know I’m in. I think that they have had ample time to deal with this issue.

WE know your in, I believe you started it :)

More cabs would be nice but….

Why don’t you suggest that the bartenders not serve people who have obviously had too much too drink?

Why don’t you commend the cops on arresting people for being drunk in public, which is breaking the law. This is what keeps drunks off the road and keeps you safe.

Why don’t you hold the patrons accountable for thier choices and actions? It’s not the cab companies fault, the city’s fault or mine or your fault that there are meatheads overflowing with testosterone downtown who have had too much to drink and are looking for a fight outside a bar. It’s not the city’s responsibility to make sure a drunk gets a ride home in a timely manner. Have some personal responsibility people. Anyone heard of a designated driver?

Also, the reason why Santa Barbara has less drunk arrests than San Luis is because 9 times out of 10 Santa Barbara PD opts to take the drunk to the “Sobering Center”……the person goes there and sobers up for 4 hours. Ya’ll want one of those in SLO?????

Fact is that there are not enough cabs when it takes 2 hours for a puck up. It would be nice if the city would just “bud out” and knock off the GOB deals. We also recently read about a cab company getting messed around with, by the SLO airport. There is too much gov in our lives and they create nothing but problems for the citizens while they line their friends pockets with service contracts. Taxi’s should not be the city councils business. Also DIP does not even require a proof of what a persons BAC is. It’s discretionary and I’ve personally seen the SLOPD get out of line because they didn’t like a persons attitude who I thought the LEO was harassing to begin with. This is all about the money and to hell with the Citizens. Demand the city to “bud out” now. We need more cabs. Show up at a Tuesday night meeting and tell them to “bud out” and put the taxi’s on the roads NOW. That CC is so aggravating. They are destroying our city.

And of course one must factor in that SLOPD is pretty quick on the trigger for DIP arrests. It is a very large revenue earner. Those 865 arrests bring in lots of bucks.

AI….if you are drunk in public, you should get a ticket for being drunk in public. You have a choice.

Yeah slojo, “IF.” “IF” you are found drunk in a public place and so drunk that you are unable to care for your safety or the safety of others. IF. Going out and partying is not in itself a crime, and should not be. This who article is about taxis and not having enough to accomdate the needs at night. The City has their hands too deep in the issue, with way too much regulation. Let the market prevail and determine when there are enough safe rides available. Santa barbara even has private buses running up to Isla Vista from downtown and they are packed!

slojo, and just what exactly is drunk in public? I understand that there is no BAC threshold and that it is at the LEO’s discretion. So tell us, what is drunk in public to you?

Nancy…..I am not an LEO so i am not trained to detect a drunk but I can tell you I am pretty good at pointing them out when I am downtown. If someone is being rude, loud, slurring thier words, being disrepectful to others or other peoples property, you could probably make a guesstimate that they are drunk. Don’t be rediculous, common sense can tel you what a drunk in public is.

Here’s an idea, why don’t the bar owners get together and contract out one or two dedicated cabs to make rounds?

A 25 cent perdrink surcharge should do the trick.

There is a MASSIVE cab shortage in all of SLO county. That being said, if the bar owners are going to serve people until they are beligerently drunk they should be, in part, responsible for the aftermath. It’s illegal to serve alcohol to somebody who is drunk, yet bars do that every single night. Then the drunks are released to the wild and the bar owners get to wipe their hands clean. Not a bad deal.