7:03 P.M.APRIL 27, 2015
DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s controversial plan to deregulate its taxi industry got a boost on Monday when a judge rejected a request to delay deregulation until an environmental lawsuit over the policy change is resolved.
In a tentative ruling posted Monday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager rejected the lawsuit’s request for an injunction because, he said, the plaintiffs have a low likelihood of winning the case.
Prager said those who filed the suit last month, a small group of taxi-permit owners, provided only “speculative and unsupported evidence” that deregulation would have a negative effect on the environment.
The lawsuit contends that lifting the city’s longtime cap on permits would create pollution that the City Council didn’t properly evaluate before making the change last fall.
Prager is slated to make his tentative ruling final at a hearing Tuesday morning during which lawyers on both sides of the case will be given a chance to make arguments.
The injunction would prevent the Metropolitan Transit System from starting to issue new permits as scheduled next month.
Even if Prager finalizes his injunction ruling, the court still must conduct a trial.
The plaintiffs are seeking $12 million in damages because the second part of their case claims deregulation of San Diego’s taxi industry is an unconstitutional “taking” that would sharply reduce the value of existing permits, which have been sold for as much as $100,000.
The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm focused on public interest cases across the nation, praised the judge’s tentative ruling.
“He got the law exactly right,” said Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the institute. “They’ve lost the first round and ultimately they’re going to lose this fight.”
The downtown San Diego attorney who filed the lawsuit, John Howard, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In his ruling, Prager also said state environmental rules don’t apply to taxi deregulation because it’s a policy change, not a project. In addition, he noted that the city’s deregulation policy requires new permit holders to use low-emission vehicles.
City Council members say lifting the cap will allow more cab drivers to become prosperous small business owners instead of working long hours for low pay for the people who own the permits. That means, they say, that lifting the cap won’t necessarily mean more cabs on the road or more pollution.
Original Source: U-T San Diego | Judge rejects injunction request in tentative ruling