UPDATE: Passed on second reading by Commissioners at the September 16, 2020 meeting. It now becomes law.
Miami Beach City Commissioner Mark Samuelian said “enough is enough” when it comes to the unsafe behavior of scooter drivers. After hearing last week that scooter operators were not adhering to a new ordinance that made business owners responsible for renter violations, he quickly worked with the City Administration to come up with proposed legislation to limit the number of rental scooters, make overnight rentals illegal, and increase the penalties for violating the scooter law.
The law mandates that rental scooters be equipped with GPS tracking devices, have unique IDs visibly affixed to their front and sides, and that businesses have a contact available 24/7 for law enforcement to call to request a shutdown of the scooter. In that case, renters lose any money they have paid including their deposit.
At a meeting of the Commission’s Neighborhoods and Quality of Life Committee, Miami Beach Police Major Enrique Doce said the Police Department was having a problem with operators not answering calls from police. The ordinance, Doce said, “is an amazing tool. Unfortunately, the rental companies have not been so forthcoming and willing to accept our phone calls recently.”
MBPD Chief Rick Clements added, the companies “worked very well with us in the past” but, he said, they “have not been as cooperative this time around… There’s no way to get in touch with them.”
“Quite frankly, they’re putting more scooters out there,” Clements said. “That makes it virtually impossible for us to stay on top of.”
Samuelian’s proposed ordinance, co-sponsored by Commissioner Steven Meiner, would limit the maximum number of scooters in a fleet to 25. In addition, overnight rentals would be prohibited with rental hours restricted to between 7 pm and 7 am each day. Businesses would be responsible for ensuring scooters are returned by 7 pm; if not, the City would have the authority to “impound and confiscate” any scooters on public property between the prohibited hours of 7 pm through 7 am.
There would also be increased penalties paid for violating the scooter ordinance – the new provisions as well as the earlier requirements to have tracking devices, visible IDs, and operators available 24/7. Currently, the penalties range from $250 for a first offense up to $2,000 for a fourth offense with the potential suspension or revocation of a BTR (Business Tax Receipt or license) and certificate of use with the fourth or subsequent offense. The proposed penalties are $500 for the first offense up to $3,000 for the fourth offense and mandatory revocation of the BTR and certificate of use with the fourth offense. (Mopeds 305, a scooter operator on James Avenue, last week received a 30-day suspension of its business license following its fifth violation of the ordinance for not having an operator available to take police calls.)
In addition, under the proposed ordinance, the City Manager would have the ability to order the “immediate suspension and closure” of scooter rental businesses during a declared “high impact period” such as Spring Break.
“These motorized scooters are dangerously violating our rules,” Samuelian says. “They’re disturbing quality of life for our residents and adding to a perception that anything goes in Miami Beach.”
The problem is no longer centered around high impact periods, he notes. “Frankly these issues are a problem all the time, but they’re especially problematic if they’re disturbing our community at night" which is the reason for the proposal to limit the hours.
The increased fines, he says, will help ensure better compliance by the City’s twelve scooter operators.
He also believes limiting the numbers will help with enforcement. “Often these scooters are in large groups and it’s not clear and obvious how one single officer could address so many at the same time. I want enforcement. I’m going to ask for enforcement, but at the same time there is a reality that when there’s so many of these out there, it’s problematic and that’s why we put restrictions on the number of them.”
Though he’s aware people may rent scooters in Miami and bring them here, he says, I’m convinced that there will be less of them if we’re not having as many here.” The proposed ordinance was drafted “in close consultation with the administration including MBPD.”
“Other cities have gone down this path too,” according to Samuelian, including Panama City which, like Miami Beach, has also had difficulty with unruly Spring Break crowds. They have “taken the step, with some success legally, to actually ban the rental of scooters,” Samuelian said. In November, an appeals court upheld Panama City’s plan to ban rental scooters beginning in September 2020.
The proposed scooter ordinance will be considered by the full Commission at its July 29 meeting. Item details are here.
UPDATE: The ordinance was passed on first reading. Second and final reading scheduled for September.
Photo of scooters running red light, courtesy Mirielle Enlow
Tougher Scooter Ordinance Proposed to Curb “Anything Goes” Behavior on Miami Beach:
City Commission to consider limiting numbers, increasing fines
What that means for the future of short-term rentals in the City is still disputed
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