FlightCar, a new airport business that allows people to rent out their personal cars, is suing Millbrae after the city pulled the company’s use permit last week over various code violations.
The suit, filed Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court, states the non-compliance identified at the Millbrae Planning Commission hearing and in the commission’s report either relate to matters which FlightCar had previously corrected, or matters which are unrelated to the terms of FlightCar’s conditional use permit. It also states the effect of the city’s actions has been to “thoroughly and capriciously prejudice the rights of the plaintiff by denying it the ability to operate its business.”
The business had been working with the city attorney’s office prior to the lawsuit, said Mayor Gina Papan. The city was expecting the suit, said Vice Mayor Wayne Lee.
“We knew they were going to,” he said. “They had no choice; they were stuck in limbo. We hope they will realize the safety issues and impact on the neighborhood.”
FlightCar’s primary service is renting out people’s cars through its website while traveling, giving them a share of the proceeds, free airport parking and a car wash in exchange. Customers are taken by limousine from a nearby airport parking lot to their flights at the San Francisco International Airport, while the company says renters get a cheaper price.
Further, the suit states Nov. 13, the day after City Council decided to revoke the permit, a sheriff’s deputy visited the facility and issued a notice to appear for an alleged violation of FlightCar employee Andrei Pareno for operating without a business license and zoning non-compliance. When issuing the notice, the deputy told the employee he was going to be arrested and would go to jail if the business didn’t immediately cease operations, the suit states.
The city’s actions constitute the improper citation of FlightCar’s employees, and the de facto abatement of a business without proper due process protection. The city hasn’t initiated a formal abatement process or civil action, it states. As a consequence of the city’s improper actions, FlightCar is concerned it will be forced to immediately cease operations, lay off employees, abandon its site improvements and find another location from which to conduct business in the next several days, the suit goes on to say.
Based on the time and expense required to obtain a conditional use permit and business license from the city, FlightCar believes it will require several months and several tens of thousands of dollar to successfully relocate its business. In the meantime, FlightCar and its customers will suffer irreparable injury, it states.
Issues with the city include three FlightCar rentals being stolen since the company moved into the 14,159-square-foot 480 El Camino Real site on two parcels of the former Daland Nissan, according to the police department. The company’s claim that one can’t report a stolen car for five days is not true, police said. The suspects in the cases have criminal records and this invites crime into the city, police said.
In addition to problems with Millbrae, the company ran into trouble this summer with the San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who wanted to shut it down until it complied with the regulations, including conducting pickups and dropoffs at a special area, paying 10 percent of gross profits to the airport and paying a $20 per rental transaction.
On Aug. 15, Fire Marshal Jim Allan observed two electrical generators on the site and a neighbor on Hermosa Avenue reported to staff that a generator had been operating 24 hours a day. The use of the generators was never approved, according to a staff report. He also observed a makeshift exhaust for the temporary generator attached to a portable toilet enclosure. The downspout/exhaust stack was unprotected and was very warm to the touch and could have potentially reached a temperature capable of burning skin, according to the report.
Additionally, there was an empty fire extinguisher and no smoke detector in the temporary office structure, unauthorized curb painting and stored vehicles that presented a potential Class B fire hazard. Dead plants observed on the property also violated the requirement that the landscape must be maintained in neat, healthy and growing condition, according to the report.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105