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FlightCar sued over violations: Legal tangle continues between startup and the city of Millbrae
December 05, 2013, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal

The latest in the battle between FlightCar and the city of Millbrae involves the city suing the new airport business that allows people to rent out their personal cars in state court for failing to comply with a conditional use permit and obtain a business license or a certificate of occupancy.

The suit, filed Tuesday jointly with the state of California in San Mateo County Superior Court, outlines various complaints the city brought against the startup when the council decided to rescind the company’s conditional use permit back on Nov. 12.

“In addition, after FlightCar’s conditional use permit was revoked on Nov. 12, by unanimous vote of the Millbrae City Council, defendants continued to operate their facilities within the city in violation of the city’s municipal code, showing a brazen disrespect for the city’s laws, its duly elected officials and its citizens,” the suit states.

FlightCar itself sued the city in San Mateo County Superior Court on Nov. 18, stating 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.”

FlightCar’s attorney Oliver “Lock” Holmes said the latest suit is not unexpected as it’s common for cross complaints to be filed.

“We believe their revocation of the use permit is improper,” he said. “The odd thing is the city attorney and personnel admitted FlightCar was in compliance of the use permit at the time of meeting it was revoked. It’s very unusual.”

The company’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 business says renters get a cheaper price.

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.

Additionally, 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. The fire marshal 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.

Further, 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.

Vice Mayor Wayne Lee said the city can’t comment on the suit as it is pending litigation.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: permit, airport, flightcar, report, according, conditional,

Other stories from today:

Economic committee tries to stay afloat: Millbrae Business Advisory Committee says it needs more resources
Next stop, Holiday Train: Downtown San Mateo’s Christmas on B Street joining Caltrain’s celebration
Government Watch

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