South San Francisco officials are considering a moratorium to prohibit new car sharing services west of Highway 101 — the same area where FlightCar announced it is opening its new facility last week.
FlightCar, the airport business that allows people to rent out their personal cars, announced last week that it had moved the business to 240 Dollar Ave. in South San Francisco, a temporary location on the west side of Highway 101 the startup is renting while it awaits completion of permanent space in the city. The temporary facility fits 10 vehicles. It plans to move to a location on Canal Street in South San Francisco.
Back in November 2013, Millbrae city officials pulled the company’s conditional use permit because of reported issues including 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. Other issues included unapproved electrical generator use, fire hazards and not maintaining the landscape. Lawsuits on both sides followed the revocation.
The moratorium should give the council time to do additional research on car sharing services, said Mayor Karyl Matsumoto.
“I’m concerned about what has happened in Burlingame and Millbrae — it (FlightCar) hasn’t received glowing reports,” she said. “For me sends up a cautionary signal to go carefully. I want to hear from FlightCar — questions will be posed. We haven’t taken any punitive response to why they were operating illegally.”
FlightCar was granted a business license this week, but it wouldn’t be able to move to its permanent location during the moratorium period if it is passed, said Assistant City Manager Kathy Mount.
“Car sharing is an unusual business model that doesn’t fit with the existing categories,” she said. “It’s really just wanting to take a look at our policies and procedures.”
Meanwhile, FlightCar’s attorney, Oliver “Lock” Holmes, said the company is thankful the city worked hard to make sure things got done in a timely fashion.
“We’re continuing to discuss with the city whether it’s (the moratorium) necessary at this time or would apply to FlightCar,” he said. “We’ve been working on Canal Street for several months. A moratorium is not particularly helpful; we need to be able to grow and evolve.”
The Planning Division has recently received two applications, one from FlightCar and another from an airport car rental company called Silvercar, that would be affected by the interim ordinance. The city would continue processing those, but not issue any entitlements or approvals on those applications while the moratorium is in effect.
“For me, I want to see what staff has to say,” said Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino. “There’s questionable uses that have to be hammered out; we need to figure out what they (car sharing services) actually are. The question is are they in fact car rentals and how does that affect Hertz and other companies? Should they operate under same auspices as the others?”
This interim urgency ordinance would establish a 45-day moratorium on the issuance of use permits, building permits or any other applicable entitlement for automobile/vehicle rental uses, including car sharing uses, citywide and for private parking uses in designated zones, west of Highway 101. This is pending study of a zoning ordinance amendment.
“The recent proliferation of sharing uses has highlighted the facet that the city’s land use regulations were not developed to address unique aspects of sharing uses,” a staff report states. “As business models expand and such uses become hybrids of car rental/car sharing/parking uses, there is an increased likelihood for such use to be located in an area where unforeseen land use impacts could result where such uses were not previously envisioned.”
The immediate concern is that private parking lots are permitted by right within a large portion of the El Camino Real corridor and within neighborhood commercial centers, according to the report.
“In recent years the city has undergone significant efforts to create zoning regulations that encourage El Camino Real to be developed as a higher-density, mixed-use corridor that serves pedestrians and bicycles as well as automobiles,” it stated. “While private parking uses and car sharing may be appropriate within these settings, the city may want to create more specific standards, such as a maximum number of car sharing spaces allowed in a single development. In current form, the city’s regulations are too broad to deal with the intricacies of the various car sharing models.”
Currently, car sharing is not a term or use classification that is specifically defined in the city’s zoning ordinance. However, because it is similar in character to the city’s definition of car rental uses, the chief planner has assigned car sharing uses to the car rental use classification. The city fears the establishment of new car rental uses, car sharing uses and private parking uses may adversely affect the city’s ability to promote the highest and best use of property. These services could result in threats to public health, safety and welfare, according to the report.
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. FlightCar will be launching its fourth market, Seattle, in the next few months, CEO and co-founder Rujul Zaparde said.
The vote, 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 14 at Council Chambers, 33 Arroyo Drive in South San Francisco, requires a four-fifths vote of approval from the City Council to pass.
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