Despite concerns about the business models of new car sharing companies, the South San Francisco City Council did not proceed with a moratorium to prohibit such services west of Highway 101 — the same area where FlightCar recently announced it is opening its new facility.
“The whole issue we’re trying to determine is what car sharing is,” said Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino. “The moratorium was a moot point since they (FlightCar) already have a license. This councilmember doesn’t want a proliferation of these operations in the city.”
The moratorium was intended to give the city time to make sure FlightCar had done everything according to requirements, said Councilman Pradeep Gupta.
“But the FlightCar people assured us that they will work with our city staff in working out a mutually acceptable way of dealing with existing zoning and making proper business arraignments with the city so there are no surprises down the line,” he said. “It was not necessary to make a moratorium. Most of us are very encouraging to innovation in the city. It’s an evolving thing and we will see how current discussions with FlightCar go on.”
FlightCar, an airport-oriented business that allows people to rent out their personal cars, announced May 7 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. City officials had concerns about the startup’s reputation and the fact FlightCar opened before its business license was completed. A license was granted this week.
No motion was made for vote after an hour and half discussion of the item at the Wednesday night council meeting, but there may be more studies on the matter, Garbarino said.
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.
“I’m concerned about what has happened in Burlingame and Millbrae — it (FlightCar) hasn’t received glowing reports,” Mayor Karyl Matsumoto said previously. “For me it 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.”
At the same time, FlightCar’s attorney Oliver “Lock” Holmes, said FlightCar is continuing to work with the city and staff.
“We frankly think with the cooperation we have we will be able to go forward with a longer-term space,” he said.
The Planning Division has recently received two applications, one from FlightCar and another from an airport car rental company called Silvercar, that would have been affected by the interim ordinance.
The interim urgency ordinance would have established 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.
“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 was 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 feared 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.
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 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.
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