City Attorney Dennis Herrera isn’t the only one taking a close look at the effects that riding-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are having on San Francisco — Supervisor Jane Kim wants to charge them a fee every time they pick up a passenger.
Kim’s proposal is patterned after a 2016 Massachusetts law that imposed a statewide, 20-cents-per-ride charge on ride-hailing companies. She hasn’t decided how big a fee to propose in San Francisco, but she is certain there’s a need for one. “The sharing economy can be a benefit to many if done right — but companies making billions can share some of the costs of fixing problems they help create,” Kim said. And for Kim, the problem with the popular ride services is that they are clogging the city’s already cramped streets. “We currently have the third-worst traffic in America,” Kim said. No one outside of Uber and Lyft knows exactly how many drivers work for the two ride-hailing giants in San Francisco on an average day, and the companies aren’t saying. Last year, the city treasurer’s office estimated that a total of 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers had worked the streets of San Francisco at least once over the course of a year. “Even if only one-quarter operate at any given time, that’s 10,000 more cars, creating more traffic, more jams and more problems,” Kim said. Under the Massachusetts law, the 20-cent fee cannot be passed on to passengers — something Kim would like to see here as well. Coincidentally, Herrera just subpoenaed Lyft and Uber — seeking data for a separate investigation into whether the companies are abiding by local laws, including those covering accessibility for low-income people and disabled riders, and on how their services affect traffic congestion, safety, pollution and parking. Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend declined to comment on Kim’s proposed fee. “We’d be happy, however, to participate in a real comprehensive solution to the city’s congestion issues,” Behrend said. A spokeswoman for Lyft declined to comment. Although Kim’s idea for a citywide fee is new, San Francisco International Airport has been charging ride-hailing companies a $3.80-per-pickup fee since 2014 that can be passed along to customers. And it’s proved to be a real gold mine, with the airport raking in about $2 million a month. Still waters: Four years after the America’s Cup made waves in San Francisco Bay — generating equal amounts of civic pride and political controversy — Larry Ellison’s hometown Oracle Team USA is poised to defend the sailing championship under the banner of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club. But this time, it’s happening in the far-off waters of Bermuda — where the competition has narrowed to four challengers to Oracle and the finals are set to start June 17 — and there’s barely a ripple of interest back in the Bay Area. The preliminaries have been relegated to brief items on the back pages of the sports section. Mark Buell, president of the Recreation and Park Commission, served as chair of the city’s America’s Cup Organizing Committee, which raised $16 million to host the regatta in 2013. He said he had mixed feelings about the race not returning. On the one hand, it was a lot harder than anyone expected to raise money four years ago, Buell said. But as for the competition itself, he said, “It’s sad that it’s not being done on the bay … and I think it’s a mistake.” Staging the races in Bermuda, he noted, means the Cup is “being watched by the super-rich on their yachts or on television.” But Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a vocal critic of the city spending millions to bring the 2013 regatta to San Francisco, had no regrets about the racing boats plying the waters elsewhere. “We’re still recovering from the Super Bowl,” Peskin said, a reference to the estimated $9.6 million that city departments spent to host the 2016 football fest. (A city controller’s report said those costs were more than offset by $11.6 million in added revenue from the airport, hotel and sales taxes.) Mayor Ed Lee did at least make a gesture toward keeping Oracle’s Cup defense on the bay this year, hosting Ellison and his crew at a City Hall party to show off the victory trophy. But when it came to an actual bid for the regatta, City Hall would roll out the red carpet only so far. So Ellison took his yacht fest — and the TV exposure that comes with it — to Bermuda. Which means most of the local excitement will be limited to the sponsoring yacht club, where brunch will be served when the final races play out on five giant TV screens. “We will get a real good crowd,” said Robert Mulhern, manager of the Golden Gate Yacht Club. “But it will be members and guests — that’s for sure.”


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