SF investigates whether Uber, Lyft are public nuisances

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is seeking a court order requiring officials with Uber and Lyft to provide information to allow him to determine whether the companies are a public nuisance to the city’s residents and workers, his office announced Friday.

Herrera’s office issued subpoenas June 5 to get the information and six weeks later neither company has provided it.

But Uber officials said they sent a letter about the request on June 20 and met with prosecutors July 14. Then prosecutors asked on July 18 for all the data and wanted it the following day.

But Herrera’s spokesman John Cote said both companies had six weeks to provide the information, not one day.

Lyft officials issued a statement that said they were working with prosecutors as late as Thursday night.

In the statement, Lyft officials said:

“But demanding enormous amounts of people’s private information — more than has ever been requested by any other city in which we operate — while refusing to take basic steps to protect this personal data is unprecedented, baffling and simply a step too far.”

An Uber spokesman said in a statement the company┬áremains “open to working with city leaders willing to take a holistic approach” to improving transportation in San Francisco:

“We are working with the city attorney’s office to better understand their concerns. We informed them that we are willing to provide them information to address those concerns. We hope to come to an agreement on the handling of confidential information and we are committed to working together on these important issues.”

Cote noted the companies’ concerns about the confidentiality of their information, but again they have had six weeks to draft that too.

Uber officials said attorneys for the company were working on the agreement, while Lyft officials did not say when they hope to have an agreement written.

Cote provided a couple of examples of how the companies could be a public nuisance and said there are legal definitions for it.

Herrera wants to know, for example, whether Uber charges more in some neighborhoods than others or whether the companies are complying with laws for access by people with disabilities. Cote also asked whether the app is useable for blind or deaf people.

Herrera is looking into reports that drivers from as far away as Los Angeles and Fresno are coming to San Francisco to work.

The drivers may be driving on little sleep on unfamiliar roads in unfamiliar weather.

Herrera said in a statement:

“There’s no question that Uber and Lyft offer convenience. But convenience for some cannot trump the rights of every San Francisco resident and visitor, including the safe enjoyment of our roads and bike lanes. I’m trying to strike the right balance here.”