SF sues California over ride-hailing rules

The city of San Francisco sued the state of California Thursday over new restrictions by the state on how cities can regulate drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera argues that California Senate Bill 182 — which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October — interferes with The City’s right to regulate its own municipal affairs.

The statewide law was passed partly in response to San Francisco’s requirement for all businesses, including independent contractors, to register with The City and pay a $90 fee after seven days of operating in San Francisco.

The revenue from registering drivers has been substantial, according to Herrera’s office, with 21,000 drivers registering before Jan. 1, generating $1.9 million in fees each year.

But the new state law requires drivers to only obtain a business license from a single city, even if they operate across multiple jurisdictions. The bill’s author, Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, argued that it would protect drivers from having to obtain multiple licenses for each city they passed through.

Herrera, however, said that the city’s fees are not onerous, and are in fact necessary because of the numerous out-of-town drivers operating in San Francisco:

“There are exactly two local governments in all of Northern California that require Uber and Lyft drivers to pay a registration tax – San Francisco and San Jose. … That’s hardly a labyrinth of onerous local regulations.”

He said that drivers with ride hailing companies now account for 570,000 miles driven in San Francisco each weekday, a fifth of all traffic, and concentrate in the densest areas of The City.

Only 21 percent of drivers who registered with the city actually lived in San Francisco and 10 percent didn’t even live in the nine-county Bay Area, according to Herrera’s office.

An analysis by San Francisco police found that ride-hailing drivers accounted for nearly 65 percent of downtown traffic violations during a three-month period in 2016, with 1,723 ride hailing drivers cited for violations like obstructing a bike lane, obstructing a traffic lane or failing to yield for a pedestrian.

An official with the state attorney general’s office, which defends the state in legal actions, said the lawsuit is under review, and declined to comment further.