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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leap Transit Forced to Cease Operations by State

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 1:22 PM

  • Leap

Leap Transit, the private bus line that operates a luxury alternative to Muni between the Financial District and the Marina, has halted operations after receiving a cease and desist letter from the California Public Utilities Commission. 

In a post on its Facebook page published last night, the company announced, "Leap will be offline at least through the end of this week as we work through a regulatory issue." The statement chalks up the problems to "various clerical issues": 
We embarked on a fairly complex regulatory process nearly a year ago and we've cleared many hurdles along the way, including the unanimous approval of Leap's operating authority under the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in March. However, the finalization of this permitting process has been held up due to various clerical issues and we have now been issued a Cease and Desist notice from the PUC.

While we believe that our service is in full compliance with all state and local laws, we have decided to halt operations until we clear this final hurdle. 
But the actual cease and desist order from the CPUC (embedded below) suggests that the problem is more serious. The letter, dated May 11, states the Leap has failed to provide proof of liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance and "evidence of compliance with the controlled substances and alcohol testing requirements." According to the letter, Leap has also not complied with certain "safety requirements prior to operation," including inspections by the California Highway Patrol.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Airbnb Debate Heads to Board of Supervisors

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 11:17 AM

  • tanuha2001 /
After a six-hour hearing on regulating Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms in San Francisco, nothing was decided except that we'll do it all again soon. 

Yesterday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Economic Development Committee ended with both proposals for revising the city's short-term rental rules being forwarded to the full board. According to the SF Examiner, the full board will vote on the issue on June 9th. 

That meeting will likely resemble yesterday's hearing, which featured large groups of resident waiting for hours to comment. Supporters of what they call "home sharing" wore large stickers proclaiming "I'm not 'commercial,' I'm middle class." Opponents wore stickers stating, "Homes not hotels." 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Uber Cutting Some San Francisco Drivers' Pay

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2015 at 4:26 PM

Ride-hail company Uber is cutting some San Francisco drivers' pay by increasing the commission they pay to 30%, Forbes reports

According to Forbes, the potentially $50 billion company is testing a pilot program in which some UberX drivers would pay 30% commission on the first 20 rides they give a week, followed by 25% commission on the next 20 rides, and 20% commission on the rest. Per Forbes:
The tiered structure, which Uber began testing in April, will hit new, part-time drivers the hardest. Those who only work a few hours a week will never see a 20% commission, which used to be standard for UberX, the company’s product where people use their personal cars for work. The new system rewards drivers who work more per week, and full-time drivers will likely reach the top commission tier in a couple days, but even the most dedicated get dinged on their first 30 or 40 rides.
The new commission model is also being tested for some drivers in San Diego. 

In the on-demand economy, platforms like Uber can make changes to the terms and conditions of their independent contractors' work with no recourse for the workers but to switch to a different platform.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Grand Theft Uber: Watch the Movie Version of the New Uber Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 4:57 PM

  • Screenshot

Facebook has the Winklevoss Twins. Now Uber has Kevin Halpern. What Halpern lacks in a genetic doppelganger, he more than makes up for in video editing gimmicks. The "accomplished yoga practitioner and environmental filmmaker" filed a lawsuit against Uber today, claiming that co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp and their early investors stole his idea for the ride-hailing app, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  

You can read the complaint here, or you can watch this 11 minute video, in which Halpern narrates his version of Uber's origins. It's a real tear-jerker, with the Cornell alum hearkening back to his difficult beginnings: "I grew up in New York City and lived the problem of finding a taxi/black car/limo." 

If you can't get enough of Halpern's emphatic narration, fear not. This video is just "Part I of an Infinite Part Webseries." Hopefully Halpern won't go all Amber Spyglass/Mockingjay/Insurgent on us and mess up Part III: "Uber Founder Garret Camp and, His New Startup Incubator." 

UPDATE: An Uber spokesperson got in touch to ask that we include the following statement: "These claims are completely baseless. We will vigorously defend against them."

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

It Is Okay to Get a Servant If You Want a Servant

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 2:01 PM

You are allowed to hire a servant if you want a servant. You can hire two or three even. You can hire a whole staff. 

Servants cook your food and clean your house, if you hire them to do that. They will pack your luggage for you and do your laundry, if that's what you need. You can even have a servant travel with you to carry your bags, or travel ahead of you and unpack your luggage before you get to your hotel room. 

Virginia Woolf had servants. You can too! 

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SFPD Is About To Be Under a Lot More Surveillance

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 12:31 PM

  • Image via ACLU ©2015 Lalo Alcaraz

The body count of unarmed black men and women killed by the police continues to rise, and protests continue to break out across the country. One of the only solutions to racist policing and police brutality to gain any traction since the Ferguson protests last year is continual video recording of police officers. Today, two initiatives were announced that hope to put San Francisco police officers under a lot more video surveillance.

First, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced today that he will ask for $6.6 million in the next budget to fund body cameras for every SFPD officer. The money would also fund associated costs like software and video storage.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, there is no set time-line for when the cameras will be deployed on officers on the street. 

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Front Opens Up in Battle Over Airbnb

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 5:50 PM

  • Screenshot

The war over Airbnb  will be heading to the ballot in November, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Share Better SF, the coalition of groups opposing the proliferation of short-term rentals enabled by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, revealed the specifics of its ballot initiative today. They include capping rental nights for a unit at 75 per year, whether a host is present or not; fines for companies that list illegal or unregistered units; and a requirement that the hosting companies report to the city quarterly on the number of nights each unit is rented. 

The initiative is far more stringent than San Francisco's current law (which has turned out to be unenforceable) and the various fixes that are being considered by the Board of Supervisors. (See Joe Fitzgerald's recent column for more details on that whole mess.) 

Despite Airbnb's arguments that short-term rentals are helping San Franciscans stay in the city, critics of Airbnb blame the company for reducing the available housing stock by allowing for the conversion of rooms and entire apartments to de facto hotels. Airbnb's new PR campaign (rightfully mocked by SFist last week) treats its business model as akin to a civil rights movement—identifying the "Home Sharing 11" in language that evokes a very different kind of struggle

It's the second day of tough news for Airbnb. Last night, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously in favor of new regulations on short-term rentals. According to The LA Times, the regulations would only allow short-term rentals if the host lives on site. Vacation rentals, which make up the majority of listings on major platforms in the city, would be banned. 

According to Dale Carlson, the spokesperson for Share Better SF, the ballot language is now heading to the City Attorney's office, which has two weeks to prepare the official title and summary. Carlson expects that signature gatherers will be hitting the streets in mid-May. 

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Uber Driver Robs Embarcadero Passenger

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 10:17 AM

San Francisco police are investigating an unknown Uber driver for robbing a passenger and keeping him from leaving the car, a police spokesperson said.

The passenger had requested a lift through the ridesharing app, but when the black sedan reached the drop-off location around Embarcadero and Brannan Street at about 1 a.m. Saturday, he was at the driver’s mercy and stuck in the car, according to the police report.

The victim was eventually able to get out of the vehicle and run from the driver, who chased the passenger and took his cell phone and debit card. The suspect took off in an unknown direction while the Uber user sustained a dislocated knee.

Uber has been criticized for its screening of drivers, leading to inconsistent and potentially dangerous rides — which often occur at night.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quick, Before The Bubble Bursts: Let's Put On a TV Show About SF Start Ups!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 3:59 PM


Oh sure, Cynics predict the tech bubble will burst in approximately nine months. But the Sunny Optimists among us prefer  to focus on the media and tech-related bounties that apparently grow on trees around here.

Case in point:  A production outfit says it plans to develop a TV series based on the start-ups of  the Mission District.

Working title: 94110.

Clever, am I right?


The series may or may not be a satire, by the way.

But it will happen, and has real funding and production schedules and placement and such — at least, according to an unnamed co-creator of the project who talked with Mission Local recently.

As Mr. Unnamed Co-creator tells it, 94110 is a TV series akin to Silicon Valley that depicts the lives, hopes, loves and dreams of skinny jeans-wearing, pizza- and sushi-scarfing Man Children of Mission Street start-ups.

No, really. It seriously is a real thing that will some day be among your TV line-up. That is Anonymous Co-creator's story and he's sticking to it.  

The production outfit, he says,  is holding open auditions in San Francisco on May 16 and 17 at SF Arts Quarterly Projects Space on O'Farrell Street.

The anonymous co-creator told Mission Local, "The goal is to have production happen this summer.”

The co-creator asked that his name not be used because he didn't  want his past projects, including some provocative performance art and video projects, to reflect on 94110, which he says he doesn't want to be spoiled by backlash so early in its development.

Oh, well, sure, that sounds legit.

Can't wait to see the filming get going, presumably here in San Francisco, whose tech world, you know, doesn't get nearly enough attention.

It is our fondest wish that  94110 will debut on tablets, mobiles and  flat TV screens near you real soon....ideally before the bubble bursts.

Photo: generic start up kids, via ShutterStock

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

VC: Legal Marijuana Market Is "Surging" Towards $100 Billion

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 10:30 AM

David Chao is looking at billions. - DCM VENTURES
  • DCM Ventures
  • David Chao is looking at billions.
Once you're dealing with lots of zeroes, what's a few zeroes more? The legal marijuana market in America is on its way to being worth $100 billion, according to one sanguine venture capitalist (who just so happens to be investing in legal cannabis).

DCM Ventures, which has invested in such known quantities as anonymous social media platform Yik Yak, is the main firm behind a recently-announced $10 million investment in San Francisco-based Eaze. Called the "Uber of weed" many times over, Eaze is a "technology platform" that facilitates medical marijuana deliveries.

And it's also a great investment, according to DCM general partner David Chao. Chao's firm also supported Eaze's $1 million seed round in November — and why not? Legal weed is "surging towards $100 billion," Chao said in a release this week.

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