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Drivers visiting Lyft Hub invade Potrero Hill

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Lyft drivers maneuver cars around 26th and Kansas streets near the Lyft Hub in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood Wedenesday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Potrero Hill neighbors are far from tickled pink over their new neighbor, Lyft.

The ride-hail company known for its iconic pink mustache opened a “Lyft Hub” to help drivers with service needs in the east-side neighborhood last November, and the swelling car traffic has neighbors at wit’s end.

“This has been hell,” said Roz Hauge-Foster, a neighbor who lives across the street from the hub, which is located at 2300 26th St. She said the company has turned the neighborhood “into their private parking lot.”

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Dozens of neighbors have complained to Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the area where the hub is located, prompting the supervisor to explore limiting where in The City companies can draw so many vehicles.

Though no new law has been proposed, Cohen and the San Francisco Planning Department will meet as soon as next week to look at potential new zoning laws, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

It’s not the first time San Francisco has seen a tech company move into a building and begin drawing hundreds of cars a day, Cohen said. Food-delivery service Munchery and ride-hail giant Uber both had spaces that drew vehicles in San Francisco previously.

The Lyft Hub occupies the site of the former Bell Plumbing at 26th St., between Vermont and Kansas streets. It offers a range of services for its drivers there, including car maintenance. Pink signs outside remind drivers to “please respect neighbors.” A pink gate leads into an Apple Store-like space for drivers to meet with Lyft staff.

Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Harrison described multiple steps taken to address neighbor concerns, including to remove Saturday service for drivers to alleviate weekend parking, curtailing their weekday evening hours, creating a hotline for neighbor complaints, hiring a full-time patrol officer, posting signs to remind drivers to be polite and advocating for an all-way stop sign at the corner of the hub.

Additionally, “Lyft reached out to neighbors to preview the Hub in September before it opened to drivers,” Harrison said.

Hauge-Foster said those actions were welcome, but they don’t address the central concern: multitudes of circling cars. She said in meetings with neighbors, Lyft staff counted as many as 150 to 200 drivers visiting the hub each day.

The Examiner stood outside on a recent Wednesday afternoon and saw cars come in waves, which neighbors said block their driveways, litter, perform illegal turns and occupy most of the nearby parking. There was no patrol in sight.

And in what neighbors see as perhaps a final indignity, Lyft re-painted Bell Plumbing’s iconic white van, which sits high aloft a pole and can be seen from U.S. Highway 101. The new color?

Pink.

“They’ve created chaos,” Cohen told the Examiner. “The amount of [car] trips they’re generating is stressing the neighborhood.”

One neighbor, who complained to Cohen in an email, wrote in January, “There were so many Lyft cars on our street this afternoon that we did call [the San Francisco Police Department] around 2:00 PM. Upwards of [six] Lyft cars were double parallel parked between 26th/25th and were blocking the Muni bus turning from 26th onto Kansas.”

The Lyft Hub site is zoned by the Planning Department for light industrial use.

But that industrial designation, known as M1 and M2 zoning, is “some of the most permissive in The City at allowing a large range of uses,” said Corey Teague, assistant zoning administrator at the Planning Department.

Potentially new zoning laws are in very early stages, Teague said. “The conversation has been, ‘We should have a conversation.’”

Legislatively, there are “a lot of possibilities,” Teague said, as the Board of Supervisors has authority to amend the planning code. Though new zoning may prevent future situations like the one found at the Lyft Hub, he said, it may not address the Lyft Hub itself.

“As long as they want to operate as an office use, that’s locked into perpetuity,” he said.

That news might stoke neighbors’ tempers, but it likely uplifts Lyft drivers.

Jeniffer Mendiola, a Lyft driver who lives northeast of The City, near Stockton, said the San Francisco location is convenient because that’s where the most work is. She first used the facility to get help obtaining a permit to drive at San Francisco International Airport.

“I drive all the way out to San Francisco from Lodi,” she said. But if Lyft moved farther south to Daly City or South San Francisco, she said, “that would be tough.”

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