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Permit deadline, possible sanctions loom for Bluegogo bike-share company

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Bike-share company Bluegogo has announced its expansion to 15 sites in San Francisco, including this parking lot at 6th and Mission streets. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Controversial bike-share company Bluegogo’s deadline to file permits with the San Francisco Planning Department is Friday, as the department threatens a potential crackdown on its scofflaw behavior.

The Planning Department issued a warning to Bluegogo in early February informing the tech bike company that it does not have the required permits to rent its bikes out of public and private parking spaces.

If Bluegogo doesn’t file the required permits, planning code dictates a host of potential punitive actions, including administrative penalties, potential criminal proceedings and enforcement by the San Francisco Police Department.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee will discuss Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s legislation to further empower The City to enforce regulations against bike-share companies using business models similar to Bluegogo, or if bikes are left strewn on public sidewalks, streets or right-of-ways.

“Companies like Bluegogo are clear that if the law impedes their ability to make maximum profit or quash their competition, then they will just break the law,” Peskin said. “The City is finally saying, ‘No, you cannot just do whatever you want and apologize later.’”

Bluegogo’s business model is a tech approach to bike-sharing. The company places bikes in parking spaces with no structures and offers them for rent via a mobile phone app, which unlocks the bike for use. The bikes can be returned to any of its parking spaces.

In China, Bluegogo’s business model allows users to drop bicycles on any sidewalk or street. So far, that hasn’t manifested in San Francisco, but officials aren’t taking any chances.

Bluegogo has since filed for an extension of the Planning Department’s deadline, which the department said it would not extend again. The company has not explicitly said it will be able to file the needed permits.

“We’ve been in contact with [the Planning Department] regarding details and questions we need answered,” Lindsay Stevens, a spokesperson for Bluegogo, said Thursday. “We have until end of day [Friday] to respond officially.”

Also on Thursday, Gina Simi, a spokesperson for the Planning Department, said, “At this time, we haven’t received anything” from Bluegogo concerning permits, and confirmed their deadline is Friday.

Planning also warned Bluegogo it would fall under “formula retail” law if it expanded to 11 or more locations, which would bar Bluegogo from operating in certain San Francisco neighborhoods.

Since the letter was sent, Bluegogo announced on Twitter its expansion to 15 San Francisco locations.

It is unclear if the Planning Department will immediately sanction Bluegogo for that expansion.

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