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Planning Department may shut down bikeshare company Bluegogo’s rental sites

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Bluegogo has been warned by several city agencies to obtain the proper permits to run its business in San Francisco. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Chinese bikeshare company Bluegogo failed to meet a deadline to file permits to use parking spaces for commercial use with the Planning Department on Friday.

Bluegogo uses those parking spaces as “stationless” areas for their customers to leave their rented bikes, usually propped up against one another.

Those bikes are then offered for rent from a mobile phone app, which electronically unlocks the bike.

The Planning Department notified Bluegogo near the end of February that they were in violation of planning code by failing to file a permit to rent bikes from parking spaces.

When asked Tuesday if Bluegogo met their permit deadlines, Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi said, “No, they have not. Therefore we will begin enforcement proceedings this week on each site.”

Simi said Bluegogo has 15 days before a notice of violation is filed. If Bluegogo does not vacate the parking spaces or file a permit by that time, enforcement would follow, which may involve administrative fines or police action, according to planning code.

Bluegogo spokesperson Lindsay Stevens said, “We’re still waiting on a response,” and that the company made multiple requests on “what exactly was needed to file.”

In email correspondence Bluegogo shared with the San Francisco Examiner, the company asked the Planning Department on March 7 why permits are needed to operate Bluegogo bike rentals out of private parking spaces owned by property owners.

“Bluegogo has not sought and is not seeking to install and maintain bicycle racks at these locations – thus, bicycle rack permits are not needed,” Bluegogo VP of U.S. operations Ilya Movshovich wrote to the Planning Department.

The next day, Corey Teague, assistant zoning administrator at Planning Department, wrote to Movshovich that planning code requires “land in any district” be used for the purpose that it’s zoned for. In the case of Bluegogo, it can’t rent bikes from private parking spaces not zoned for commercial use — the spaces are zoned for parking.

On March 9, Movshovich went to the Planning Department to file paperwork a day before the deadline, but he wrote to Teague that he was met with confusion with the process — Movshovich even visited the wrong building to file his paperwork.

“I hope all is well. Throughout the day I have tried to call you…but every single time it went directly to a voicemail,” he wrote to Teague.

Teague responded that Movsovich had “ample time” to familiarize himself with the basic building permit process.

“We will begin enforcement proceedings this week on each site,” he wrote.

However, he added, the primary purpose of the enforcement process is to get parties to comply with the law.

“So as long as you move forward in good faith to file the needed building permits, the enforcement process could conclude for some or all of the sites before any notices of violation are issued or penalties assessed for any of the property owners,” he wrote.

But only if Movsovich files his permits on time — in 15 days from Monday.

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