SF computes permit fees for robot delivery testing on public sidewalks

San Francisco imposed tough restrictions on delivery robots using public sidewalks last December, but the issue returns to a Board of Supervisors committee Thursday when supervisors will vote to set the permit fees.

Robot delivery companies will have to spend $860 to apply for a permit to test one device, $1,540 to test two devices and $1,995 to test the maximum allowed three devices.

These permits could be extended for additional fees of $555, $1,010 and $1,465, respectively.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote Thursday on the legislation approving the fees. The full board would vote to adopt them on March 13.

Last December, the board passed legislation introduced by Supervisor Norman Yee prohibiting robot deliveries on most public sidewalks. Companies are only allowed to test the devices after obtaining a permit from the Public Works Department. The applications won’t be available until after the board approves the permit fees.

At the time, Yee, who had the support of pedestrian safety groups, said the law is about “keeping our sidewalks for people.”

Initially Yee proposed an outright ban of robot deliveries, but later negotiated with companies like Marble, which is based in Potrero Hill, to allow limited use for testing.

That law allows the Public Works Department to fine tune regulations around the robots and also set permit fees.

But the December legislation spells out the basic parameters. A company can only apply for one permit to test up to three devices at any one time. Only three permits could be issued at any one time. If one of the permits is not applied for within six months a single company can hold two permits to able to test six vehicles at any one time.

Permits are good for up to 180 days with two 90-day extensions and are only allowed in largely industrial and warehouse areas of The City, known as areas zoned as production, distribution and repair or PDR.

The legislation allows the Department of Public Health to charge up to $191 per hour for referrals sent by Public Works.

The legislation would also increases the fees for Public Works’ night time work permits from $115.45 to $123 and establishes an appeal filing fee of $225 to Public Works.

A Public Works spokesperson could not immediately explain the reason behind the night time work permit increase.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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