San Francisco e-scooter company Go X “fraudulently” made up its own permit using The City’s seal to drum up business, The City Attorney’s Office alleged in a letter to the company Tuesday.
San Francisco only permits four e-scooter companies to operate on city streets: Lime, Spin, Scoot and Jump.
But Go X and San Francisco officials have been embroiled in a quiet game of cat-and-mouse for months, as the San Francisco Examiner reported last year. The company’s founder, Alexander Debelov, operates outside the city permit system by housing his e-scooters on the property of private businesses.
“Go X is nothing more than a rogue company,” City Attorney’s Office spokesperson John Cote said in a statement. “Not only is it operating illegally, it lied to businesses about having permits approved by the City and the Chamber of Commerce.”
“Go X seems to think it’s above the law. It couldn’t be more mistaken,” Cote added.
The City Attorney’s Office issued a letter Tuesday ordering e-scooter company Go X to cease its allegedly illegal activity, which includes fraudulently using the seal of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. The company also owes San Francisco $233,800 in unpaid citations after impounding its improperly parked e-scooters.
Go X will also need to cease renting e-scooters altogether after January 18, when a new city law takes effect that bans companies from renting e-scooters without a city permit, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
At the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors regular meeting, Tuesday, directors expressed bewilderment at the activities of Go X.
“They actually created a false permit with a city seal on it?” SFMTA board director Gwyneth Borden said. “That is just next-level craziness, we’re not even talking about lots of other things with them not paying fines.”
“This is pretty unbelievable,” she added.
On Tuesday, Debelov denied the claims made by the City Attorney’s Office.
“I read the letter and I was so upset,” Debelov said. “The idea of us taking something or making something up is absolutely absurd.”
However, The City Attorney’s Office forwarded the alleged false permit with its letter.
This false permit does indeed use a city seal and the SF Chamber of Commerce logo. Go X then solicited merchant partners, asking them to rent its e-scooters to their own customers, promising “we met with the San Francisco’s [sic] City Attorney’s office which approved our model,” The City Attorney’s Office alleges.
“That is a lie,” The City Attorney’s Office wrote in its letter.
Debelov explained that his company met with the Chamber of Commerce and “we believe we receive permission of SF Chamber of Commerce that’s under the jurisdiction of the city and county of San Francisco, that’s all.”
When the Examiner explained the Chamber of Commerce is not an arm of city government, but instead is a group comprised of private San Francisco businesses, he replied with a question.
“The Chamber of Commerce is not a city department?” Debelov asked.
It is not. It’s leadership is also not happy about Go X’s use of its logo.
Rodney Fong, president of the Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a letter to the City Attorney’s Office that “this falsified ‘permit’ presented by Go X was never issued or suggested by the SF Chamber. The Chamber does not agree to or condone this use of our logo or the statement it represents.”
That’s not the last of Go X’s woes.
Skates on Haight, Hotel Zetta, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, Hotel Kabuki, Laguna on Hayes, and local favorite Red’s Java House count itself among Go X’s partners, hosting e-scooters on site for people to rent.
But come January 18, that may end.
Go X operated out of private businesses, instead of keeping its e-scooters on public sidewalks like its competitors, which Debelov said avoided the need for a city permit.
However, an amendment to e-scooter permits signed into law by Mayor London Breed in December made operation of any e-scooter rental — on public sidewalks or not — require an SFMTA permit, which Go X does not have.
“Soon, this dispute about Go X’s violation of existing law will be beside the point,” The City Attorney’s Office wrote in its letter to the company’s attorneys.
Go X will be officially X’d out.