Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to The S.F. ExaminerSouth San Francisco's City Council is expected to consider a long-term agreement later this month to allow FlightCar to develop space at a former roofing supply warehouse at 323 South Canal St.

Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to The S.F. ExaminerSouth San Francisco's City Council is expected to consider a long-term agreement later this month to allow FlightCar to develop space at a former roofing supply warehouse at 323 South Canal St.

FlightCar sets up shop in South City after conflicts in Millbrae

A carsharing startup primarily serving the San Francisco International Airport area has left its base in Millbrae after tensions with the city over compliance issues.

FlightCar, a peer-to-peer car rental service for travelers, has relocated to South San Francisco following the expiration of its lease on a Millbrae parking lot last month. The company departs Millbrae amidst a flurry of litigation after the city revoked its conditional use permit, effectively forcing it to shut down its local operation.

FlightCar provides free parking to car owners bound for the airport at a nearby lot as long as they agree to let the startup rent their vehicles out while they are away. Cars are covered by a million dollar insurance policy during the rental period and get a free professional wash when they’re returned. Daily rates are available for renters, who are offered complimentary airport pickup.

The company has attracted roughly $6 million in venture capital from investors such as Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. But like many of its peers in the so-called sharing economy, FlightCar’s seemingly simple business model has come into conflict with municipal regulations.

In a December lawsuit, the city of Millbrae alleged that FlightCar failed to pay parking taxes and flouted the terms and conditions of its use agreement, starting construction on the lot without a building permit, housing more cars and employees on the property than were allowed, and using a noisy and potentially hazardous generator to supply electricity. Several cars were also reportedly stolen by renters, requiring police intervention.

The Millbrae City Council voted to revoke FlightCar’s conditional use permit after numerous code violations were allegedly observed at the site, a former auto dealership at El Camino Real and Hermosa Avenue.

FlightCar co-founder Kevin Petrovic claims that the company made good-faith efforts to remedy the situation while contending with the challenges of managing a new and changing business.

“We were working as fast as we could on our end to get everything done,” said Petrovic. “We didn’t really know what the needs would be, how many customers there would be, how fast we would grow… Cities don’t like that.”

The startup was still ironing out final modifications at the 39-car Millbrae lot when it commenced operations in August, with up to 100 vehicles entering and exiting each day. At the time its permit was yanked in November, however, all the problems had been fixed, said Petrovic.

“The Planning Commission made its findings and determination despite the fact that the City admitted that FlightCar was at the time (and is currently) compliant with all conditions,” argued a company suit following the revocation.

But City Attorney Joan Cassman said businesses need to address any compliance concerns prior to beginning operations. “You go through the process with the planning commission and the city,” she said. “The city imposes terms and conditions and when you open your business you should be in compliance. You don’t just open the next day.” She declined to comment on the specifics of the ongoing litigation.

While FlightCar awaits the outcome of its claims for damages, it has decamped to an interim lot in South San Francisco. The company hopes to establish a permanent location there that can accommodate up to 140 cars, Petrovic said.Bay Area NewsFlightCarMillbraePeninsulaSan Francisco International Airport

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

49ers receiver Deebo Samuel picks up yards in front of the Rams defense after a reception in the 4th quarter at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood Sunday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Rams can’t stop 49ers’ Deebo Samuel from catching defense off guard

Emmanuel Morgan Los Angeles Times Perhaps the Rams didn’t watch enough film.… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Indecline, an art activist collective in San Francisco, transformed a billboard into an editorial with a message blasting immigration policies of Donald Trump’s administration. (Screenshot, Indecline website)
Has immigration fallen off the administration’s radar? Not a chance

Enforced as executive orders, Trump’s hardline policies are proceeding, against will of the people

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

Most Read