San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that allows Uber and Lyft drivers to avoid registering for business licenses in every city they drive in. (S.F. Examiner file photo)

SF sues state over Uber business license law

Update 02/09 9:26 a.m.:

State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) issued a statement responding to San Francisco’s lawsuit against the state.

“SB 182 is a straightforward measure that I authored to protect all Californians, who work as [ride-hail] drivers, from dubious taxes and fees,” Bradford said. “Many of these drivers are part-time and working multiple jobs to survive. This is a frivolous lawsuit and terrible waste of taxpayer money. This law simply treats [ride-hail] drivers as most businesses which require a single business license to operate, and assures that the personal information of drivers remain private.”

Original story follows

San Francisco is challenging a new state law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to avoid obtaining business licenses in every city in which they operate, calling it a “special exemption” and a “carve out.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Thursday filed suit against the state of California to invalidate aspects of Senate Bill 182, which allows Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain only one business license in a California city, as opposed to a business license in every city they pick up passengers in.

The suit was filed in conjunction with the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which itself has filed more than 25 legal missives challenging regulations of Uber and Lyft with the companies’ state regulators. The San Francisco agencies are seeking to restore local fees and local control.

Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 182, introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), into law last year. Before the law went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, about 21,000 drivers had registered with San Francisco, generating around $1.9 million in fees annually, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

In a statement, Herrera said Uber and Lyft carved out a “special exemption” for their drivers from a law that everyone in the state must follow, from “dog walkers” to Google.

“Uber and Lyft need to play by the same rules as every other business in San Francisco,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “Out-of-town drivers are choking our streets as their corporate overseers design ways to stiff City taxpayers when it comes to congestion, road repair and traffic safety costs. We are going to ensure everyone pays their fair share.”

San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros blasted Uber and Lyft, and said their effort to pass a state law to circumvent local business licenses “undermines” San Francisco’s authority “and shows that well financed, politically connected industries can write their own rules at the state level.”

Lyft responded to the suit, and in a statement, the company highlighted the need to protect driver privacy.

“Lyft drivers and the overwhelming majority of legislators from both parties supported these improvements to modernize the law and preserve the benefits and economic opportunities ridesharing provides,” wrote a Lyft spokesperson, in a statement. “Many local business licenses, including those from the City of San Francisco, require the public posting of drivers’ personal information online, creating serious safety and privacy concerns for Californians who use Lyft to earn extra income.”

Uber also recently fired back at Cisneros, saying the Treasurer’s Office posted private information of its ride-hail drivers including their home addresses. Those addresses were submitted by Uber and Lyft drivers for their business registration, which is listed publicly by the Treasurer’s Office.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Cisneros, Uber Northern California General Manager Eric Schroeder urged Cisneros to remove driver data from the Treasurer’s Office website.

“We are aware that the city website managed by your office continues to publicly display the private information of [ride-hail] drivers in violation of the recently enacted California state law,” Schroeder wrote.

The City Attorney’s Office contends that private identifiable information is not required for a business license. Instead, ride-hail drivers can use a P.O. Box to register, for example. Cisneros’ office has said there are “serious concerns about the validity of the law.”
City Attorney Dennis HerreraCPUCLyftPoliticsSan FranciscoTransitTreasurer Jose CisnerosUber

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