As mayor during a particularly tumultuous time in the city's growth, Ed Lee has been a leader in calling for task forces and working groups to integrate our local government with the ever-changing tech industry. One such group was Lee's Sharing Economy Working Group, which launched in 2012 and proceeded to do exactly nothing over the next two years.
The working group was announced in March 2012 and was made up of city officials, community groups, and industry reps that would look into all aspects of the buzzwordy sharing economy. Everything from ride-sharing, to room-sharing, to bike and skill-sharing was meant to be investigated and the whole thing was lauded as the "first-ever" such group in the country. That turned out to be little more than an overly ambitious headline grab for Lee: as the San Francisco Business Times reports today, the group has never actually met.
Other city groups have looked into regulating the various aspects of this whole sharing thing, of course: David Chiu (who was on Lee's working group) spent the past two years working on his recently proposed Airbnb legislation. Likewise, the California Public Utilities Commission took up the mantle on regulating ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, which they defined last year as Transportation Networking Companies.
Lee's spokeswoman Christine Falvey, meanwhile, didn't dispute that the group never met, explaining that it was really meant to create an "informal" dialogue around these issues. “This is an industry that the mayor definitely did not want to stifle. He wanted to make sure that city regulations were not imposed in too draconian a fashion,” Falvey told the Business Times. “We’ve seen a lot of success since the mayor called for this.”
It's debatable whether that success can be attributed to a 2012 press release from Lee's office, but the mayor's critics are using the vaporous working group as another example of Lee being overly friendly with the tech industry. Public relations veteran Dale Carlson, whose name tops a new ballot measure that could actually stifle room-sharing services like Airbnb and VRBO, so he obviously has a bone to pick in this, laid it out to the Business Times: “The mayor is quite smitten with technology and the idea of the ‘sharing economy,’ which is a lot of hot air,” Carlson explained, “I see money changing hands, I see middlemen taking cuts, I see renting. I don’t see any sharing.”