Calling the business's actions "next-level craziness," the SFMTA and the City Attorney's Office are seeking to shut down the e-scooter company Go X, which has been operating in San Francisco without a city permit now for a year.
In a letter this week to Go X, the City Attorney's Office says that the company owes the city over $200,000 in citations and "fraudulently" created its own permit — using the seal of the city's Chamber of Commerce — in order to purport to area business partners that it had permission to operate legally in the city. As the Examiner reports, Go X founder Alexander Debelov apparently was not aware that the Chamber of Commerce was not a city department, and that their blessing had nothing to do with the law.
"Go X is nothing more than a rogue company," says City Attorney's Office spokesperson John Cote in a statement to the media. "Go X seems to think it’s above the law. It couldn’t be more mistaken."
As KPIX reports, Go X has been given until January 18 to cease all operations here and get its scooters off the street. Go X issued a statement Tuesday saying, "Go-X worked with Chamber of Commerce to create private scooter rental permits and has received their explicit permission to use their seal on all of the permits."
San Francisco currently allows four e-scooter companies to operate in the city under the SFMTA’s Powered Scooter Share Permit program. This followed a glut of free-for-all scooter madness in 2018 as this new-but-retro form of transportation captured the imaginations of tourists and young locals alike, and companies were willy-nilly dumping their scooters on sidewalks all over. The companies that won out in the permitting process are Lime, Spin, Scoot, and Jump.
Go X has been operating under a slightly different scooter-rental model in which the scooters are tied to specific businesses, like Fisherman's Wharf hotels and Embarcadero restaurants. Go X gives these businesses a cut of the scooter revenue, and scooter users are supposed to return the scooters to one of these 55 partner businesses when they're done. As the Examiner reported last fall, the company has been getting citations and seeing their scooters impounded since their "soft launch" last January.
Debelov told the paper at the time that his company didn't need a city permit because of their different operating model, but then that seems to be contradicted by the copy of the supposed permit that the City Attorney's Office shared. The City Attorney alleges that Go X told merchants that it had met with the city and received City Attorney's Office approval, and "That is a lie."
Debelov denies these claims, however when told that the Chamber of Commerce was a private organization with no ties to the city, he was apparently surprised.
Amusingly, the Go X promo video released last July features a dude picking up a Go X scooter on the sidewalk right outside his house (not at a business), and then riding it to a picnic brunch while also apparently stealing some flowers from a market along the way.
The Examiner also spoke to SFMTA board chair Gwyneth Borden who said of the faked permit, "That is just next-level craziness, we’re not even talking about lots of other things with them not paying fines."
The loophole that Go X was apparently exploiting is closing on January 18 when an amendment to the wording of the e-scooter permit ordinance goes into effect. Mayor Breed signed it in December, and it says that any e-scooter operating on city streets, whether parked on public sidewalks or not, needs a city permit.