Blake Herrschaft Elected Chair of OB Planning Board – Forum on Dockless Bikes Held

by on March 8, 2018 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

New Executive Committee Chosen

At last night’s monthly Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting, Blake Herrschaft was elected Chair of the Board, a step up from his former position as vice-chair.  And Andrea Schlageter was elected the new vice-chair – whose task mainly is to chair the monthly subcommittee meeting of the Project Review panel. Rounding out the Executive Committee, Craig Klein was selected again as the Treasurer and Dan Dennison the Secretary of the Board.

New chair of the OB Planning Board: Blake Herrschaft. (all photos by Frank Gormlie)

In community election results, the 4 incumbents who ran were all re-elected; they include Klein, Numan Stotz, Jane Gowronski and Schlageter. John Ambert and Bill Corbin have stepped off the Board. Ambert was chair for 4 years.

Discussion on Dockless Bikes

The main draw for the night’s meeting – evidenced by a packed meeting room and at least 3 television cameras – was a promised discussion or forum on the invasion into OB by bike-share, or dockless bikes. Reps from 2 companies, Bird-Electric scooters and ofo bikes, did show, made brief presentations and fielded most questions from board members and from the audience of 40 people. Only LimeBikes has made its presence in the community, whereas the other 2 have been in downtown; LimeBikes were invited but reportedly said they had a prior engagement. (The  other company in San Diego is White Bicycles.)

Andrea Schlageter was elected the new vice-chair

The forum to discuss the rollout of the new programs began with the reps from Bird, the electric scooter company, launched in Santa Monica in September 2017. “We’re trying to get people out of their cars,” one rep said and spoke of alternative transit and needing new options. The program was launched in PB one and half months ago; they have 60-70 “units” in town. The scooters now cost $1 plus 15 cents per minute. The company has crews that nightly gather up all the scooters and redeploy them between 5 and 7 a.m. Free helmets are available via mail and the app. Overdoing the bird analogy, the rep said the company currently has “nests” for the scooters in PB, the Gaslamp and North Park.

Two representatives of the other company, ofo bike, also spoke. They’re in 200 cities worldwide, starting in China. “We’re the largest and oldest bikeshare company,” one rep declared, however they’re not in OB. Normally their bikes charge $1 an hour. They like colleges, the other rep said. “We’re excited about SDSU!” he added.

“San Diego chose a different route,” the rep said. “Each community handles it differently,” he said. “San Diego decided to just not do any requirements,” and the companies are mostly in downtown. “Lori Zapf asked us,” he said, “to not deploy at the beach until there’s community input.”

Questions quickly bubbled up from the audience and board members. Some of the questions were actually complaints – such as the companies competing with local bike rental businesses. “You will crush the small guy,” one board member said.

This was John Ambert’s last meeting as chair. He held the position for 4 years.

The issues raised during the forum centered on the following:

  • complaints of bike companies using the public right of way, the public commons for their private company;
  • need for legislation or city regulations to control the bikes;
  • questions on what the city is taking besides a $55 business license versus private companies using public infrastructure;
  • OB has more crowded sidewalks than downtown – so, a comparison is not balanced;
  • investors will want a return on their money, how can the companies charge cheap fees?
  • OB may not be an optimum location for these bikes;
  • costs for maintenance, storage don’t seem to be covered by $1 an hour rental costs and that as a business model, it doesn’t make sense; some of the companies are world-wide and can absorb costs;
  • companies need to address users’ lack of how and where to park the bikes;
  • in San Diego, the bikes are not registered;
  • no hard and fast rules for some companies on when they pick up their bikes;
  • whether parking enforcement officers can issue citations to bike users;
  • liabilities of users vs. companies;
  • OB has lots of “chop-shops” for bikes and bike thefts are a huge issue;
  • will there be surge pricing?
  • whether they can be local preferential rates.
  • data-sharing with city.

One rep said, “San Diego is a year-round wonderful place to launch these programs.”

After all the questions and answers, the Board voted to send a letter to the City requesting a ton of information about the programs and offering some of its observations and feedback to the city. Here’s CBS8’s report.

UPDATE: This just in from the San Diego U-T:

San Diego officials are trying to crack down on irresponsible behavior by sending the city’s operators seven pages of rules this week that apply to all local businesses. Those laws, which are part of the city’s municipal code, prohibit businesses from blocking sidewalks, clogging the public “right of way” and advertising goods for rent in parks or at beaches without express permission from the city. The merchant groups are praising those efforts, but would prefer a halt to the program so city officials and community leaders can review the entire rental concept and possibly designate specific spots where the bikes can be parked.

Vacancies on Planning Board

Despite the election just held, there are a number of vacancies remaining on the Board. There are 2 vacancies in District 1; 1 in District 2; 1 unfilled in District 3; and an open seat in District 5. Often when the Board is faced with unfilled seats, it will appoint individuals to them even if they don’t live or own a business in it. People wishing to be appointed must go through the same process as a candidate (obtain signatures, etc). See this.

Other Issues

Money for Stairs: Conrad Wear of Zapf’s office announced that funding has been approved for 3 stairs in OB: Bermuda, Orchard and Narragansett. Wear also stated that “it’s a top priority for our office for a Bacon and West Pt Loma round-about.”

Candidate Lorie Saldana was in the audience.

Catalina Emergency Pipeline Project Done June 2018

Drivers on Catalina are well aware of the pipeline project. A city rep spoke of a localized water outage recently called in order to complete the project. Now, he said, the project will be completed in June 2018, including the resurfacing of Catalina.  The project has been replacing the old, rotting mains with PCB, which has a 80 to 100 year life span, we were told. A question was raised about mitigating the leeching of the PCB pipes.

Lori Saldana was in the audience and rose to speak about her candidacy for the seat of District 4 for the County Board of Supervisors. “It’s the first time in years,” she said, “there’s a chance to elect someone new – as Ron Roberts has been termed out.”

Julie Quinn also is a candidate, for the Peninsula Planning Board – she introduced herself to the board and audience.

OBceans Allie and Mick told the board there’s rumors that Curtis Nelson is once again the owner of the controversial property at Ebers and Greene. Chair Ambert responded:

“The owner may be trying to re-use the second unit as a companion unit.” Or in other words, a granny flat.

That about wraps it up. The OB Planning Board meets the first Wednesday of every meeting. Try to make one.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie March 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm

Whoops. there’s actually more money allocated for more than 3 stairs; meant to say the stairs at the end of the 3 streets …


Toolpusher March 9, 2018 at 4:44 am

I have no particular problem with the bike sharing. I understand the impact to local bike shops; but, innovation happens, disruptions follow if the innovation catches on. If the community doesn’t like it, then boycott. Regulate if some unintended consequences occur, other than simple competition. I can tell you one thing though: I will never ride one of those commie bikes from ofo, that is my boycott!


Chris March 9, 2018 at 10:10 am

Read what I posted below. I doubt these will have much of an impact.


Chris March 9, 2018 at 10:08 am

I don’t really think the bike sharing outfits are going to have much of an impact on local shops. As far as bike retail it’s really a non issue. The bike rental shops on the other hand might be mildly affected but not much. The bike sharing outfits are geared towards getting from point a to b a d charge by the halls hour. If someone wants to rent a bike for a few hours or for the whole day, they will rent from a traditional rental shop. Not to mention the fact they probably will want ro rent a beach cruiser.


Dr. Jack Hammer March 10, 2018 at 9:24 am

So who’s going to fish out the bikes at the bottom of the cliffs? Any local reps from these Bay Area/Not local companies like to go fishing for their awesome ideas before the high tide?


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