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Two Major Scooter Companies Rally Supporters After Snub From Santa Monica City Officials
By Jorge Casuso
August 14, 2018 -- There is no item on Tuesday night's City Council agenda that addresses the issue of electric scooters. But that didn't stop two of the largest companies competing for a coveted contract to operate a pilot program in Santa Monica from descending on City Hall.
Bird and Lime rallied their supporters this week after failing to finish high on the list of companies recommended to operate the 16-month pilot program that kicks off September 17 ("Santa Monica Launches Pilot Program for Electric Scooters, Bicycles," June 13, 2018).
By the time City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren arrived at 2 p.m. to begin preparing for the meeting, the street outside City Hall was lined with media trucks.
"It's not on the Council agenda at all," she said.
To address the issue, "they would have to wait until the end of the meeting for the public comment section," Anderson-Warren added.
The recommendations for the pilot program will not come back to the City Council, said Constance Farrell, the City's public information officer.
"The Council decided what the process would be at the June 12 meeting," Farrel said. "There was a substantial public process for that meeting."
"The entire process has been very transparent and very clear," she said.
Although the issue will not be heard by the Council, Bird and Lime have urged supporters to send public comments to the City Clerk, a practice normally reserved for items on the agenda.
"We've been inundated," Anderson-Warren said.
Many of the comments were sent by supporters of Bird on a template the company provided with a message to be forwarded to the City Council.
"A large majority of the people (who sent the comments) don't live here," Denise-Anderson said.
However, it is not the City Council that will make the final decision, but David Martin, the City's director of Planning and Economic Development, based on the recommendations made by a selection committee, Farrel said.
The public comment period for the committee's recommendations ends Friday at 2 p.m., she said.
The push by Bird and Lime came after Martin's department on Friday posted the recommendations made by the selection committee composed of City officials from different departments.
The committee chose two operators for the scooter pilot program and two for the bicycle program from 18 applications submitted by 13 different operators.
The two top choices for scooter operators -- ranked based on seven categories -- were LYFT and Jump, which is run by Uber.
"The committee was unanimous in the selection of the top two operators in the bike category and the scooter category, though individual committee members differed on the ranking of first or second within each category," the committee wrote in its report.
Lime ranked fourth in the scooter category, while Bird finished 10th.
To protest the committee's recommendations Bird "voluntarily grounded its fleet of e-scooters in Santa Monica," the company announced Monday.
"The grounding will impact thousands of residents who have come to rely on Bird’s environmentally friendly transportation option to move about the city," Bird said in a statement.
The Lyft and Uber applications "demonstrate the desperate lengths CO2 polluting companies will go to for the purpose of undermining clean energy competition," the statement said.
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