A battle waged by well-paid lobbyists has broken out at San Diego city hall over whether the city should allow so-called dockless bicycle rental firms to ply their trade on city streets. The city already has a deal with Florida-based DecoBike to occupy streets with self-service bike rental stands bearing garish illuminated billboards, but that approach, the dockless bike providers maintain, is now outmoded. “The two leading companies in the U.S., LimeBike and Spin, launched their services this year and have rapidly expanded in just a few months,” the Union-Tribune reported last week. “They charge $1 for half an hour of use, compared to the $5 per half hour charged by DecoBike.”
What the paper didn’t note was the deployment of some well-known local influence-peddlers by both Spin and LimeBike in an attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of dockless bikes, which lock automatically and can be left anywhere after use. Lobbyist disclosure filings show Rachel Laing of Laing Strategic Communications, representing Spin, has talked to city deputy chief operating officer David Graham as well as Brian Elliott, a staffer for city councilman Chris Ward. Laing has also lobbied Ruth Martin and Kevin Smith, aides to Ward’s fellow council Democrat David Alvarez. She was paid $3000 by Spin during the third quarter.
Kimberly Hale Miller and Phil Rath of the Rath Miller lobbying shop have added LimeBike to their roster of clients, an October 31 filing shows. Miller and Rath have each raised campaign cash for Alvarez and his Democratic council colleague Myrtle Cole, according to the same disclosure. Their talents of persuasion may be paying off: Alvarez told the Union-Tribune last week he had come to be impressed with the new bike rental idea. “Last weekend I saw dockless bikes parked at six different bus stations in National City, which indicated to me people are using those bikes and then jumping on transit. I see this as a very new opportunity that wasn’t on the radar a year ago — or maybe even six months ago. I hope we find a way that this can work in San Diego.”
... Another $100,000 campaign contribution has rolled into the political fund backing a proposed ballot measure to turn the site formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium over to San Diego State University for redevelopment. The latest well-heeled donor is Irwin Pfister, ex–vice president of Schlumberger, the secretive oilfield services giant closely tied to former vice president Dick Cheney.