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What happens to neighborhood parking when 300 free-roaming little electric cars hit town later this year?

San Diego is about to find out.

The city council's quick approval earlier this month of a two-year pilot program to allow electric "car sharing" here, complete with city-sanctioned on-street parking, belied months of extensive, behind the scenes lobbying that went into getting the project through city hall before criticism about the operation in Vancouver, B.C. materialized.

In ideal situations, the cars will be parked around a designated portion of the city, awaiting pre-registered drivers to walk up, swipe their membership card on the windshield, punch in a PIN number, and drive off.

A GPS system will keep track of the cars; rental charges are to be billed to the user's credit card.

When done with the vehicle, the driver will simply drop it at any legal on-street or designated parking space, metered or unmetered, within the designated area, for use by the next customer.

Rental costs are expected to be about $13 an hour, $66 a day.

But a similar pilot operation, also run by car2go, a Texas subsidiary of German car-making giant Daimler AG, has raised hackles in Vancouver, where some residents complain that its vehicles have parked up their neighorhoods.

"I'm just so sick of things being shoved down our throats. Where's the consultation?" complained Val Everett, in a August 22 Vancouver Sun story.

Residents there alleged that they had to walk three blocks for street parking because the city was using their neighborhood as a "holding bay" for the car2go vehicles.

"It's not very environmentally friendly if you have to cruise around looking for a parking spot."

Vancouver transit official Carli Edwards told the paper that the city would work with the neighborhoods to deal with any problems.

"We've decided the service fits in well with our sustainable-transportation goals; there's not going to be cars there unless members are in the area. But if the locations are a problem, we'll work with [the residents] to resolve it."

City disclosure records show that the Clay Company's Stephanie Saathoff, Maddy Kilkenny, and Nicole Clay lobbied eleven city officials during the second quarter of this year for Daimler on behalf of the project.

The contacts included mayoral aides Julie Dubick, David Graham, and Rachel Laing; councilman Todd Gloria and staffer Katie Keach; Marti Emerald and aides Don Mullen and Drew Ector; District Eight aide Travis Knowles; and District Six staffers Matt Donnellan and Job Nelson.

Though the amount was not reported, Saathoff said by phone today that the firm was paid for its services and that the compensation will be disclosed on subsequent filings.

“We’re proud that car2go has chosen to launch the first North American all-electric carsharing service in San Diego,” mayor Jerry Sanders is quoted as saying in Daimler's July news release. “car2go’s launch here further supports our efforts to make San Diego the nation’s electric vehicle capital.”

According to a July 21 report by the mayor's office to the city council's public safety committee, only Daimler was able to provide the 300 vehicle, all-electric car-share operation on the timetable desired by Sanders.

The contract was sole-sourced to Daimler because it involves no monetary payout by the city, just cooperation in adjusting parking and other regulations.

Aside from reimbursement for lost parking revenue and minor construction projects, Daimler will pay no franchise fees during the two-year pilot period.

According to its contract with Daimler, the city will provide ten exclusve "reserved on-street parking" spots for the cars in downtown and Little Italy.

In return, the company will reimburse the city an estimated $14,497.90 each year.

The document adds that car2go may also have an additional four spaces. It must reimburse the city for removing the parking parking meters currently in place.

In addition, "car2go vehicles may park in any legal public on-street metered or unmetered parking spaces in the City of San Diego."

Reimbursement amounts by car2go to the city for use of those spaces, "cannot be determined at this time as actual use will determine the amount of compensation," the contract says.

Finally, "car 2go will propose an Operating Area for consideration by the San Diego City Council in designating certain streets or portions of streets for exclusive use by participants in car-sharing programs as described in California Vehicle Code section 22507.1."

A map accompanying the contract shows the proposed operation area of the vehicles extending through Pacific Beach, the Midway District, downtown, and out to the College Area.

In addition to reimbursing the city for "use of unreserved metered parking spaces," the company has agreed to purchase residential parking permits for Cortez Hill, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, and the College Area.

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