Key players at City Hall are crafting an eleventh-hour amended ordinance to stop Uber from leaving San Antonio, 10 days after the rideshare company announced plans to end service here if one of the nation’s most restrictive ordinances goes into effect on March 1.
The ordinance passed by Council in December, say supporters of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, is so restrictive compared to other cities that it seemed designed to drive out any competitors using new technologies threatening the local taxi industry.
The working group is being led by Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1), who represents the center city, and includes Jill DeYoung, Mayor Ivy Taylor’s chief of staff, Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh, and interim San Antonio Police Chief Anthony Treviño.
Councilmember Treviño confirmed the latest developments in an interview late Sunday after several sources shared details of the effort with the Rivard Report.
The group is drafting a less restrictive ordinance that could be presented to City Council for approval within weeks, and no later than March 5, Treviño said in an interview.
“I feel very positive that we are very close to a compromise agreement,” Treviño said. “We are really focusing on a policy that does not make us look like a city that stifles innovation at the same time we take care to assure the public’s safety.”
Treviño said he could not say if the proposed revisions would win the support of Mayor Ivy Taylor and others on the City Council who voted 7-2 in favor of the highly restrictive ordinance in December that prompted Uber representatives to announce they will end service in San Antonio.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who served as San Antonio’s mayor from 1991-95, sent an open letter to Mayor Taylor one week ago on Feb. 9 that criticized the pending ordinance and how it would negatively portray San Antonio around the nation. Rideshare, he wrote, is an attractive and popular transportation option that reduces the incidence of drunk driving, and is especially appealing to skilled young professionals that cities everywhere are competing to retain and attract.
Mayoral candidate and longtime Southtown resident Mike Villarreal, who recently stepped down from his District 123 House seat in the Texas Legislature, is making rideshare a campaign issue. A campaign email blast on Sunday called on his supporters to sign a change.org petition launched by Lorenzo Gomez III, the director of the 80/20 Foundation and Geekdom, the downtown tech incubator and co-working space. Nearly 5,000 people had signed the petition by Sunday evening.
See here, here, and here for the background. There was also movement towards a lawsuit against the San Antonio ordinance, as the story notes. What would be proposed here is something more like the ordinances that other Texas cities have passed. Insurance requirements – the transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft were required to carry larger liability policies than cabdrivers were. As I understand it, the general public in San Antonio wanted to allow Uber and Lyft to operate, so this ordinance had generated some blowback. It will be interesting to see how the revised ordinance fares, especially now that Mayor Ivy Taylor has declared that she does in fact want to run for a full term. Taylor had supported the restrictive TNC ordinance, will likely be a point of attack against her by other candidates. How effective that may be I couldn’t say, but it does reinforce my belief that San Antonio should have tabled this effort until after the May election/June runoff. We’ll see if the issue still needs to be revisited under the newly-elected Mayor.