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UncategorizedWhy is an Orange County Republican helping the Google...

Why is an Orange County Republican helping the Google buses?

Travis Allen, a conservative SoCal legislator, has introduced a bill to legalized private shuttles using public bus stops. Is this a move to bring Silicon Valley money to the GOP?

Sure, the GOP says -- park anywhere you want.
Sure, the GOP says — park anywhere you want.

By Tim Redmond

FEBRUARY 10. 2014 – Why is a conservative Republican from Orange County who opposes bans on plastic bags introducing legislation that would legalize Google buses in San Francisco?

It’s mystifying to a lot of people – including the members of the state Legislature from San Francisco, who were never consulted about a matter that impacts their districts.

Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, is sponsoring AB 61, which would change the state vehicle code to allow private shuttles to park in public bus stops.

San Francisco has already essentially done that, with a pilot program that allows tech shuttle buses to use Muni stops, and increasingly white zones. But according to the fact sheet for AB 61, San Francisco is in violation of state law.

Section 22500 of the state Vehicle Code bars anyone from using “curb space authorized for the loading and unloading of passengers of a bus engaged as a common carrier.” The Google buses are private, so they don’t count as common carriers.

AB 61 would change that law to allow cities and counties to turn over curb space to private buses. The fact sheet on the measure talks entirely about San Francisco. In effect, it would prevent anyone from challenging the city’s program on the grounds that it violates state law.

Sacramento protocol generally calls for legislators to defer to their colleagues on district issues. It’s highly unusual for someone from Orange County to get involved in a San Francisco issue – particularly since Allen never contacted either Assemblymember David Chiu or Assemblymember Phil Ting, who actually represent San Francisco.

“We didn’t know anything prior to its introduction,” Judson True, and aide to Chiu, told me. “I don’t know why Assemblyman Allen is proposing it.”

I went through all of Allen’s campaign contributions, and he doesn’t show big bucks from the tech industry. Of course, if one of the tech companies or their shuttle contractors gave him money in the past few months, it won’t show up until the next filing deadline in June.

But here’s what interesting: The Assembly GOP leader, Kristin Olsen, is trying really hard to make inroads into Silicon Valley. Two weeks ago, she took a delegation of Republicans to meet with tech leaders.

Along the way, she denounced the SF Democratic County Central Committee for asking that Airbnb pay its taxes.  The bus tour took the GOP to Ebay, PayPal and Apple. And they talked up the role the Republicans can play in helping the “sharing” economy.

Allen was among those on the tour, his office confirmed.

So this bill looks like a blatant attempt to suck up to the tech industry by the minority party in Sacramento. If the SF delegation opposes it, the bill won’t go anywhere – but it’s not clear where Chiu, who sponsored the Google Bus program, will come down. All True said is that he would monitor the bill.

Meanwhile, the GOP will use this to attack San Francisco progressives and try to turn Silicon Valley money into a Republican political tool.

Wonder where Ron Conway is on all of this.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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