As the termed-out administration of San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer continues to grapple with the explosion of so-called e-scooters, another kind of e-mobility device likely to hit congested city streets is spending big to assure the city's favor.
That's the early word from California Strategies, the controversial influence-peddling firm of one-time Pete Wilson mayoral chief of staff Bob White, which filed a November 19 disclosure report revealing its latest client to be Revel of Brooklyn, New York.
Faulconer, slow to respond to the e-scooter tsunami that washed ashore here a year or so ago, recently proposed a midnight until 5 a.m. curfew on riding of the devices, along with ways to stop would-be underage riders from getting them by multiple renting adults.
But the mayor and his well-paid minions – at least one of whom has already decamped city hall to work for a lobbying outfit representing e-mobility purveyor Wheels Labs Inc. – face a new wave of personal vehicles in the form of Revel's Vespa-style e-mopeds.
The company, which last month raised $27.6 millionfrom investors, including Toyota Al Ventures, to expand its e-moped rental business beyond the current fleet of 1400 already deployed in Washington, D.C., Brooklyn and Queens, New York, is not beloved by all.
"As a lifelong bike and Vespa rider, I can tell you that there is some training and skill needed to operate a larger scooter," Gabe Klein, a former commissioner of the D.C. and Chicago departments of transportation, told Vice.com in July.
"Vandalism and theft can be a serious issue as scooters in cities are often rounded up and shipped by boat to other countries."
Added EPA scientist and Brooklyn resident Phil Ritz: "I hope Revel users have signed their organ donor cards."
Risky behavior by undertrained drivers has been a concern. "I have never gone over the speed limit [20 mph]—I'm too afraid to," 23-year-old early adopter Travis Fortouna told Vice.
Regarding the company's claims to be a solution to New York's long-festering transit and environmental woes, he added, "I don't think these will solve any problems with the subway or make the city less polluted."
Revel CEO co-founder Frank Reig, who has been hedging about what city the company will land in next, is telling bloggers that e-mopeds are nothing like e-scooters, whose bad reputation grew here as the city held off regulating them.
"These mopeds are motor vehicles," Reig told TechCrunchlast month. "This means there's no regulatory gray area; each moped has to have a license plate.
"To get that license plate Revel has to register each vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state and show third-party auto liability insurance. And then because it's a motor vehicle, it's clear that it is ridden on the street, so we're completely off sidewalks."
Reig hasn't yet revealed where the New York-based startup will launch next, but the hiring of big-money California Strategies is a strong hint the outfit will be appearing here soon, provided that the lobbying firm can ease past city regulators.
Cal-Strats as it is known among local politicos, doesn't have the cleanest of reputations, having paid a $40,000 fine in September 2013 to settle "shadow lobbying" charges brought by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Then two years ago, San Diego city councilman Chris Cate, a beneficiary of campaign contributions from Cal-Strats lobbyists, agreed to pay a $5000 penalty to the city's ethics commission in December 2017 for leaking a confidential city attorney memo to Cal-Strats, which was working on behalf of developers of thenow-defunct SoccerCity project.