by Kish Rajan
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Hall was the hot spot for anyone who cares about the future of the sharing economy in the City of Angels. I made the trek in order to testify on behalf of the companies that are revolutionizing consumers’ lives as part of what we call the personal enterprise economy.
This new economy lets people work on their own terms. People can work when and where they want with no duty to clock in or out or report to a boss. Undoubtedly, there are issues to work out given the recent decision handed down by the California Labor Commission saying Uber drivers should be considered employees. But that issue might ultimately be better resolved by creating a new classification of worker that will decouple benefits from employers. This would allow people to “work” for multiple companies (or, more precisely, platforms) while still benefiting from things like Social Security, unemployment insurance and workers comp.
Back to the issue at hand…the morning session before the full City Council was all about rideshare, while the afternoon (and early evening – it was a long one) was focused on homesharing before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (“PLUM”).
There were many arguments in favor of the new technologies; and there was a basic consensus that these new business models are here to stay. So the question wasn’t whether to allow these businesses to operate — but under what rules.
The City Council was, for the most part, thoughtful and tried to understand the facts and to consider the right ways to regulate the app-based engines of the new economy.
But at times, the council defaulted to the standard thinking of trying to apply existing regulatory approaches to new models. Some council members certainly understand that new approaches are needed. CALinnovates looks forward to continuing to educate Los Angeles’ councilmembers on appropriate ways to blend smart regulations into the public policy process rather than defaulting to outdated thinking.
Dozens of supporters turned out to argue passionately about the sharing economy. Hundreds of Angelenos showed up to urge their elected officials to consider the issues and make informed choices about the future of Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and Airbnb.
The stars of the rideshare session were Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Bob Blumenfield. While Bonin was more outspoken, Blumenfield masterfully navigated the chaos and delivered a vote by the slimmest of margins that allows Uber and its brethren the right to pick up passengers at LAX. Without these two standing up for innovation, the vote would have swung in the opposite direction. Silicon Beach should take note of the two protectors of innovation:
“People are baffled that they can take ride share to the airport but can’t take one home.” – Mike Bonin
“We need a uniform standard.” – Mike Bonin in pointing out that limousines, town cars, fly away shuttles and courtesy shuttles do not require background checks.
“There are terrible anecdotes on both sides. I don’t want to legislate on anecdotes, but data.” – Bob Blumenfield
Ultimately, the data trumped the anecdotes and those wishing for a world-class airport (it’s coming) can rejoice that LAX does offer world-class transportation options.
While there was full clarity on the rideshare issue, the home share discussion will continue as the council considers a bill co-authored by Bonin and Council President Herb Wesson.
In the end, Los Angeles’ elected officials showed that they understand that innovation is critical to the city’s future. The council wants to get it right. They need ongoing help and encouragement to get there, and we’ll be there every step of the way.
Los Angeles Times