A handful of La Jolla residents have received so-called “threatened” cease and desist statements from the electric scooter company Bird about using the Scoot Scoop scooter removal service.
The letters accuse those who have used Scoot Scoop of “improperly seizing” the scooters and say that by providing bird vehicles for Scoot Scoop you may be supporting and facilitating the criminal activities of Scoot Scoop.
Scoot Scoop claims that it is not unlawful to operate. This will remove dockless bikes and scooters that are left behind on private property or blocking shop fronts or driveways.
But Bird says the Scoot Scoop seizures violate the California Vehicle Code and are synonymous with theft.
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Bird said the letters were sent to property owners and managers based on information they received from Scoot Scoop.
Dan Borelli, one of the owners of Scoot Scoop, said the two companies had been involved in legal disputes since 2019 and Bird had “requested discovery copies of our towing permits”.
Bird is now using this information to “intimidate our customers,” said Borelli.
Bird’s letters ask recipients to stop using Scoot Scoop and instead submit a stray scooter report on the City of San Diego’s Get It Done app or to contact Bird directly.
The company also requests “written confirmation of compliance with the above requirements within the next 72 hours; Otherwise, Bird will have no choice but to pursue all legal remedies at its disposal that are expressly reserved, including contacting law enforcement agencies. “
Meg Davis, a resident of La Jolla Shores, said, “I find it very disturbing to receive such a letter which I think is quite threatening as I used a service to remove vehicles from our private property.”
Davis and Brian Earley received the letter at Davis’ email address. Davis said the couple contacted Scoot Scoop about scooter removal in September 2019, as well as July and November 2020. She said this was a final option after the city and Bird stopped responding.
“In all three cases,” said Davis, “we reported the scooters either in our driveway or blocking the sidewalk, or both, to Get It Done without a response.” We also tried calling Bird and either couldn’t make the phone … or in one case they said they were going to send a truck out but didn’t. “
“In some cases,” she said, “we had up to three scooters on our property and blocked our access” for up to three days.
Scooters are just a few meters from a La Jolla resident’s “private property” sign.
La Jolla attorney and former US Representative Lynn Schenk also received a letter. Because she lives up the hill from one of La Jolla’s beaches, people often park near their home, walk to the beach, use scooters to get back to their cars, and then leave the scooters on their and their neighbors’ properties, she said.
“Some are parked in red zones and directly on my property,” said Schenk. “My neighbor has a beautiful garden and they would just be thrown in there. These scooters cause visual impairment and take up parking. Some stay on the street and are unsafe. “
Schenk said she also used the city’s app and called Bird, to no avail. “I contacted Bird and one time they didn’t answer, another time the person was so rude, then the phone number was disconnected,” she said. “I also tried using the Get It Done app and nothing gets done.”
The letter “was more than a slight threat to me. How dare you say such a thing? There are people who get intimidated and worry and lose sleep over it. “
Bird officials said the company has no intention of threatening or intimidating local residents.
“We sent a letter to Scoot Scoop to people who we understood had reported misplaced scooters in their community. The intent of the letter was to inform these residents of the duly sanctioned and lawful ways in which their property can be evacuated, ”a statement said in a statement. “We acknowledge that the letter may have been received differently and we apologize for any misunderstandings. We look forward to working with residents to address their concerns while stopping Scoot Scoop’s illegal activities. “
Shortly thereafter, a follow-up letter went out from Bird’s director of government relations, Tim Harter, apologizing “if the letter was not clear”.
“Our goal was to educate property owners and residents about what Bird Scoot Scoops believed is illegal Bird vehicle seizure under California law and to provide quick and efficient alternative methods of removing vehicles from your private property,” said in Harter’s letter. “We do not intend to take legal action against individual property owners. We value our partnership with the community and pride ourselves on working with our neighbors to resolve parking issues quickly. We are constantly working to improve our process and would like to know more about your experiences and how we can support you and your company. “
Borelli said he sent an email to Scoot Scoop’s customers addressing Bird’s claims.
“The fact of the matter is that we are completely legal in doing business,” said Borelli’s email. “There is absolutely nothing illegal about what we do. If Scoot Scoop had operated illegally as claimed, law enforcement agencies would have been involved when Scoot Scoop started and business would have ceased immediately. Bird’s allegations of various violations … are simply unfounded strategies of horror. “
Alderman Joe LaCava, of which District 1 is a part of La Jolla, said he had referred the issue to prosecutors and would “take the matter up with them soon”.
Scoot Scoop users sign an agreement authorizing the company to remove Scooters on their behalf and can contact the service 24/7 via a phone line or app. Once the scooters are removed, the parent companies will be notified, the equipment will be stored at Scoot Scoop’s facilities and the customer’s property will be listed as a no-parking zone.
Matt Souther, an attorney who represents Scoot Scoop, said, “It’s really interesting that Bird wants to do private property business without authorization.” Compensation or heeded risk and liability.
By referring residents to Get It Done to have unwanted scooters removed, Bird said, “Bird wants taxpayers to clean up [its] Chaos, ”said Souther. “That’s wrong.”
Bird scooters and dockless bikes hit the streets of La Jolla in 2018 and were immediately criticized for leaving them in public areas, on private property, in bushes and other common areas. Some local groups tried to ban them from boardwalks.
In July 2019, the city introduced the concept of ‘Scooter Corrals’, which allow drivers to park scooters so they don’t get left on the sidewalks. By that fall, 40 had been installed in La Jolla’s village. Some were removed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city also imposed a “four by 40” rule that requires equipment to be stored in groups of no more than four people, 40 feet or more apart.
A select number of companies are eligible to rent shared mobility devices in San Diego for six months in January and July each year. Bird is considered a current, active scooter driver. ◆