Vacation rentals. Ride sharing services. Parking apps.
City politicians like to regulate things, but they're struggling these days to keep up with ever-evolving technology and how it affects a host of industries. Just as officials begin to get a handle on how to, uh, handle companies such as Airbnb and Uber, up pops something like MonkeyParking.
(Officials didn't have to figure out how to regulate that obnoxious app, which allowed people to auction off public street parking spaces, after City Attorney Dennis Herrera pointed out the minor problem that the scheme was illegal. Hey, why don't I borrow a free library book and then sell the right to read it to somebody else? Wait, that idea is probably being worked on right now.)
Anyway, the latest industry to be "disrupted" is a lot more interesting than parking. It's pot - and now it's the Department of Public Health's turn to figure out how and whether to regulate the, ahem, hazy new landscape.
As The Chronicle reported recently, there's a new San Francisco startup called Eaze that bills itself as the "Uber of pot" because it allows medical marijuana patients to use their smartphones to order pot and have it delivered by people driving their own vehicles. No word yet on whether there will be big fluffy green marijuana leaves on the cars' grilles to identify them.
Well, now there's some, um, buzz around City Hall that Eaze could be the latest cutting-edge technology to face scrutiny from city officials - and it's already caught the attention of Herrera's office.
The Department of Public Health regulates and permits medical marijuana dispensaries, inspecting each of the 28 permitted pot dispensaries twice a year and responding to any complaints about them. Obtaining a permit requires filing a pile of paperwork, obtaining a criminal background check for the owner, providing a business registration certificate, and providing plans for security, lighting and ventilation.
Oh, and paying several thousand dollars.
Did Eaze do any of that? What do you think?
Rachael Kagan, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, said that whether Eaze and similar startups will need permits is "a developing question" and that public health officials are examining the issue. The law, shockingly, doesn't address companies that deliver medical pot to homes and lack a fixed storefront. Some of the 28 currently permitted dispensaries do, however, make deliveries to homebound patients.
Props to Eaze for having a media person who actually responds quickly to reporters, which is more than we can say for a lot of tech companies. Caroline Vespi e-mailed the following statement:
"Eaze is a technology service provider that links dispensaries and patients. If the Department of Public Health has any questions or concerns, we welcome the opportunity to speak with them. In the true spirit of Silicon Valley disruption, we recognize we are opening up new dialogues."
Michelle Aldrich, a member of the city's now defunct Medical Marijuana Task Force, is uneasy about Eaze. The 67-year-old Marina resident credits pot with helping her beat lung cancer and was at the forefront of the movement to legalize medical marijuana in California. She said it's not fair that traditional dispensaries have to jump through so many hoops to be legal, but that Eaze doesn't.
She added that since the company lacks a permit or any oversight, patients shouldn't trust the products it delivers.
"So it gets to patients in 10 minutes. So what?" she said. "Unless you're a Google bus, what difference does that make?"
Which industry will be disrupted next? Place your bets now.
Being a parent in San Francisco can be frustrating. So can dealing with homeless people. And with petty theft.
Kara McPhail, a North Beach mom, had the unfortunate experience of dealing with all three at once - but, hey, at least this story has a relatively happy ending.
McPhail, 40, has a $500 Bob stroller for her 2-year-old boy and keeps it locked to a rail on her front stoop. She returned home on a recent morning to find the stroller gone and its contents, including snacks and a baby blanket, tossed on the ground.
That afternoon, she was in Washington Square with her boy when she spotted a homeless man using her stroller like a shopping cart - filled with garbage bags and other junk.
"I freaked out, and I immediately started following him," she said.
She called 911, and the operator said they were too busy to deal with the problem but that they'd call back later. McPhail kept following the guy, carrying her child. When she passed Columbus Cafe, two bartenders hanging out in front asked if she was OK - and she explained what was going on.
"Literally, before I could even finish my sentence, they grabbed him right there in the street, grabbed all his stuff out of the stroller and threw it in the street," she recounted. "They said, 'You scumbag! You stole a mom's stroller?' "
McPhail said she grabbed the stroller and ran.
Hours later, an operator from 911 called back and asked McPhail if she'd still like to speak to the police.
"I said, 'No,' " McPhail recalled. "I actually found some great bartenders, and we took care of it ourselves."
Her tot's back in his (well-cleaned) stroller, but the family might not be here for long. McPhail said Burlingame is looking better and better.
©2014 the San Francisco Chronicle