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SF lawmaker warns post-IPO Lyft about further gentrification

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Supervisor Gordon Mar dour as Lyft’s price soars on first day

A screen in Times Square declaring Lyft’s IPO. Photo by Chie Inoue

On Friday, San Francisco-based ride-hailing startup Lyft made its long-awaited initial public offering, opening its share price at $72 and seeing it leap to more than $87 during the first day.

That’s good news for the company and its employees, but San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar frets that the latest tech windfall might spell trouble for San Francisco at large.

Mar congratulated the company in a written statement, but swiftly added:

As Lyft goes public, minting an untold number of new millionaires, their drivers are on strike for fair treatment and fair wages, and we as a city and as public officials must better understand the impacts of this rapid injection of wealth on income inequality, housing prices, gentrification and congestion.

We have a moral responsibility to stand up in the face of growing wealth inequality and demand the forces fueling these disparities pay their fair share for mitigating them.

Mar previously expressed anxiety about pending tech IPOs—of which Lyft is just the first in 2019—declaring at a Board of Supervisors meeting in March that such millionaire-making milestones may contribute to “the benefit of the few and harm to the many.”

Mar and board colleague Supervisor Matt Haney called for an as-yet unscheduled City Hall hearing about the likely effect of tech fortunes on housing and the cost of living—employing exactly the same phrasing about the city’s “moral responsibility” as he did warning Lyft on Friday.

As Mar notes, many drivers for Lyft and SF-based rival Uber are refusing to drive in a protest over low pay and their status as independent contractors rather than employees.

The two companies may also be sweating over AB 5, a California assembly bill by San Diego representative Lorena Gonzalez that would tinker with California’s legal definition of an employee, which could help drivers and hurt the companies’ bottom lines.

On Friday, real estate site Redfin calculated that, with their combined stock options, Lyft employees had enough value between them to hypothetically cover the listing price of every single San Francisco home presently featured on the site, more than $1.44 billion in all (though of course Lyft’s employees could not actually cash in their stock until after the lock-out period).

That was based on Lyft’s initial value of $72 per share. However, on Monday Lyft’s price dipped below its initial offering, briefly coming down to almost $69 after closing at more than $78 on Friday.