By Tigist Layne
SOLANA BEACH — A booming tech company headquartered in Solana Beach says they are committed to supporting and investing in the community long term, but must first face a decision by the Solana Beach City Council on whether or not they can expand.
Founded in 2014 by CEO Oren Zaslansky, Flock Freight (formerly AuptiX) has quickly become one of the fastest-growing start-ups in the U.S.
The company creates shared truckloads out of less-than-truckload (LTL) freights using software and data science. In other words, it offers a way to pool shipments that are going in the same direction to use one truck.
This reduces the volume of partially loaded trucks on the road, which saves on fuel and is more time-efficient.
This revolutionary idea has allowed Flock to be the only freight company in the world that has achieved B-Corp status, meaning it meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance because it has the potential to create a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases in the U.S.
In late 2017, Flock Freight moved into the second floor of 240 Cedros Ave., the former home of the store LOTUS.
The building and Lotus are both owned by Trilogy Investment Group, a commercial real estate firm.
“We made a conscious decision that we wanted to be a part of the coastal North County community. I grew up in Leucadia and Encinitas, and I understand the value of the coastal North County as a world-class market to find extraordinary talents,” Zaslansky said. “I forewent all sorts of investment opportunities to start this company in Silicon Valley and decided not to do it because we wanted to be here.”
After LOTUS permanently closed due to financial hardships brought on by COVID-19, there was an opportunity for Flock to expand into the first floor of the building.
Michael Marks, CEO of Trilogy Investment Group, told The Coast News that when the Lotus building was originally built, the council required the owner to maintain 50% of the store for retail use.
The exception is if the owner of the building were able to find a Corporate Headquarters, which can only proceed by securing a Director’s Use Permit (DUP).
Trilogy has decided to move forward with trying to secure this permit in order to allow Flock to expand, but is, surprisingly, facing some resistance.
“They think that all retailers need to flock together… in the past that worked, but the world is changing,” Marks said. “If you look at UTC or One Paseo or any of the new projects, they realized that you need the whole ecosystem. You need to have residential, office and retail all working together to create something that will succeed.”
Marks and Zaslansky agreed that Flock’s 80 to 100 employees that work out of Solana Beach are probably the biggest contributors to the Cedros community, especially during the pandemic.
“We spend more money than anyone in Solana Beach, particularly on food and beverage. We also have all sorts of local vendors and we’re always buying local. Throughout COVID, not only have we not laid a single person off, we’ve created 50 jobs,” Zaslansky said. “We want to pay fair rents and we want to spend a ton of money around town.”
Another issue that might be a concern for the council is parking, but Zaslansky assured The Coast News that expanding to the first floor means acquiring a second parking lot, which would fit almost all of its employees. He added that Flock is willing to invest in a valet parking system to guarantee that employees won’t fill up the street parking around Cedros.
However, if the council denies the permit and refuses to let Flock expand, they will leave Solana Beach, according to Zaslansky.
“We’ve had up to eight closures on the street, and then just across the bridge we have multiple businesses filing for bankruptcy or closing,” Marks said. “The council needs to recognize that there are a lot of people that are hurting out there and those people are surviving because of Flock Freight… these are employees who are spending a lot of money on the street and they are creating a lot of sales tax revenue. We need them.”
The City Council is expected to vote on this issue in early 2021.
Solana Beach residents can help save Flock Freight’s corporate headquarters on Cedros Ave. by emailing the members of the Solana Beach City Council. To compose a group email, simply scan the QR code below and tell them how you feel.