Monday, June 23, 2014

SF City Attorney issues cease-and-desist to mobile app auctioning city parking spots

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 10:10 AM

click to enlarge A screen capture shows the Monkey Parking app in San Francisco. - MONKEY PARKING
  • Monkey Parking
  • A screen capture shows the Monkey Parking app in San Francisco.
An app that allows users to auction off city parking spots occupied by their vehicles is the target of a cease-and-desist demand from San Francisco. 

City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the demand to MonkeyParking this morning, stating that the app's entire function is a violation of The City's police code. The police code forbids individuals and companies from buying, selling or renting public parking spaces, and mandates fees of up to $300 for drivers who violate the law. 

"Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work — and MonkeyParking is not one of them," Herrera said. "It's illegal, it puts drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and it creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate. Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving. People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so. But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit."

Herrera has vowed to sue MonkeyParking if it continues operations in San Francisco past July 11.
The City Attorney has also demanded that Apple remove the MonkeyParking app from the App Store, contending that the app violates Apple's own terms of service. 

Paolo Dobrowolny, co-founder and CEO of MonkeyParking, declined to comment on the city attorney's actions.

"As a general principle, we believe that a new company providing value to people should be regulated and not banned. This applies also to companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft that are continuously facing difficulties while delivering something that makes users happy. Regulation is fundamental in driving innovation, while banning is just stopping it," Dobrowolny told the S.F. Examiner.

In a tweet posted to the MonkeyParking Twitter account, the company stated that it has "No intentions to do something bad; we aim at reducing traffic!" 

Herrera said two other companies, Sweetch and ParkModo, can also expect to receive cease-and-desist notices later this week. Similar to MonkeyParking, Sweetch provides a financial incentive for drivers to post their parking spots on the app. When a Sweetch user takes a parking spot posted by another user, they are charged a $5 fee. Upon leaving, if they give up the spot to another Sweetch user, they are refunded $4. ParkModo, which is set to launch this week, pays drivers to occupy parking spots, which will then be offered for sale on its app. 

In a blog post, Sweetch distanced itself from MonkeyParking and asked the City Attorney's Office not to shut down the company.

"We at Sweetch strongly believe that citizens should not make revenue from public parking," the blog post states. "After dozens of experiments in the streets of San Francisco, we figured out that the only way to have drivers provide information is to introduce a minimal financial reward." The post also points out that Sweetch encourages drivers to donate their refunds to charity partners of the app.

"We as entrepreneurs are driven by a social mission to make our lives and our cities better through technology," the post continues. "The service fee generated through Sweetch will not pay our bills."

ParkModo could not be reached for comment.

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