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San Francisco cracks down on apps auctioning public parking spaces

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A new peer-to-peer app that lets drivers auction off their public parking space to the highest bidder has come under fire from San Francisco authorities, with City Attorney Dennis Herrera so upset by the software that he’s sent the startup that created it a cease-and-desist letter threatening it with legal action.

MonkeyParking, which relies on cities with under-strain parking facilities for its success, currently operates in San Francisco and Rome.

The iOS app allows a driver in a space to notify other drivers of their parking location and intended time of departure. The space is offered to the highest bidder, which usually means a payment of between $5 and $20. The auction winner then turns up and takes the space as the other driver leaves. It’s that simple.

Except, according to Herrera, it’s also illegal.

Stop or face legal action

In his letter to MonkeyParking boss Paolo Dobrowolny, Herrera says that “buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking” is prohibited by San Francisco city law.

Included in the correspondence is a demand that the Rome-based startup end all activities in the city by July 11 or face legal action. The same letter was also sent to Apple, with Herrera asking the tech giant to remove MonkeyParking from its app store.

The free app, which describes itself as “the first app which lets you make money every time that you are about to leave your on-street parking spot,” is the creation of three long-time friends and has only been available for a couple of months.

San Francisco, like pretty much every major city on the planet, is under constant pressure when it comes to on-street parking, so it’s little wonder the MonkeyParking has started to make a name for itself, though Herrera’s actions have certainly served to shine the spotlight even brighter on the app.

Creating a ‘predatory private market’

In a release published Monday, Herrera made clear his thoughts on the app, saying, “Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work – and MonkeyParking is not one of them.”

He continued: “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.”

Herrera claimed the app also “encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely – to engage in online bidding wars while driving.”

He added that while city law has no issue with people renting out their own private driveways and garage spaces, the city will “not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.”

We’ve reached out to MonkeyParking for a response to Herrera’s intended course of action, and will update when we hear back.

According to the City Attorney’s office, two other similar apps – Sweetch and soon-to-launch ParkModo – also violate city laws and will therefore face similar action to MonkeyParking.

With more and more app- and web-based businesses coming online to challenge traditional models of service delivery, competitors, as well as the authorities, are having to find ways of dealing with the new arrivals. Ride-sharing app Uber, for example, faces opposition from cab drivers in many cities where it operates, while room-letting app Airbnb also faces criticism from some hoteliers and apartment owners.

[via SFGate]

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