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MonkeyParking Told To Stop "Auctioning City Parking Spots" In San Francisco

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Back in May, we told you about MonkeyParking, a new app that lets desperate drivers in San Francisco pay for parking -- or, more to the point, it lets them pay the owners of parked cars to leave prime spots.

When MonkeyParking debuted, many feared that it would make parking in the Bay Area even more expensive and headachey. Among those most worried about the app's impact on the quality of life: the city of San Francisco itself. 

Now, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has issued a cease-and-desist letter to MonkeyParking's CEO, Paolo Dobrowolny. In the letter, Herrera:

"cites a key provision of San Francisco's Police Code that specifically prohibits individuals and companies from buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking. Police Code section 63(c) further provides that scofflaws -- including drivers who 'enter into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind' for public parking spots -- face administrative penalties of up to $300 for each violation. Because Monkey Parking's business model is wholly premised on illegal transactions, the letter contends that the company would be subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation under California's tough Unfair Competition Law were the city to sue." [emphasis ours]

And Herrera isn't just worried about violation of the city's Police Code. He's also worried that the MonkeyParking app causes motorists to use their smartphones while driving. 

Because of those factors -- and because the latter could pose a health risk to drivers, their occupants, other vehicles, and pedestrians -- Herrera has also sent a letter directly to Apple. (At the moment, MonkeyParking is only available for iOS devices.) He claims that MonkeyParking violates Apple's policy that apps must not pose a safety hazard and that they must also comply with all laws in the areas where they're used.

MORE LETTERS A-COMING

In a public statement, Herrera also warns two other pay-to-park apps that they're also in violation of San Francisco law.

Sweetch is the kinder and gentler of the two. It works like MonkeyParking, but instead of allowing drivers to bid on parking spots, they pay a flat rate of $5.  

ParkModo, however, is much, much worse. It plans to hire drivers and pay them $13 per hour to occupy parking spots in the Mission. No word on how much motorists would pay for those spots, but you can bet it would be more than $13. 

While Sweetch is still around, Herrera's letter appears to have scared off ParkModo -- all we can find is a cached, text-only copy of its website, which is in serious need of proofreading.

FYI, Herrera notes that companies and individuals can still get creative in terms of raising cash, they just can't violate city laws in the process: "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."

OUR TAKE

There are more than a few problems in America today, but no one can say that we're short on innovation. While other countries focus solely on drilling names and dates and multiplication tables into students' heads, we encourage creativity and problem-solving. Some schools and teachers do it better than others, but on the whole, innovation is profoundly valued here. It's what's made places like Silicon Valley the economic powerhouses that they are.

That said, innovation works best when it brings everyone along for the ride. When creativity starts to make life miserable for others, it's crossed a line. Parking in cities like SF is already such a pain that gaming the system to take away street parking seems a step too far for most folks. Hopefully, the minds behind MonkeyParking, Sweetch, and ParkModo will find other ways to use their creative instincts that actually improve quality of life, not chip away at it.

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