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San Francisco issues SMACKDOWN on parking spot sale software

City says Monkey Parking can't deal in public spaces

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

San Francisco city officials are cracking down on mobile applications that allow users to buy and sell public parking spaces.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Monday that his office had sent a cease-and-desist notice to the developers of Monkey Parking, a mobile app which lets users sell their public parking spaces in crowded urban areas.

The Monkey Parking app, available for iOS and Android, allows users to set a price for their parking spot which is then listed for other drivers who can then make offers to buy the space. Upon agreeing to the deal, users can then chat and confirm the transaction for the parking spot.

The app, which currently operates only in Rome and San Francisco, would seek to provide users an easy way to get a spot in cities notorious for being short of parking spaces.

Unfortunately, officials in San Francisco say that the App runs afoul of local regulations. Herrera noted that while residents are free to sell off the rights to their private parking spaces and garages, San Francisco's police code expressly forbids selling access to city-owned public spaces on streets and sidewalks.

Should the company not drop support for San Francisco parking from its app, Herrera said that Monkey Parking users would face penalties of $300 each time they sell access to a spot, while the company could be held liable for a $2,500 for each transaction it facilitates.

"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 said in announcing the order.

"Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely – to engage in online bidding wars while driving."

Herrera also said that the city would petition Apple to take the Monkey Parking App off of the App Store on the grounds that it violates local law. As of 1:45pm PDT, the Monkey Parking App was still available for download.

Monkey Parking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny told El Reg that the company couldn't yet comment specifically on the letter, but said that in general the company hopes that cities will regulate the service rather than issue an outright ban.

"This applies also to companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft that are continuously facing difficulties while delivering something that makes users happy," he said.

"Regulation is fundamental in driving innovation, while banning is just stopping it."

Monkey Parking is not the only firm potentially facing action from San Francisco. The city also said that it plans to bring similar orders against the developers of parking spot selling apps Sweetch and ParkModo later in the week.

"We don't understand why they want to shut us down. We are trying to solve the huge parking problem which is not only bad for drivers but for all the city," a Sweetch spokesperson told The Reg.

"30 percent of congestion is due to parking and that creates pollution and makes the city a bad place to live in."

Despite its status as a technology hub, San Francisco has seen a contentious relationship arise with many of the startup firms and employees who have set up shop in the city in recent years. The influx of monied young professionals has brought a surge in rent and caused clashes with neighborhood groups on matters such as private bus access and gentrification. ®

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