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Monday, June 23, 2014

Monkey Parking: City Attorney Says Parking App That Lets Drivers Sell Spots Is Illegal

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 8:24 AM

  • Sold!

Last month, an Italian tech bro got San Francisco's already angry drivers in a greater state of rage after introducing a new app that lets anyone with a car auction off their parking spots to beleaguered drivers circling the block.

At the time, Monkey App hadn't been tested in any other American city, and Paolo Dobrowolny, the app's inventor, thought San Francisco was a perfectly dysfunctional place to try it out.

But City Attorney Dennis Herrera this morning sent a pointed cease-and-desist letter to Monkey App, asking the company to dismantle its "peer-to-peer bidding app" that allows drivers to shake each other down over San Francisco's coveted on-street parking spots.

Herrera listed a bunch of city provisions which explicitly state why it is illegal for anyone to buy, sell, or lease public land.

Pr the City Attorney's letter:

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. Such a lawsuit would be imminent, Herrera's office vowed, should the startup continue to operate in San Francisco past July 11, 2014.

"Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work -- and Monkey Parking is not one of them," Herrera said in a statement this morning. "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," Herrera added.

Herrera's cease-and-desist demand includes a request to the legal department of Apple Inc., which is copied on the letter, asking the tech giant to immediately remove the parking app from its App Store. Apple App Store Review Guidelines provide that "Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users" and that "Apps whose use may result in physical harm may be rejected."

While he's at it, Herrera is going after a few other similar startups that violate local and state law with mobile app-enabled schemes intended to illegally monetize public parking spaces in San Francisco.

Sweetch charges a $5 flat fee when its users grab a parking spot from another Sweetch motorist. But then Sweetch drivers who bequeath their parking spots to other Sweetch members get a $4 refund. And then there's ParkModo, which appears poised to launch later this week. That app will employ drivers at a rate of $13 per hour to occupy public parking spaces in the Mission District. ParkModo then plans to sell the on-street parking spots to its paying members via its iPhone app. Both companies are also on the hook for fines spelled out int he cease-and-desist order.

"People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so," Herrera said. "But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit."

Read the full letter:

Monkey Cease Presskit

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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