On Monday morning, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera ordered a halt to Monkey Parking—an iPhone app that allows users to auction off public, street parking spaces to fellow smartphone users. The app was criticized for hijacking public parking spaces for the company's private benefit and the city attorney officially agreed with that sentiment, telling the company that their business model is "wholly premised on illegal transactions," according to a press release.
Upon its launch a few months back, Monkey Parking promised San Francisco drivers that they could make around $150 per month by auctioning off their street parking spots. Per San Francisco's police code, however, anyone—drivers or otherwise—who tries to enter into a lease or rental agreement for a parking space is subject to fines to the tune of $300 per violation.
Under the state's Unfair Competition Law, the Rome, Italy-based company would also be subject to $2,500 fines for every violation if the city decided to bring a lawsuit against them. Not one to "monkey" around with San Francisco's scarce parking stock, Herrera has threatened to sue if Monkey Parking continues operating in the city beyond July 11 of this year.
In addition to the lawsuit, Herrera's office has also asked Apple to remove Monkey Parking from the App Store, on the basis that it violates local laws and puts drivers in physical danger by encouraging some distracted driving behavior. As of Monday morning, Monkey Parking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny told the Chronicle he would be talking with his legal staff. Responding to earlier criticism of the app, Monkey Parking explained via twitter that their purpose is only to "provide info about spots that are going to become free."
@HalpernAlex we just provide info about spots that are going to become free. no intentions to do something bad: we aim at reducing traffic!— MonkeyParking (@MonkeyParking) May 2, 2014
Two other apps were implicated in Herrera's letter this morning: Sweetch, which charges users a $5 fee for taking a parking spot and then refunds $4 to other members who give up their spots to fellow users; and ParkModo, which has not yet launched, but plans to employ drivers to circle the Mission and occupy parking spaces, which the company will then sell to users through the app. According to a job posting on Craigslist, ParkModo is planning to pay drivers $13.00 per hour to camp out in Mission district parking spots.
Finally, at least one app is going legit with a similar "Airbnb for parking" idea: CARMAnation allows drivers to sell or trade their own private spaces to other uses.