After City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a cease and desist order earlier this week to the Italian startup MonkeyParking — the mobile app that lets users auction off prime street parking spots for cash — the company has responded by refusing to comply and declaring that its service is wholly legal.

In a statement sent to Ars Technica and others, MonkeyParking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny insists that his company is only auctioning off information, and "we know we are not illegal."

Herrera's cease and desist order named the Rome-based app along with two similar, competing apps, Sweetch and ParkModo, saying that they all were in violation of a local law that prohibits the renting or selling of public parking spaces. Technically the apps just make it easier for each user to break the law, "[putting] drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and [creating] a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate," as Herrera wrote.

Dobrowolny says, "This is yet another example of a local ordinance that was drafted in a world pre-shared economy which local authorities are improperly applying to a shared economy service."

Even if you buy that argument, it's hard not to be disgusted by the practice itself, in which those with means and smart phones suddenly have an unfair advantage over everyone who else searching for public parking — and this is happening in a moment when the economy is booming and the city is especially crowded with new residents, further exacerbating the tension between New and Old San Francisco.

In any event, MonkeyParking is consulting their lawyers and talking a big game now, but on July 11 they may be faced with some stiff fines ($2,500 per violation). We'll see how this shakes out.

Next up: A story in which MonkeyParkers are targeted by protesters who use the app to find them, and then paintball their cars.

[Ars Technica]