City Attorney slams door on parking auction app

A smartphone app called MonkeyParking that lets drivers auction off their parking spots in San Francisco has come under fire from the city attorney’s office.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a cease-and-desist letter to MonkeyParking’s CEO and co-founder Paolo Dobrowolny, threatening fines of up to $2,500 per transaction under California law if The City were to sue the company.

Herrera wrote in the letter that the app violates The City’s police code that prohibits individuals and companies from buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking.

Drivers who use the app could also face stiff penalties for entering into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind for public parking spots. They could face penalties of up to $300 for each violation.

Herrera also said that using the app could pose a safety hazard for drivers.

The Rome, Italy-based MonkeyParking allows drivers in The City to make some cash by auctioning their parking spaces to nearby desperate drivers using the app.

Drivers would be asked how much they would pay for the spot with increments of $5, $10, $15 and $20 appearing on the app.

Herrera also wrote that he is requesting the Cupertino-based Apple, Inc. to remove the app from its App Store. Monkey Parking is available for free only for iOS devices.

MonkeyParking has until July 11 to comply with the cease-and-desist or face legal action, Herrera said.

Dobrowolny responded to an email from SFBay on the action taken by Herrera:

“We are still talking with our legal office about the letter so I cannot give you any specific comment about it.”

He did say in the email though that cities should not ban companies like his that make users happy:

“As a general principle we believe that a new company providing value to people should be regulated and not banned. This applies also to companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft that are continuously facing difficulties while delivering something that makes users happy. Regulation is fundamental in driving innovation, while banning is just stopping it.”

The city attorney said he is also filing cease-and-desist letters this week to other smart phone apps Sweetch and ParkModo, which offer similar services to Monkey Parking.

Those two other companies will also face the same fines if they do not shut down their apps.

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