San Francisco Asks Apple to Crack Down on "Predatory" Parking Apps

Despite the tech-friendly climate within City Hall, San Francisco is coming down on a new breed of parking spot-sharing apps. The city issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Apple pull them from the App Store for violating California law.

The letter primarily targets MonkeyParking, an app that launched this Spring promising drivers $150 per month to squat in one of San Francisco's underpriced street parking while nearby drivers bid for it. In other words, the Rome-based "sharing economy" startup arbitraged the taxpayer-subsidized cost of parking. MonkeyParking's profits came from motorists camped out in popular areas while hapless circling drivers tried to outbid each other.

Appifying the homeless man standing in a parking spot and demanding a tip proved too much for San Francisco. In a press release, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera slammed the spot-sharing apps for profiting off a public resource:

"Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work — and Monkey Parking is not one of them," Herrera said. "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. People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so. But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit."

Herrera's cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking includes a request to the legal department of Apple Inc., which is copied on the letter, asking that the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant immediately remove the mobile application from its App Store for violating several of the company's own guidelines. 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."

Herrera's action also targets two other similar apps, Sweetch and ParkModo. The latter recently hired drivers off Craigslist, offering "$13.00 per hour to occupy public parking spaces in the Mission District."

San Francisco isn't completely cold on the idea of enabling "surge pricing" on street parking, as long as its the city's own version. SFpark, the city's variable, demand-based meter pricing program, has been deemed a success by city officials, progressives, and transit-first activists alike. Now San Francisco intends on rolling out the program city-wide.

Meanwhile, all three apps have been given until July 11th to cease operations, or the city will find them "potentially liable for civil penalties of $2,500 per transaction for illegal business practices."

[Photo: @MonkeyParking]