SF city attorney demands shutdown of parking-space-auctioning app

Monkeyparking, the app that lets assholes auction off their parking spots, has been sent a cease-and-desist letter by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who says the practice of selling your public parking spot is illegal. Monkeyparking's competition are expected to receive the same treatment soon.

Herrera denounced the app as creating “a predatory private market for public parking spaces.”

“Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving,” Herrera said. “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.”

MonkeyParking and any motorists using the app face fines of $300 per violation of the city’s law prohibiting selling or contracting for parts of a public street, according to the city attorney. The company faces penalties of $2,500 per violation if the city sues it under the state’s unfair competition Law, Herrera wrote.

SF cracks down on ‘Monkey Parking’ mobile app [John Coté/SFGate]

Notable Replies

  1. In what possible way is the app you describe a good thing?

    In the non-app scenario, a person finds a space, parks in it for however long, then leaves and somebody else can use it.

    In the app scenario, the person with the space now has a perverse incentive to hold it for longer (not necessarily much longer; but they don't get paid if they don't wait until another user of the app shows up to take the space, so likely effect is nonzero) and the app producer is extracting 25 cents in rent for producing a less efficient allocation of a resource owned by the people of the city.

    Clever, sure; but a total dick move.

    At least it's better than this 'auction' flavor, since the payoff is fixed and relatively low(thus ensuring that actively hunting and holding-hostage parking spaces is unlikely to be worth the time), while the auction arrangement could well end up reaching amounts where it becomes economic to 'squat' spaces purely for sale(and, indeed, the company hired some people to do exactly that for promotional purposes), in addition to encouraging app-users to delay leaving by effectively paying them to stall until another app-user shows up.

    If one takes a positive view of demand-based pricing for goods like parking spaces, the price should be very much higher than it is; but the benefit(of better space availability) only results because the price is unrelated to the presence or absence of someone waiting in the space. There is absolutely no incentive to stay in a space a moment longer than you need it(indeed, if you pay per unit time, you want to leave as soon as you are finished, rather than being paid to tarry).

    If one takes the view that 'demand based pricing' is the polite way of saying "If enough people can't afford it, won't it be so much more pleasant for the ones who can?" the distaste for a system that is both inefficient and prices some people out of public space, all for the benefit of a random absentee rent-seeker should approach being self evident.

    I'm going to file this particular act of the dead hand of state oppression as "a pleasantly sensible exercise of state power in the common good, and the 'innovators' can shove it."

  2. I understand both sides of the argument with Uber and Lyft and AirBnB. Taxi services are run terribly and are in desparate need of innovation, even if some rideshare supporters are too quick to dismiss the real problems that taxi regulations were originally designed to address. And cars and apartments are private property that should have a default assumption that you can rent or lease to someone else. These are services that should be regulated but allowed. Auctioning off public parking places serves no value whatsoever, creates perverse incentives for hoarding, and will result in not only more expensive, but less efficient use of parking spaces. The fact that it essentially requires someone to have a smartphone and use it while driving just is the cherry on top of a turd sandwich. This isn't innovation vs. regulation, this is just shitty behavior and extortion.

    The good news is, it is going to be easy to stop. When all a cop has to do is sign on and 'buy' a parking place to write a $300 ticket you can be sure this isn't going to last long.

  3. Nobody is talking about the other side: people LOOKING for a DAMNED parking spot! If I have an app, I can hop on and see if there is one where I'm trying to get, and "reserve" it. That could potentially save a huge amount of headache for me. I'd be willing to pay someone who has a solution for that annoyance.

    OK not nobody, as I am typing I see that Boojack has mentioned this at the bottom of their post.

  4. Except it doesn't do that. It is a one-time fee for parking. It doesn't depend on whether you stay 10 minutes or 2 hours. What it does is encourage someone who is about to leave a parking place to wait until someone pays them to leave. Once you are in, you might as well stay as long as possible to get your money's worth. At the extreme, it will encourage people to take available parking simply so that they can sell it, and in fact the company is encouraging this behavior as "promoting their app." That is creating artificial scarcity and making it harder for everyone to find a spot.

    I am in favor of demand priced parking, a system where the parking rate is increased in desirable locations. This encourages turnover. The hope is that this will create a steady-state situation where there are usually a few spots available on every block. It would also hopefully make this sort of nonsense unprofitable since finding a slot would be easy and holding one you weren't actually using would be expensive.

  5. When people choose to drive to a destination, they should just take their damn car with them when they arrive, not leave it out on the public street. No off-street parking? Don't fucking drive then. Do it by phone, email, walk, take the bus, take a cab or ride a bike. I don't care. We're not allowed to leave our other shit laying around on public land, why make an exception for cars? I just hate what cars are doing to our urban environment.

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