To describe parking in San Francisco as an unmitigated disaster would be putting it lightly; driving down a series of inclined one-way streets looking for parking is just subjecting yourself to prolonged psychological torture whenever you do a big Trader Joe's run. Luckily, because we live in a constantly evolving tech city, of course there’s an app for that, a whole mess of apps in fact, dedicated to making parking less of a hassle. One of these, Monkey Parking, relies on a type of street squatting, where a user parks in a spot and those needing parking can bid on that occupied spot to park there themselves, a relatively clever way to ration out parking to those who can afford it. Us poors can suck it.

But this morning, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera stopped the fledgling idea in its tracks, issuing a cease-and-desist to not only Monkey Parking, but similar apps such as Sweetch and ParkModo. “It's illegal” says Herrera, “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 … we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit." The apps run afoul of Police Code Section 63, which prohibits public streets from being leased, rented, or involved in a contract of any kind, a seemingly obvious problem that app makers should have probably considered before launching this clearly illegal street-rental system.

One app, ParkModo, took the idea even further, and hired drivers to sit in parking spots around the city for $13 an hour, saving the spots indefinitely. Because if there’s any solution for parking in this city, it’s based on artificially limiting the market in order to gouge hapless drivers. The problem with having a private company sit guard over parking spots should quickly become apparent; it leads to a city without private parking whatsoever, not unlike Chicago, where their privatized meters cost $6.50 per hour.

On the other hand, some companies like CARMAnation operate under a better, legal idea, by renting out private parking spaces during the time they’re not being used, an appropriate alternative. “Companies should look to help solve urban living issues through technology, instead of taking advantage of public property or city residents” says CARMAnation co-founder Ashley Cummings. “We support finding new ways to solve parking pains in cites, but not by trying to turn a profit on public land. Instead, we look to the private sector and allow people to share their parking spaces“.

Unfortunately, few real solutions exist for mitigating the headache of parking in a city with more registered cars (471,388) than spots to park (441,541), and most of them seem more focused on making cash than helping the city. Whatever the end result is, maybe it shouldn’t involve taking part in an auction via your phone while driving.

[Via SFGate/SFist]

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