Does Monkey Parking App Take "Sharing Economy" Too Far?

A San Francisco City Attorney has told the creators of a new app to cease its use in his city. The app, Monkey Parking, creates a market for people to buy and sell public parking spots.

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Monkey Parking, a new startup and app, is trying to push the sharing economy in a newer, more murky direction. From Marcus Wohlsen of Wired:

[The] app lets parking-space squatters auction their prized curb space to drivers weary of circling the block–startups are now making it possible to “share” things you don’t own in the first place. The service has been available for several weeks in San Francisco–a notoriously difficult place to park...

That bit about sharing things you don't own is the key provision that got San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera involved. He's demanded that Monkey Parking cease its SF operations and has threatened the app's users with fines.

Herrera, in a quote from the same Wired piece:

“Monkey Parking’s business model is wholly premised on illegal transactions... 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.”

What's the Big Idea?

Advocates for services such as Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber claim those companies' disruption of their respective markets are a net win for consumers. It's hard to make that same case for something like Monkey Parking because of how it develops a (black) market where one wasn't before. It also creates an incentive for parking spot squatters to hold attractive spaces hostage for the highest bidder. Where parking in San Francisco had previously been luck of the draw, Monkey Parking introduces angles of gouging and extortion.

Monkey Parking CEO and co-founder Paolo Dobrowolny offered Wired this counter-argument to Herrera's demands:

“As a general principle we believe that a new company providing value to people should be regulated and not banned.” 

What do you think?

Keep reading at Wired

Photo credit: Heiko Kueverling / Shutterstock

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