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San Francisco bans apps that let you buy and sell public parking spots

Nicole Lee, @nicole

Anyone who's ever driven in San Francisco knows that parking in the city can be a nightmare -- garages are often expensive and street spaces are almost impossible to find, especially during peak hours. Several parking apps have cropped up to resolve that issue, a few by allowing folks to auction or sell their spots to others. Sounds like a neat way to make money, right? Well, there's a very important snag: buying and selling public parking spaces like that is illegal. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has just issued a cease-and-desist demand today to Monkey Parking, an iOS app that lets users bid for other people's parking spaces. The letter cites San Francisco Police Code section 63(c) that states: "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to enter into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind, written or oral, with or without compensation, for the use of any street or sidewalk."

Individual drivers who violate the law can face up to $300 per violation, and as Monkey Parking's entire business is based on an illegal premise, the city is requesting that the Rome, Italy-based company end operations in San Francisco altogether. The firm has until July 11th to do so before further legal action is taken -- it could be sued for up to $2,500 per infraction under California's Unfair Competition Law. Herrera copied that letter to Apple as well, requesting the Cupertino company take the app down from the App Store. The city also sent warnings to two other parking apps -- Sweetch and Parkmodo -- both of which also let you buy and sell parking spots. Sweetch users can pay $5 for a spot from another user and get paid $4 if they help them park and Parkmodo, which has yet to launch, has been offering people $13 an hour to occupy parking spots that they'll then get to sell. While disruptive services like Uber and Airbnb have run up against city law and survived, the fact that these parking apps charge for already-public spaces likely mean they're dead in the water.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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