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Parking app refuses San Francisco shut-down order

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    A cable car passed a parking meter near San Francisco's financial district in Oct. 2009.
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SAN FRANCISCO » The company behind a mobile app that allows San Francisco drivers to get paid for the public parking spaces they exit has rejected an order from the city attorney to stop its operations.

MonkeyParking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny said in an email Friday that City Attorney Dennis Herrera is misapplying a police code that prohibits the sale or lease of San Francisco’s streets.

Dobrowolny said MonkeyParking doesn’t sell parking spots, but convenience. He cites freedom of speech, saying people have the right to tell others they’re leaving a parking spot and get paid for it.

"Parked users can make some money just by notifying drivers about the time in which they will leave from a spot," Dobrowolny said. "It just gives our users all they need to be in the right place at the right time when a parking spot is going to become available.

"As people leave from parking spots every day, we are just making that moment a valuable moment for them, while providing a service to drivers looking for parking."

Herrera sent a letter to the Rome, Italy-based company Monday threatening a lawsuit if it doesn’t cease operations by July 11. Herrera also asked Apple Inc. to immediately remove MonkeyParking’s application from its App Store. Apple has not responded to emails seeking comment, and the app remains available.

The city attorney is also cracking down on two similar smartphone apps that exchange money for parking spaces.

Dobrowolny said he believes he and the other companies have found a new solution to an old problem.

"We are paying people to provide that information before they are going to leave from a parking spot. They get some extra (cash) while drivers avoid cruising for parking," Dobrowolny said. "It’s a win-win."

Herrera spokesman Matt Dorsey described MonkeyParking’s statements as "verbal gymnastics."

"It’s like a prostitute saying she’s not selling sex — she’s only selling information about her willingness to have sex with you," Dorsey said in a written statement. "One could similarly imagine drug dealers avoiding ‘intent to sell’ charges by merely selling information about nearby illicit drugs that are actually available for free.

"But until and unless the law changes, their business is plainly illegal in San Francisco."

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