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San Francisco parking spot app shuts down service

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By TERRY COLLINS
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - An Italian company whose mobile app allows San Francisco drivers to get paid for the public parking spaces they exit has temporarily shut down the service following an order from the city attorney.

Despite saying last month that it wouldn't stop, MonkeyParking said in a blog Thursday that it "temporarily disabled" its bidding service in San Francisco, a day before City Attorney Dennis Herrera's deadline to cease operations or face a possible lawsuit.

"We are currently reviewing our service to clarify our value proposition and avoid any future misunderstandings," the website said.

MonkeyParking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny said in an email Friday that his company was working with lawyers and he hopes to meet with city leaders soon. "We want to operate in full collaboration with the city," Dobrowolny said.

Herrera said in a statement Friday that MonkeyParking and two similar smartphone apps that exchange money for parking spaces, Sweetch and ParkModo, said in writing that they will go on hiatus.

"I'm grateful that these parking apps have at least temporarily honored my request to halt business practices that clearly violate San Francisco's Police Code. At the same time, we're going to remain vigilant against those who would try to hold on-street public parking hostage for their own private profit," Herrera said. "I hope they can come up with some innovative and legal ways to serve their customers' transportation needs."

Herrera sent a letter to three parking apps on June 23 threatening a lawsuit if they didn't cease operations by July 11.

The Rome, Italy-based MonkeyParking allowed drivers who score a notoriously hard-to-get parking spot on San Francisco's streets to sell it for $5, $10, even $20 and then hang out there until the buyer arrives to take their place.

Herrera's letter was the latest as state and federal lawmakers grapple with new technologies that people can use to privately replace taxis, hotels and even restaurants. Firms in neighboring Silicon Valley often use San Francisco as a testing ground, pushing the boundaries of local authorities who don't want to quash the booming tech economy.

Herrera also cracked down on two similar smartphone apps that exchange money for parking spaces.

Two weeks ago, Dobrowolny said MonkeyParking doesn't sell parking spots, but rather convenience, citing freedom of speech. He said people have the right to tell others they're leaving a parking spot and get paid for it.

On Thursday, the company reiterated a similar sentiment in its blog.

"Street parking is currently not a first-come-first-served process, but still a random-served one: you can go in circles for hours while a lucky driver can find a spot in a minute, right in front of you," the blog said. "It is an old and painful problem and we believe that drivers deserve a better solution."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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