MonkeyParking continues monkey business


Ah, but the rich can already afford all the parking they want. They can easily pay the horrendous rates charged in downdown Manhatten, pay for excellent limo service, have their driver pick them up at a given time (even if that means that he has to circle a block until he gets flagged) or have a valet park and retrieve the car.


Perhaps more importantly, he’s doing that insufferable lying-by-implication thing:

Yes, speech, even commercial speech, enjoys broad protection in the US. This is true. However…

Notice the little “You will only pay if you get your spot” notice at the bottom? That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is selling mere information, now does it?

If we were talking about “SpotSpottr”, a hypothetical parking-spot app that provides some incentive to provide geolocated reports of leaving their own spots, or geotagged photos of empty spots, and then charges some amount of money to people interested in open parking spaces, arguments related to free speech, being an information service, etc. would be all well and good. The city would still have the zOMG dangerous driving! thing, and could still ticket individuals with their faces in their cellphones while behind the wheel; but it’d be a lot more tenuous to make the claim that ‘SpotSpottr’ is er… trafficking in parking spaces.

Nothing about MonkeyParking’s operation, though, sounded even remotely like that, until the pesky fact that what they were actually selling appears to be legally challenged came up.


Yep, by that one little sentence, he’s warranting the sale. He’s claiming that he’s saying, “Hey! I know where there are some spots open right now. Pay me, and I’ll send you over to where they may be.” Instead, what he’s really saying is, “Hey! I know where there’s a spot, pay me and I’ll ensure you’ll be the one to get it.” So he’s not just providing information, but an actual guarantee that he’ll sell you a public parking space.

That’s in direct opposition to the California Unfair Competition Law. That law says that you can’t deceive people by making a false claim to the public in a business practice. The reason it’s illegal to sell public parking is two pronged:

  • Other people buy private lots and have to pay for maintenance, taxes, insurance, people to run them, etc. Those people are then put into a position of competing with other private members of the public who are trying to get away with not making the same business investment. There’s no way they can do it. One person running a business for free, and one person paying to run a business - you guess what will happen.

  • Public spaces are paid for by the public. They’re on publicly maintained streets. So, a private person making another private person pay for a public parking space is actually charging them to pay for the space they’re already paying to maintain. They’re double charging anyone who parks there.

The same is true when you park at a city metered spot, but that’s considered one way for a city to gain revenue and control traffic. Your money is going back into a kitty that you hopefully benefit from. It’s not a complete loss, and it’s not designed to compete directly with private industry.

EDIT: I know I said “for free” but I do realize that there are costs involved in running an online business. Thing is, many concrete businesses do now have an online presence as well. So the difference in cost becomes only the cost of having to maintain the physical business, both forms have the costs incurred by the online company. Hope that fixes the statement.


Could you provide a citation? I’m discussing the matter in a German group knowing the legal grounds would be helpful.


If you check out the link to the cease and desist letter, you’ll see it lists two possible fines:

The first code is Article 1. That’s the “up to $300 fine”, and it’s the harder one to find. It’s Public Nuisances, Section 63: Obstructions on Streets and Sidewalks, from the San Francisco Municipal police code. Here’s a link:$fn=altmain-nf.htm$q=[field%20folio-destination-name:‘Article%201’]$x=Advanced#JD_Article1

Here’s the specific Section of the Code being referred to:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation, occupying or having charge or control of any premises, to place or cause to be placed, or suffer to remain upon the sidewalk, or upon the half of the street in front of such premises, any Article or substance which shall obstruct the passage of such street or sidewalk.

(b) 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.

© As an alternative to any other fines or penalties applicable to a violation of this section, any person, firm or corporation who is in violation of this section shall be subject to an administrative penalty not to exceed $300 for each violation. The administrative penalty shall be assessed, enforced and collected in accordance with Section 39-1 of this Code.

There’s another state code that is broken by the act of selling a public parking space. That one can cost you “up to $2500”.

The second is for breaking the California Unfair Competition Act. “BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE SECTION 17200-17210” I wrote up a quick explanation of why that applies to the business misrepresenting publicly-owned property as privately-owned property available for trade/sale. That comes with a fine of not more than $2500. Here’s a link to that. (see: 17206. Civil Penalty for Violation of Chapter)

Hope this was helpful!


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