App Promises Drivers $150/Month For Auctioning Off San Francisco's Street Parking

Even while San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee chooses to roll back millions in revenue from parking meters on Sundays, a startup is arbitraging the difference between the city’s woefully underpriced public parking and peak demand by allowing users to auction off access to the land underneath their car.  As far as Uptown Almanac can tell, the MonkeyParking app is, actually, a thing.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You wake up somewhere on the outskirts of the Bay Area where you’re staying with a friend because your place is rented out through Airbnb. Or, you know, you’ve life-hacked your way toward prosperity by just living in your car. The point is, get your shitheap to San Francisco, where self-important people with money will pay almost any price for convenience.
  2. Drive around for a while until you find some parking in a busy, popular neighborhood. In the Mission, for instance. Preferably before noon.
  3. Now give MonkeyParking your location and wait.  A customer can offer a starting bid of $5 for someone willing to leave their spot. If no one else nearby is running the same racket, watch a while as the bid goes up. Maybe chuckle while you imagine your mark circling the popular shopping district full of pedestrians while they fumble with their smartphone.
  4. Go ahead and accept the bid when it hits $10, $15, even $20 — there doesn’t seem to be any limit!  MonkeyParking will tell the other driver where to find you.  And collect a percentage of the transaction.
  5. Now you can circle around the block looking for another spot to squat.  Maybe pick up some Lyft passengers while you’re at it!
  6. Profit.

Now if this sounds like the last time you tried to park near Union Square and someone flagged you to an empty space and then asked you for a tip, but for the cloud, you wouldn’t be entirely off the mark. Of course, that person is the kind of social undesirable like the infamous “squeegeemen” of New York City that quality-of-life mayors stretching back to Rudy Giuliani love to harass. But app-ify it, and suddenly Mayor Lee is recommending an investment in your startup to venture capitalist Ron Conway, thereby telling him how to do his job for a change.

It’s hard to believe that MonkeyParking isn’t a joke about startups, but after looking at two years of online activity, the company and founder’s pages on AngelList, conference listings, downloading the app and trading messages with the company’s Twitter account, we’re losing hope it’s all an elaborate hoax by Italian anarchists with a wicked sense of humor. Instead, it seems to be just more crazy kids with a Silicon Valley dream who don’t play by the rules and believe that they’re making the world a better place. 

The thing is, a ridiculously large portion of the 49 square miles in San Francisco is set aside for parking cars.  And what the city owns, it hardly charges enough for.  The SFPark program introduced in 2010 has used a different method to achieve goals similar to those stated by MonkeyParking, which is to assure parking availability even during busy times: By increasing the cost of the most popular spots. But that money goes straight to the SFMTA, which perpetually needs it for things like paying the Police Department millions for “security services”—as it should, because that land and the infrastructure improvements on it are public property.

To be fair, you have to admire the hustlers who’d try to sell you a public parking spot, if only because of how ridiculous the marks who get suckered must be.  And while Sunday Meters was proven to work to reduce wait times and increase parking availability and turnover, Mayor Lee took an opportunity to explain why he gutted it to complain about parking tickets and Muni passengers.  The SFPark program is currently still in effect, though in an “evaluation” phase, which means that it’s turned off the sensors under the spots, cut off most of the data available to developers and even taken its own app from Apple’s App Store.

One can only imagine what will happen if it needs Mayor Lee’s approval to move forward.  It turns out that the “Sharing Economy” group that his office took credit for putting together in an effort to persuade City Treasurer Jose Cisneros not to go after Airbnb and Uber for taxes never actually met.  Meanwhile, any Cocoa developer from around the world can show up and start literally auctioning public land off to the highest bidder—land that Mayor Lee is happy to just keep giving away for free.

Comments (31)

This is insane.  I have a parking spot in one of the best locations in town.  I would be able to park my car on the street in front of where I live during an off-peak time (afternoon on a weekday for example) then just sit on the couch and wait to collect money for just moving my car from the street in front to my parking space. Everyone with a parking space could just park on the street (i.e, they would not be circling looking for a parking spot).  And folks without a 

I guess this is what they mean by “disruptive.”  

so what? if you want to be an idiot sitting on your couch all day giving up your spot. then so be it. I highly doubt this is a village of idiots, however. you have a great imagination: headline

100’s of homeless people (with cars and money to put in the meter a couple of hours) caught circling the city squatting parking spots to “sell” to unsuspecting rabid drivers!!!!

What a scandal.

This is not part of the sharing economy and I would hope groups lilke would not endorse it.  You can’t claim rights to free parking.  Peers is having their big 2-day conference in SF on 5/13-5/14 - perhaps they’ll respond.

There is no such thing as a “sharing economy”.

I’m sure this’ll go real well when people who are trying to park see some dumbass sitting in his car for an hour constantly checking his phone. He’s setting himself up nicely for a proper black eye. 

Yup. And what about when the person who just purchased the right to use a public space gets swooped on. “Hey, you can’t park there! I just paid that guy to let me be next!” Ha! Can’t wait.

I will enjoy “disrupting” their business model by advertising spots that aren’t actually available…

The misnamed “sharing” (actually skimming) economy is encouraging people to hoard free public parking spaces for private gain when they no longer need them rather than sharing those spaces with others that need them.

And this scenario points to the big lie of the tech application enabled “new” economy.  Ain’t no sharing here.  Just renting out rooms, operating gypsy cabs, hoarding parking spaces, etc. while an agent skims some of the revenue.

It’s not “skimming” the economy. It’s IS the economy: supply and demand my friend. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, why begrudge them?

boy you are all a bunch of naive youngsters if you think this is not exactly what all you techies are doing  here in the first place. Skimming off of san francisco’s good will, driving out small businesses and hoping to get the next cool app.

Skimming is the money that the agents take, be they AirBNB or Uber/Lyft/Sidecar.  Nothing new here, just updated for the smartphone world.

Obviously, selling the right to park in public spaces monetizes something that belongs to everyone, so another theft of public resources for private gain.  And this business hurts people looking for parking spaces that are artificially unavailable because someone is trying to make a buck for himself and a smartphone application by hoarding those spaces.

Nothing is this article or the one in the Chronicle states that this app will only apply to metered parking.  It will cover free parking spaces as well as long as someone can squeeze a buck out of nothing.

Thanks @landline

These new buisness models  regularly had nothing to do with sharing, and yet seek that “feel good” term.

Since before kindergarden, sharing is goal that makes life better.  But this sounds like beening dick in privatizing a resounce.

“And what the city owns, it hardly charges enough for. ”

See, but _that’s_ what this all really tells you. Because if public parking was actually fairly priced in this city everywhere it were available, there would actually be little to no value in this app. No one would hold a parking space just to free it up for some random user on MonkeyParking, for example, if they had to pay what it was actually worth.

Actually, if the pricing model were dynamic (the value of spots increases or decreases based on demand) that would encourage monkeyparking even more, by increasing the profit the monkey could make, and the customer’s willingness to look for a monkey spot (like a rent-controlled apartment in a gentrifying city).

But it would also increase the cost to the monkey of holding onto the space. If the price of a metered space was actually correct, people would seldom be willing to pay the premium demanded by the monkey.

Here’s the problem. There’s the market rate for parking then there’s the crazy low rate the city charges. This app is, essentially, scalping underpriced parking. It was only a matter of time before somebody figured out how to do it.

Hate the idea? The city could put the app out of business in a second by charging a more sensible price for the city’s scarce parking.

crazy low rate??? what??? where??? are you on crack??

In those locations, you’d get a more than $150/month if you just did it yourself through CraigsList (where this sort of thing is already very common).

Ah, my mistake, I was thinking about off-street parking.  Selling street parking may not be happening on CL.

This is nothing new. It’s basically the business model of valet parking– you just don’t have the valet actually driving the customer’s car. But the basic idea is the same: someone with money pays another person to do the boring task of finding parking.

“But the basic idea is the same: someone with money pays another person to do the boring task of finding parking.”

Or someone with money pays another person to do the boring task of …..finding a nice place to put your blanket on the beach…waiting in a really long line for the bathroom….claiming a great picnic table in GG Park….getting an ice cream at BiRite Creamery…. writing a poem to the girl you have a crush on…

I guess all of these things are simply “underpriced” by the market and just ripe for “disruption”.  

People actually do pay writers for poems… they even have them in convenient book form. Cribbing from the greats is a time-honored practice. On the beach, people just squeeze in. And those picnic tables already have paid reservations– at least the popular ones. As for BiRite, I suspect that standing in line is half the reason people go.

Now the bathroom one does rub me the wrong way. Probably because it’s a visceral human need. Then again, you can say the same about food: why do we allow bakers to take money for their product, instead of distributing it first-come first-served?

sweetie… underpriced? NOTHING in SF is underpriced. Parking definitely NOT underpriced. but you are correct, if I want someone to hold me a spot, great! It’s worth a buck or two.

If it’s worth a buck for someone to hold a spot for you, then you were willing to pay $1 more for it than the people you were trying to keep out of it. So the official price of the spot was less than it was actually worth to you - which means it was underpriced. Economics.

The fictitous “Valet Me” app from the Amazon series Betas is very similar to this.  Looks like those monkeys slurped up the idea and made it real.

This is all douchebaggery. MonkeyParking is NOT selling the parking space. They are selling the convenience of someone alerting another to an open space. that’s all. People can choose to use the app or not. The money for parking goes to the city, they are not losing out. In fact, too bad they were too slow to think of this themselves, so the money could go to the city. In fact, they could if they wanted to compete. who cares?? as long as we can help eachother. Are we now going to punish city car share and zipcar for taking city parking spots away from our citizens? no! bc zipcar is HELPING the community, keeping non car owners from having to purchase cars.

And what does someone being Italian have to do with this? recall, most startups that are feeding this economy you so blissfully drink your blue bottle coffee in are FOREIGN. another douchebag racist oversight on this hipster bearded freak’s “article”/”rant.”

grow up and do your homework, douchebag. you’re what takes the air out of people’s tires.

Oh Anne, you’re such a shill.  Your attack rant doesn’t help MonkeyParking’s image one bit. Give it up. This app will die on the vine, as it should, and your founders stock will be as worthless as this idea is.

if this is the best paid shills can do for the “sharing economy” the sharing economy is getting ripped off.

Folks like me can do PR better, faster and cheaper and more effective than this bullshit. PLEASE GO BACK TO FLYOVER COUNTRY YOUR BUBBLE SALARY WON’T PAY FOR YOUR FUCKING FOUR DOLLAR TOAST IN TWO YEARS.

also, the app is not about the COST of the parking space. It’s about FINDING a space. even if parking were expensive, which it is… ridiculously so, in my opinion, this app has a right to exist. remember when people would stand and hold your parking space for a buck? same thing.

Reading the comments, one could assume that Anne works for Monkey Parking.

Anne should probably shut up if that is the case because her tone is not professional. If Anne does not work for Monkey Parking, then you must wonder why she is so passionate about something so obviously flawed.

Is the transaction for a good or a service?

The transaction works like this: Person X holds the parking spot. Person Y bids the highest. Person X receives money from person Y in exchange for holding the parking spot and making the parking spot available for Person Y.

The transaction is not for good.

Person X cannot own the parking spot. The parking spot is public property. Person X has a right to occupy the space but does not have a right to appropriate the space. If Person X cannot own the space then Person X cannot sell the space. 

The transaction is for a service.

Is the service transaction valid?

Does Person X have a right to provide the service and dervice economic value from the provision of the service?

Can Person X occupy the space? Yes. 

Can Person X stop occuying the space? Yes. 

Can Person X exclude people from occupying the space after Person X stopped occuying the space? No

A member of the public does have a right to decide who can use a public parking space next.

The service transaction is invalid.

Is the service transaction socially valuable? No. People like Anne would argue that Monkey Parking provides a valuable service to the community by ensuring available parking based on real-time market-style bidding. That is wrong. Monkey Parking guarantees that fewer parking spaces will be available for drivers. Why? Because each parking space that is being occupied by someone using Monkey Parking is therefore unavailable for use by someone who actually needs to park their car.

Monkey Parking does not create additional parking.

Monkey Parking does not create an incentive for people to reduce their demand for parking.

Monkey Parking does one thing: it provides a platform for some people to pay extra for special access to public resources - in this case, parking spaces.

pied piper for cars