The Mission District is ground zero for tough parking and an incubator for many start-up solutions (Shawn Hoke/Flickr)
The Mission District is ground zero for tough parking and an incubator for many startup solutions. (Shawn Hoke/Flickr)

There’s a storm brewing in San Francisco over one of the city’s hottest commodities — street parking. Several startup tech companies are trying to solve the headache of endless circling in search of a spot. Billing the ideas as part of the “sharing economy,” companies like Sweetch and MonkeyParking propose using smartphone apps (what else?) to alert other users that a spot will be opening up and charge them for the privilege of being in the right place at the right time.

But the idea has people riled up about technocrats making money off public space. Sweetch in particular is aimed at the busy Mission District and encourages users to donate the $5 they get for their parking spot to a charity of their choice. If a user chooses to keep the money, he or she pays a 20 percent transaction fee.

Mission Local has been following the apps-will-solve-all-your-parking-problems trend, as well as an online conversation between neighbors and the co-founders of Sweetch, Thomas Cottin and Aboud Jardaneh.

Cottin and Jardaneh say they will easily be able to see when drivers are abusing the system and can block them.

When they tried to explain this on Nextdoor, what ensued was a lively discussion that in large part urged them to reconsider their app.

“You know people will find a way to capitalize on this, to abuse this,” wrote one participant. While she understood the madness of finding parking and would sometimes even be willing to pay, she added, the system was fraught with problems. “I think you need to re-evaluate what kind of resource your app was trying to provide, whether it is actually resourceful.”

Another, stating flatly that Sweetch was a “terrible idea,” wondered what would happen if she was driving around and tried to pull into a spot already promised to a Sweetch driver. “Do I need to fight for my right to park?” she asked.

Another pointed out that $5 a day is pocket change for “some of us, but it is grocery money for a large number of families in the Mission.”

The Sweetch co-founders say the pushback they are seeing stems from a generational divide, and that soon this kind of service will be common and accepted. In their eyes, information is a commodity people will pay for. And in this case, knowing where that perfect street spot is going to open up saves drivers time and gas.

What do you think of ideas like this? A miracle solution to parking problems or a misuse of public space?

Should Techies Be Able to Put a Price on Free Street Parking? 11 June,2014Katrina Schwartz

  • ibs

    apart from the payment issues, even though theoretically it could mean a more efficient use of space, it’s unsure if drivers will now have to circle around less chasing for for space, it probably just means more distracted drivers checking their phones and more people just sitting in their cars in the road waiting for the promised space to open up , ‘great’…

  • Sarah

    “Techies”? I used to come here for unbiased local news. You do know that some natives are also techies?

    • Dan Brekke

      Maybe Webster’s should add a pejorative definition, too:

    • Jessica

      The article doesn’t imply that the “techies” developing the product are local or relocated. I think calling tech workers “techies” is not derogatory.

      • Robert Thomas

        I think that calling people with no science or no mathematics or no understanding of the mechanisms of the physical world “meat” is not derogatory.

  • Thatguy

    Cue “Cry me a river” by Justin Timberlake.

  • Matt Chambers

    “generation divide” my behind. These services are taking a public good and privatizing it. If the younger generation doesn’t get that, then they need to go back to school.

  • David Thaler

    “In their eyes, information is a commodity people will pay for. ”

    Get corrective lenses.

  • Kay

    “generational divide”? How about you hipsters displaying blatant ageism design an app for developing common decency?



Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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