The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday requested that city lawyers draft a law banning digital media applications that identify available parking on city streets and charge fees to reserve the spots.
The emerging technology, offered by San Francisco-based MonkeyParking and other mobile-based apps, has become a thorn for public officials in the Bay Area, along with Boston and Santa Monica.
MonkeyParking announced last year that it would expand to Los Angeles. Venice-based Councilman Mike Bonin, who asked for the legislation, likened it to "pimping out public parking spots."
"This is not the sharing economy, it's the stealing economy,'' Bonin said. "They are taking a public asset and effectively privatizing it."
Los Angeles transportation officials share data with another mobile app, called Parker, that alerts motorists to open, metered spaces on city streets. But Parker does not charge for the service, he said.
"We are not against the use of technology and there's a lot of good parking apps out there,'' Bonin said. "This one crosses the line."
Under the draft ordinance, violators like MonkeyParking would face a $250 misdemeanor citation for a first offense, with fines climbing as high as $1,000 for repeat violations, said Deputy City Atty. Michael Nagle. The council's Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on the draft law later this month before it returns to the full council for a vote, he said.
MonkeyParking's chief executive, Paolo Dobrowolny, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he has previously said that the app's creators were trying to solve a chronic urban problem.
San Francisco's city attorney last year issued a cease-and-desist order to MonkeyParking and two similar apps. Municipal officials there and in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have voted to ban exchanging public parking spaces for compensation.
Even if L.A.'s proposed ban is approved, the city would have no say if digital entrepreneurs next turn their sights to auctioning off parking on private streets and driveways, said Nagle, the deputy city attorney.
"We can't regulate private property,'' he said. "But we, the taxpayers, pay for public streets. And to have to pay to reserve a spot -- it's pretty outrageous."