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August 08, 2014

San Francisco Parking Battle Heats up with Open Source


The city of San Francisco has been in a battle with parking apps this summer. Resting on the fact that city code prohibits monetizing public parking spaces, at least one city official has gone so far as to send a cease and desist letter to a prominent parking app creator while noting the severe financial penalties it could face for violating the law.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is the public official who originally called out MonkeyParking in his cease and desist letter, and within that letter, he mentioned a similar startup named Sweetch. Unlike MonkeyParking, which works on a sort of bidding system, Sweetch allows users to secure parking spaces for a flat fee. However the app developers shape it, though, the city apparently still looks upon the overall practice as illegal, and that has caused Sweetch to create the open source project, Freetch, to bring additional developers into the fold.

With Freetch, the company is releasing its source code to all developers, and according to the company website, it hopes to save people time and reduce their automobile emissions. It claims that "3 out of 10 cars are cruising for parking," and that without Freetch, drivers spend an average of 20 minutes searching for a place to park.

Although Dennis Herrera cites city code that disallows the sale of public parking spots, the code perhaps will not address the exchange of parking spots for rewards like hugs or lollipops. And that is exactly how the open source product is described in the official blog post that marks Freetch's release.

"Freetch is an open source version of our technology that any public organization, developer or entrepreneur can use to build a solution they believe will solve the parking crisis," the post says. "We view Freetch as a tool that anyone can use to build their own model of encouraging collaboration for parking through technology. We would love to see apps being created where drivers exchange spots for hugs, lollipops or flowers, were that to work."

Freetch CEO and founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi reportedly told Business Insider that the company has received requests regarding its software from developers across the globe. Although the company says it found $5 to be the minimum amount of money people will consider a just reward, in San Francisco, at least, developers may be forced to change the law or stick to hugs for the time being.





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