CITYWIDE — MonkeyParking, a controversial startup company that matches drivers with on street parking spaces, has plans to expand its service to Santa Monica
Paolo Dobrowolny, CEO of the company, visited Santa Monica this week at the request of local residents to discuss possible implementation of the service here. He also met with regulators from the City of Santa Monica to address potential concerns over the service.
The company launched in San Francisco earlier this year with an app for mobile devices that allows drivers looking for a parking space to pay someone who is already parked to leave that space. As the spaces being brokered are city-owned, on-street parking, San Francisco officials said the service was in violation of a law that prohibits private companies from charging to access the public streets. The company suspended operations in June following receipt of a cease and desist letter from the City.
Dobrowolny said he is working with San Francisco officials on tweaks to the service that would address their concerns and he wants to introduce the service locally in a way that allows residents to give feedback on the service.
“What was missing before was the chance for people to use it and talk about their experience with it,” he said.
He said Main Street could be an excellent test because it caters to the parking needs of residents, businesses and beach goers, all of whom have different needs.
“I’d like to run a pilot and look at what blocks need a solution like this and share that data with the city on a few test streets,” he said.
If the system were to go well, he said he is open to discussing a revenue sharing model with the city.
“We are willing to share revenues with the City because we couldn’t exist without the infrastructure that’s already in place,” he said.
Santa Monicans already have access to a parking app by ParkMe that provides real-time information on available parking in public garages and lots. Dobrowolny said MonkeyParking provides a predictive service and the brokered system guarantees a space will actually be available when a driver arrives.
He said the two services could eventually work together in a way that makes a more meaningful impact on drivers but Dobrowolny said the company has not altered its fundamental model because he firmly believes the accepted practice of circling the block in hopes of find a space is not something people want to continue.
“We’d pivot only if the users say it’s not going to work,” he said.
According to Dobrowolny, it’s the existing users that have asked for the service to come to Santa Monica.
He said residents petitioned the company via a feature on their website that asked users to nominate cities for expansion. While the initial response was for “Los Angeles”, Dobrowolny said when they company actually spoke to users, they were clustered in Santa Monica and on the Westside.
Dobrowolny spent three days in Santa Monica meeting with residents and city officials.
Salvador Valles, business and revenue operations manager for the City of Santa Monica, said Dobrowolny had applied for a business license and that staff were currently reviewing the application.
According to Valles, the application will have one of two outcomes, either it will be approved or it will be brought to the City Council for a discussion. Valles said the two major questions over the service are how will it impact traffic circulation and is it-or should it-be legal for the service to operate here.
“If our city attorney has other issues related to the business activity, based on what he proposes to be doing in Santa Monica, the City will respond and will bring to council an item that allows council to make a decision as to what they would like to do,” he said. “It’s not something that staff will make a decision on based on the existing laws.”
Valles said it can take up to two months for an item to be placed a council agenda but that he hoped to have council hear the issue sooner if possible.
“We’re already doing our own review internally as to what the type of impacts are,” he said. “This is a new business model that will impact our public parking spaces, I’ve officially and formally referred it for additional review from traffic and parking division. Once that review is completed then we’ll have an understanding of how to move forward.”
matt@www.smdp.com

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