Listeners to yesterday’s episode of Michael Krasny’s “Forum” on SF KQED will have heard a remarkable discussion between Jesse Smith, chief assistant city attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, and Daniel Shifrin, founder of ParkModo. The subject: San Francisco’s ban on apps which allow users to rent out public parking spaces for money.
We’ve reported on the ban elsewhere, but what’s notable about this discussion is that it marked Daniel Shifrin’s coming out as the new face (voice?) of the most grotesque aspects of the cult of disruption.
Previously, of course, that title was held by Uber’s Travis Kalanick, a man who while assuring us that the market is better at ensuring public safety than the law (because everyone knows a potential rapist is quickly disarmed by the threat of a one-star review) also took seeming glee in blaming passengers when they were allegedly assaulted by his drivers. Drivers who it later turned out he had misled passengers about having background checked. And then, just to make sure no one remained unpissed, he reminded an audience at Code Conference that he’d be happy to get rid of all those “expensive” drivers once there were enough self-driving cars to get people from point A to point B.
But — and I can’t believe I’m writing these words — in fairness to Kalanick, at least the service he was offering didn’t involve the theft and resale of a public resource — in this case, roadside parking spaces.
Enter Shifrin who, apparently, used to be a regional representative for Zipcar before leaving to sell taxpayers things they’d already paid for, at a horrendous markup. Shifrin opened by saying that San Francisco doesn’t understand ParkModo’s business model, and complaining that “they didn’t take the opportunity to contact us, look into the business model [or] understand what we’re doing…”
“But,” the host interjects, “ParkModo got a lot of publicity by hiring people to stand in parking spaces [to save them for users]”
“That’s absolutely correct,” says Shifrin. But first he wants to talk about his role at Zipcar (a company which he didn’t found)…
“I’m personally responsible for removing more cars from the streets of San Francisco and more carbon emissions and congestion than anybody in the city”
Actually, that would probably be BART, or Muni, or even the much-hated tech shuttles. But go on…
“I want to improve, through technology, the efficiency of parking and the result will be reducing danger to pedestrians, when you’re circling the block it’s very dangerous… People are getting hit by cars every single day in cities because people are circling the block… Productivity is horrible…. The benefits are undeniable to the marketplace that instead of a guy circling for twenty minutes, hitting someone, making traffic so an ambulance can’t get to the hospital and putting people’s lives in danger I can just simply go and park my car with none of that.”
Well, if it’s going to save lives…
After that, Shifrin gets into a long pitch about his unstoppable app (which has since vanished from the Internet, by the way), prompting the previously affable host to finally lose his patience.
“Daniel Shifrin, you’re going to have to let me…” Krasny tries.
But Shifrin just keeps disrupting the airwaves.
Louder this time. “DANIEL SHIFRIN, EXCUSE ME… I realize you have a strong case to make here but we’re in dialogue here so you’re going to have to allow me to interrupt you from time to time, not a soliloquy, I’m sorry to say…”
Finally Shifrin stops talking and allows Krasny to ask the most important question: “What about [the fact that] people who can’t afford a place are going to be locked out of this?”
His reponse? The market!
“In our model, if you purchase my information that I’m leaving [my parking space], you can resell your information, so it won’t cost you to park in the spot.”
Now all we need to do is ensure everyone has an iPhone and access to the parking app and everything will just be dandy.
The entire interview is embedded below, should you feel the need to understand why some people in San Francisco hate tech “disruptors.” For bonus points, see if you can spot which callers are clearly pre-arranged stooges for ParkModo.