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SF startup that turns parking spots into work spaces looks to expand

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One man’s parking space stunt turns a lens on alternative uses for car space

San Francisco’s latest high-profile startup didn't have a site to call its own at launch—and insists that it’s not really a business at all—which is apropos since WePark’s entire modus operandi is upending where and how San Franciscans go to work.

Founder Victor Pontis announced via Twitter on April 25, “I’m going to set up a desk and work out at a parking spot for a couple hours to show that parking real estate can be used for better purposes.”

Pontis, a 26-year-old engineer, fed a parking meter at 16th and Market Street and proceeded to finish his work day there.

Although SFMTA staff considered intervening, Pontis said, “They decided not to make a fuss out of it” and just let him sit out the remainder of his time.

Data engineer Devin Brady, who was also working at the parking spot, noted, “The impression I got from the parking control officer who talked to [Pontis] and I at the action on Market Street is that if we had been homeless people setting up a tent in a parking spot, we would have had a problem.”

Four days later, Pontis repeated the stunt in a parking spot near San Francisco City Hall, this time announcing his intentions on EventBrite and inviting others to join him. The rate was $2.25 per hour for the meter. The same day, copycat operations appeared in France and Santa Monica.

Soon WePark was international news. Pontis remarked to the Times UK, “[I]t shows that the real estate we use for parking can be put to a lot of other uses” and questioned whether a city like San Francisco really needs so much street parking.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much of WePark is a serious enterprise, a public commentary, or an amusing way to spend a few hours.

But the fact that people keep showing up—Pontis said the first group event attracted about 30 workers—suggests that the ploy has legs.

Pontis insists that WePark is not about the price of living or working in San Francisco but instead a commentary about how city streets prioritize cars over people.

He also says that his parking co-work idea is not a business. Nevertheless WePark now advertises for organizers, a webmaster, and a social media team. According to WePark’s site, the next public event is set for May 11. Pontis hopes to see it spread across 10 cities this time.