A new movement originated in the US under the name #WePark, more specifically in San Francisco. In the meantime, it has become so expensive there that some nowadays organize their office space in parking places. They neatly pay the required $2.25/hr. A piece of cake compared to what spaces usually cost in San Francisco.
It is 26-year-old entrepreneur Victor Pontis who is behind the idea. He saw, as he tells the BBC, online response from someone to the use of a pick-up as a bicycle shed: “What if we could work from a parking lot?” Pontis picked up that “funny” suggestion and put it back also in practice on Thursday. That was not so bad and he invited others to join him at the impressive San Francisco City Hall. Thirty people came. In the meantime, there have been at least four events. Pontis was followed in Santa Monica and even internationally, as far as France.
Pontis believes that parking places are often located in the best places in the city where real estate is terribly expensive. “We use it as a parking space, at a rate of 2 or 2.5 dollars per hour, while there can be so many other applications,” says Pontis. “The street is a place where people live and not just drop their cars.” Also on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica office space is priceless, but you can rename a parking space for a few dollars, Pontis writes on Twitter.
According to real estate agent Cushman & Wakefield, rents in San Francisco have risen to a record high of around 1000 dollars per square meter on an annual basis. For a small apartment of 50 m², you pay a monthly rent of no less than 4000 dollars. The median rental price, the middle one, is 3200 dollars, while the median selling price of real estate in San Francisco is 1,2 million dollars.
Jean Walsh, who was at the first official WePark himself, therefore believes that this is a “ridiculously cheap” solution compared to the real estate prices that are going wild. But especially the atmosphere of working together in the same place turned out to please those present, she says to the BBC. The ‘WeParkers’ use free WiFi, if available, or create a hotspot with their smartphone. “This way, twelve people can work from a place where otherwise a car does nothing but stand there all day,” says Walsh.
WePark found its way into France. There, 21-year-old Valentin Décarpentrie tested the system in Toulouse. He had heard of WePark on Twitter. There was someone who wanted to take his parking place with the car, but the driver left again after seeing the valid parking ticket from Decarpentrie. According to the Frenchman, this is just the beginning of the entire movement. He sees its breeding ground not only in the increasingly expensive real estate, but especially in the growing awareness among people of the enormous climate problems. “Cities hardly do anything about car pollution,” he argues.
But not everyone is happy with WePark. Drivers believe that parking places are used for cars and that it is best to work elsewhere, in more suitable places. It remains to be seen how large the movement will become and how the cities involved will react. Pontis also admits that he does not check whether this is legal.
NBC received no response from the city of San Francisco about the legality of WePark. The channel did calculate that it is ultimately not all that cheap as Pontis suggests. “On a monthly basis, as a full-time worker in a parking lot, you lose around $360, while a coworking space would cost you anything between $400 and $500,” said reporter Ali Wolf. “And then you are not bothered by annoying ambient noise,” concludes Wolf. And it also rains in San Francisco, what then?
There are also reports on Twitter that we should not take this all seriously. “WePark is serious! But it’s also a joke,” Pontis himself tells Business Insider. “Setting up a table and a chair on a busy street is absurd.”