San Francisco’s unfair towing charges

by Emily Green and Lizzie Johnson : sfchronicle – excerpt

San Francisco’s exorbitant towing fees represent an unjust penalty — and an unwarranted windfall for city government.

Tow trucks in San Francisco haul away more than wrongly parked vehicles. They effectively seize paychecks from drivers who need to fork over hundreds of dollars to retrieve their vehicles. It’s an unfair policy that city lawmakers must fix.

That change of direction can’t come soon enough. The penalties here are far higher than other major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where strict parking rules are needed to keep traffic flowing. Along with sky-high rates go another troubling factor: San Francisco’s transit overlords use the annual haul of 42,350 vehicles to cover expenses barely related to towing…

Reporters Emily Green and Lizzie Johnson delved into the towaway numbers to produce another level of unfairness. Transit budget maestros are dumping other costs onto the towing bill in the name of the city’s overarching transit-first policies that downplay private vehicles. Curb painting, ticket-writing salaries and city vehicle maintenance are all chalked up to towaway work, which is carried out by private contractors. Even a slice of MTA Director Ed Reiskin’s pay is tacked on to the towing program. It’s a stretch that officials justify by saying other transportation programs would be cut if the towing fees weren’t so high…

There’s a need for serious parking restrictions on San Francisco’s crowded streets. Along with this simple mandate is another requirement for balance, fairness and honesty. The city’s towaway contract needs revamping… (more)

RELATED:
Towing fees to come down after SF supervisors complain :
The cost of getting towed in San Francisco is going to come down by at least $75 as the Municipal Transportation Agency agreed Tuesday to reduce its fees after supervisors criticized them for being exorbitantly high, unfair and unduly regressive…
The administrative fee pays for every cost directly and tangentially associated with the towing program, including the salaries and benefits of the citation enforcement officers who enforce towing restrictions, the paint to paint red zones on curbs, vehicle maintenance, and even part of MTA Director Ed Reiskin’s salary.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said that is wrong. “I question why a portion of the MTA director’s salary is being passed on to these people who have their cars towed.”… (more)

How are cyclists paying for their costs? paint, signs, enforcement, Ed’s salary and official time attending bike meetings? How are those costs being covered?

 

SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISOR WIENER AUTHORS LEGISLATION TO CUT TOW COSTS

By Carolyn Tyler : abc7news – excerpt (video)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 12:00AM
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — If your car is towed in San Francisco, you’re going to be paying some of the highest rates in the country to get it back, but now for one group of motorists — those whose cars were stolen — it appears some relief is on the way.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, San Francisco residents were reimbursed the towing expenses for stolen cars, but that changed in 2005, perhaps due to the economy.

Adding insult to injury, San Francisco resident Luis Rodriguez will spend big bucks to get his Chevy Malibu from the towing yard. Every month on average, nearly 200 stolen vehicles end up at AutoReturn.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said, “It’s a real hardship — especially for lower income people who rely on their car as a lifeline to get to work — to have to pay a lot of money to get their car, when they didn’t do anything wrong.”

Wiener has authored legislation with the backing of the Municipal Transportation Agency. If approved, starting this December through next March there would be changes. And when the towing contract comes up for renewal, it is also expected to include the new previsions.

Muni’s $266 SFMTA administrative fee would be waived for San Francisco residents and cut in half for non-residents. The $225.75 towing fees would be waived for everyone. And rather than the current four hours you’re given to get your car before the storage fees accumulate, residents will have a 48 hour grace period. The grace period will be 24 hours for non-residents… (more)