Coalition Demands End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

News from LCCR – SF Bay Area and Bay Area Legal Aid – Press Release

October 11, 2018

Contact: Taylor Brady, TBrady@baylegal.org, (510) 250-5234; Matt Kovac, mkovac@lccr.com, (415) 510-9601

Civil Rights and Legal Aid Groups Demand End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

Groups issue letter to City Attorney over violation of low-income people’s 4th Amendment rights

SAN FRANCISCO – One day after a federal court ordered the City of San Francisco to return an impounded car to its homeless owner, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, represented by Bay Area Legal Aid and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, is demanding that the City immediately cease towing and impounding vehicles over unpaid parking tickets unless the City determines the owner is financially able to pay.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Bay Area Legal Aid issued a letter to City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera this morning demanding an end to the current towing policy, citing Monday’s ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California…

“The City is taking and selling the cars of low-income people across the city simply because they cannot afford to pay parking tickets. We call on the City to end its current towing policy and adopt a constitutional, common-sense approach to collecting on tickets that does not punish low-income people,” said Elisa Della-Piana, LCCR legal director...

“No one wins under the City’s current towing practices,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation at Bay Area Legal Aid. “Poor people lose their cars without any opportunity to show that they couldn’t afford to pay.  Residents of the City lose, with increased poverty and homelessness. And the City loses financially: the value of these cars rarely covers the cost of tow and storage, and the cars are often sold at a loss. It’s time for reform.”

The City Attorney has until Friday, October 19 to respond.

Read the full demand letter here.

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Safeway Parking Lot Service Issuing Potentially Unlawful Parking Tickets

hoodline – excerpt
Retailers at the shopping center parking lot at 2020 Market Street that is home to Safeway, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice have hired a private company to issue what appear to be unlawful parking “tickets” on cars parked in the shopping center…
The private company that is issuing the notices, Parking Control Services, Inc., settled a lawsuit with the Marin County District Attorney in 2007 when consumers complained that the company was placing parking tickets that looked like government-issued citations on cars parked at free public and private parking lots. Parking Control Services did not respond to our inquiries.

According to an opinion filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris in 2011, it is unlawful for “private property owners to issue parking citations imposing monetary sanctions to the owners of vehicles parked on their property.”
Absent express statutory authority, a private property owner may not issue a citation to a vehicle owner, and this remains the law even when the owner issues a preprinted ticket claiming otherwise. Moreover, absent legislative authorization and regulation of the practice, allowing private property owners to issue their own parking citations would circumvent many of the consumer-protection purposes embodied in the Vehicle Code statutes governing towing and parking citations… (more)