- Towing

In some neighborhoods, especially condo blocks and mobile home parks, both parking and towing has consistently been a persistent and pernicious issue. To some, this has become a hostile and very unreasonable situation where necessary everyday actions can lead to costs in the hundreds of dollars.

California law is very specific about certain aspects of towing. A key provision is that if the owner confronts the tow operator and requests that the vehicle be unhooked, the vehicle must be immediately unhooked without requiring payment. I personally have witnessed multiple violations of this satute; I have been told about many other instances, even including cases where a handicapped driver was still inside the vehicle.

VEH 22658 g.1.B, g.1.C

(B) Upon the request of the owner of the vehicle or that owner’s agent, the towing company or its driver shall immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle that is not yet removed from the private property and in transit.

(C) A person failing to comply with subparagraph (B) is guilty of a misdemeanor.

In one case, I called 911 when a conflict seemed to be escalating, the specific reason that this clause was enacted as noted by the legislature. The 911 operator refused to take the report or dispatch officers. I later talked to an officer, reviewed the code, and he agreed to clarify the situation with the dispatcher.

This is a good guide to changes to California law that went into effect at the start of 2007: CTTA Guide

(I am not a lawyer and I am not providing legal advice. I am however free to share my understanding and opinions which you may find helpful in forming your own opinion.)

One detail that can be cruicial is the difference between standing and parked. This is often treated as an "I know it when I see it" distinction, even for Sunnyvale police officers that I’ve spoken to. This matters because some areas, such as mobile home parks, are claiming that all of the roads in their neighborhoods are fire lanes. The law requires warning and delay in some cases, but for fire lanes, the presumption is that any parking could be dangerous. Tow operators then troll the neighborhoods with a license to hunt vehicles that they can snatch in a few seconds so that they can make a fee.

There seem to be several problems with this:

  1. After a thorough search through Sunnyvale Fire Department records, and discussions with the Fire Marshall, I can not find any evidence that certain parks requested or were granted fire lane status as seems to be required by law. The Sunnyvale Fire Marshall has told me she is in the process of sending a letter clarifying fire department policy and implications to all parks.
  2. One or more requirements of the towing law in this case seem not to have been fulfilled.
  3. In some cases, operators tried to tow vehicles which had only been stopped for a few minutes at most while owners were in the process of loading or preparing to leave.
  4. In one case, an operator was observed leaving the park, then attaching safety chains, which seems dangerous.
  5. Operators have threatened people when their picture was taken.

Based on a review of police department records of tows and observing this behavior since it came to my attention, it seems plausible that many of the tows in these neighborhoods have been illegal in one or more ways.

All of this creates a hostile environment for residents who need to move vehicles around, load or unload, or walk an elderly person to their vehicle. This is unnecessary, wrong, and shouldn’t be the case in Sunnyvale. The Sunnyvale City Council should be able to address this one way or another. Additionally, this may begin to be solved in court.

If you are interested in this topic, please send email.

If you are a member of NextDoor, you may be able to see discussion about neighborhood towing issues here: NextDoor Towing

Topics:

- Towing

In some neighborhoods, especially condo blocks and mobile home parks, both parking and towing has consistently been a persistent and pernicious issue. To some, this has become a hostile and very unreasonable situation where necessary everyday actions can lead to costs in the hundreds of dollars.

California law is very specific about certain aspects of towing. A key provision is that if the owner confronts the tow operator and requests that the vehicle be unhooked, the vehicle must be immediately unhooked without requiring payment. I personally have witnessed multiple violations of this satute; I have been told about many other instances, even including cases where a handicapped driver was still inside the vehicle.

VEH 22658 g.1.B, g.1.C

(B) Upon the request of the owner of the vehicle or that owner’s agent, the towing company or its driver shall immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle that is not yet removed from the private property and in transit.

(C) A person failing to comply with subparagraph (B) is guilty of a misdemeanor.

In one case, I called 911 when a conflict seemed to be escalating, the specific reason that this clause was enacted as noted by the legislature. The 911 operator refused to take the report or dispatch officers. I later talked to an officer, reviewed the code, and he agreed to clarify the situation with the dispatcher.

This is a good guide to changes to California law that went into effect at the start of 2007: CTTA Guide

(I am not a lawyer and I am not providing legal advice. I am however free to share my understanding and opinions which you may find helpful in forming your own opinion.)

One detail that can be cruicial is the difference between standing and parked. This is often treated as an "I know it when I see it" distinction, even for Sunnyvale police officers that I’ve spoken to. This matters because some areas, such as mobile home parks, are claiming that all of the roads in their neighborhoods are fire lanes. The law requires warning and delay in some cases, but for fire lanes, the presumption is that any parking could be dangerous. Tow operators then troll the neighborhoods with a license to hunt vehicles that they can snatch in a few seconds so that they can make a fee.

There seem to be several problems with this:

  1. After a thorough search through Sunnyvale Fire Department records, and discussions with the Fire Marshall, I can not find any evidence that certain parks requested or were granted fire lane status as seems to be required by law. The Sunnyvale Fire Marshall has told me she is in the process of sending a letter clarifying fire department policy and implications to all parks.
  2. One or more requirements of the towing law in this case seem not to have been fulfilled.
  3. In some cases, operators tried to tow vehicles which had only been stopped for a few minutes at most while owners were in the process of loading or preparing to leave.
  4. In one case, an operator was observed leaving the park, then attaching safety chains, which seems dangerous.
  5. Operators have threatened people when their picture was taken.

Based on a review of police department records of tows and observing this behavior since it came to my attention, it seems plausible that many of the tows in these neighborhoods have been illegal in one or more ways.

All of this creates a hostile environment for residents who need to move vehicles around, load or unload, or walk an elderly person to their vehicle. This is unnecessary, wrong, and shouldn’t be the case in Sunnyvale. The Sunnyvale City Council should be able to address this one way or another. Additionally, this may begin to be solved in court.

If you are interested in this topic, please send email.

If you are a member of NextDoor, you may be able to see discussion about neighborhood towing issues here: NextDoor Towing