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  Tow Away to Go Away?
July 16, 2011

Picture yourself stopping to shop in Point Richmond. Maybe stopping for a late lunch and browsing the art offerings in a local gallery. Or, maybe you had an appointment to get your eyes checked at the local optometrist. You notice a flurry of activity that marks the beginning of the Wednesday afternoon farmers market. You go out to move your car out of the way, and you find a ticket on it.

“Didn’t you see the sign?” asks a Police Cadet, who is on ticket duty for the afternoon. Well, you guess you should have looked a little closer and taken time to work through the plethora of signs, both official and unofficial, on the power pole. You focused on that big one, the STREET SWEEPING warning, and you saw the 2-HOUR PARKING sign, It was the little one in the middle with the small print you missed, “NO PARKING EVERY WEDNESDAY MAY-OCTOBER.”

Photo of Sign


Well, you’ll be more careful next time. A parking ticket is not the end of the world, and truth be known, Richmond  can probably use that $30. You can mail it in and be done with it. You curse yourself under your breath for not being more careful and move to get into your car and move it out of the way.

But no, says the Police Cadet, you can’t do that. Apparently, a tow truck has been called, and you have to simply wait patiently and helplessly until the tow truck arrives, loads up your car and hauls it away to an obscure location in North Richmond. Then you have to beg someone to take to the Police Station to get a release. Then you have to beg someone else or call a cab to take you to a godforsaken location in North Richmond where you have to pay $155 to get it released.

Why can’t you just move your car and go home? “Policy,” says the cadet; “Once ticked you have to be towed.”

Pretty much ruined your day, didn’t it?

This is not a reverie. This really happened. Last Wednesday in Point Richmond. I got involved after people came to my nearby office and asked me to try to help out the victim, in this case the vehicle owner.

After the Police Cadets had told the vehicle owner and me that the vehicle had to be towed even if the owner was present and ready to move it, I asked them to contact their supervisor and request that he or she come down and discuss the situation. I also called dispatch and asked for the watch commander.

When I first arrived, the A&D Towing Company tow truck had just driven up but had taken no further action. I asked the Cadets to request the tow truck driver to hold up until a supervisor arrived. They refused.

Meanwhile, the tow truck driver proceeded to load the car up on the bed of his truck.

Then, I asked the tow truck driver to hold up until the supervisor arrived. He not only refused, but did it in the most discourteous and rude manner imaginable. He started to move forward. I spotted two police officers only a few hundred feet away walking toward us. I asked the driver again to wait a couple of minutes. He rudely refused, and started driving off. I stepped in front of the truck, which caused him to hesitate.

Finally, a Richmond Police Department sergeant, the supervisor arrived. In a brief discussion, he told me it was “policy” that after a ticket was issued, the tow had to proceed, regardless. He said that he did have some discretion in the matter, but he refused to exercise it.

The woman’s car went away, and a trip to the Police Station, a trip to the impound yard and $155, she had her car back a couple of hours later. Needless to say, she was not a patron of the farmers market, which looked like it could use a few more customers. Neither was she inclined to ever come to Richmond again to patronize local businesses.

If everything had been according to law and policy, I could chalk it up to just another bad day for someone. But it wasn’t. There is no written policy, no law, no ordinance and no regulation that compelled either the Richmond Police Department or A&D Towing to tow that unfortunate woman’s car away after she offered to move it. They were all mistaken. They made it all up.

And there certainly was no policy, no law, no ordinance and no regulation that compelled the tow truck driver to be a complete jerk and to be so inconsiderately rude. In fact, the contract that the tow company has with the City prohibits “rude or discourteous behavior.”

That’s not all. The contract under which the tow company has been operating expired a year ago, and it has never been extended or renewed. And the “No Parking” sign doesn’t meet the requirements of the California Vehicle Code to allow towing.

Now, there are a lot of legitimate and legal reasons for towing way vehicles. But this was not one of them.

I have introduced an ordinance amendment based on provisions of the California Vehicle Code for towing on private property that will allow a vehicle owner to reclaim his or her vehicle in lieu of helplessly watching it being towed under circumstances similar to those described above.

I have also introduced a resolution that would prohibit the City from doing any further business with A&D Towing until it has a valid contract.

Some people think this is overzealous on my part. What do you think