SJ Councilors Carrasco, Arenas Want to Speed Up Timeline for Slashing Car Impound Fees

Two of San Jose’s elected officials want the city to reduce its vehicle impound fees as soon as possible, citing a recent audit which found that the local cost of reclaiming a towed car far exceeds that of other major California jurisdictions.

Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas issued a joint press release Monday calling on the City Council to implement the audit recommendation to slash the impound release fee.

Currently, the city charges $290 to release a car after the first day, but the charges add up with each day of storage. The report issued last month by City Auditor Sharon Erickson’s office suggests reducing the cost to $185. That doesn’t even include tow and storage fees, which add another $483 to the cost of reclaiming one’s vehicle.

The high fees in San Jose have a disproportionate impact on low-income drivers. Many of the cars towed in San Jose are older than two decades old, which means even a few days in storage would cost more than the value of the car. At that point, a lot of people just abandon their vehicles, which can lead to job loss if they can no longer get to work.

Carrasco and Arenas urge the city to reduce the fee so it’s just enough to recover the cost of processing the vehicles. While the CHP regulates towing and storage, municipalities set the release fees.

The council on Tuesday will consider delaying the fee reduction until the June 2019 budget deliberations. But Arenas and Magdalena say the adjustment should be made sooner than next year.

“We cannot wait an additional nine months to align our fees with the legally allowed rate while our poorest families are unable to recover their vehicles due to high fees,” Carrasco said in a news release.

“If we reassess and lower this fee sooner, it would help families that rely on one family car,” Arenas added, “It is critically important for families to have the ability to drop off their kids at school and for parents to get to work.”

Councilman Lan Diep issued a memo urging the city to make more of an effort to contact car owners before towing their vehicles. Slipping a warning leaflet under the windshield wipers might not get the message to the car owner, he noted.

“A phone call and voice message is a much more direct form of notice, and gives the owner of the vehicle a decent chance of saving his or her car from being towed and saves space in our tow yards for truly abandoned vehicles,” Diep wrote.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Chappie Jones, Dev Davis, Sergio Jimenez and Raul Peralez are trying to get the city staff to bring back an audit of the city’s towing contracts by the end of 2018, which could be another opportunity to reduce costs.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408. 535.1260, and council agenda

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