towing.jpgThere’s a terrible sinking feeling that occurs when you begin to realize why you can’t find your car. You look up and down the street hoping to see its friendly bumper, being pretty damn certain you are standing where your car should be. Was it stolen? Nope, it was towed. And sometimes, sure, you deserve it (missed a sign, blocked a driveway), but even the SFMTA admits that sometimes they make mistakes. Some folks can fight City Hall, and a small percentage even wins.

Dealing with getting your car towed rates up there with root canals, food poisoning, and watching the US get eliminated from the World Cup. But getting your car towed unjustly is even worse. A great example of this might be Dennis Daniel and his partner David Bruner, who say that they were unjustly ticketed and towed over SFMTA confusion over the legitimacy of their disability placard. And we are sure there are many others of you who believe that their vehicle has been unjustly towed at one time or another.

So here’s what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation as Daniel and Bruner, and you want your car — and your money — back? According to the SFMTA , if you are towed by the DPT you can request a tow hearing by calling 415.701.5402 or by going to the Hearing Division at 11 South Van Ness Avenue (open Monday- Friday, between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm).

If you opt for a hearing by mail, you will need to send a letter stating why you believe the tow fees should be refunded to Tow Hearing Requests, 11 South Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94103. Include any evidence you wish to be considered and a decision will be returned by mail. If you want to fight City Hall in person, you can also opt for a live hearing.

In making a decision at a tow hearing, the hearing officer only determines if there are reasonable grounds for the tow and they don’t consider “mitigating circumstances.” We suggest that you try to request a hearing ASAP although officially you have from 10-30 days depending on the value of your vehicle.

If you can’t afford to get your car out of storage (and those hellacious fines add up fast), you can request a hearing to be held within 48 hours of your request . BUT if you leave your vehicle in storage and you lose your hearing, you will be responsible for ALL storage fees starting from the date the vehicle was first towed. And that’s going to burn.

Unfortunately, when we asked the SFMTA how many people contest tows and how many people actually win, the stats were not encouraging. Of the 2,333 tow hearings that occurred last year, only 15% (about 350) were refunded or waved.

Have a story about an unjust towing? Or just an outrageous towing experience? Post ’em here!

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  • UFBernie

    I just had my car unjustly towed a few days ago. Apparently neighbor complained I was blocking the driveway and parked in a red zone. I thoroughly checked before leaving the car to make sure I wasn’t blocking the driveway. I checked there weren’t any markings on the curb and I checked all signs. So when I returned, it had been towed and the ticket says parked in a red zone. I took pictures of the spot and there is no red marking on the curb. But looking closer, there may have been but is severely faded to the point where it isn’t recognizable (see pic in yelp link). I’m going to a tow hearing soon, but no one I surveyed would call this a red zone marking. Also I posted a link for people to join a class action lawsuit against the DPT. Maybe you can help spread the work so we can all fight this criminal organization.

    Yelp Posting [Bernard H.] : http://www.yelp.com/biz/dpt-department-of-parking-and-traffic-san-francisco#hrid:cFIsyGcn5hhjlRgBbaDMvg/src:self

  • UFBernie

    I just had my car unjustly towed a few days ago. Apparently neighbor complained I was blocking the driveway and parked in a red zone. I thoroughly checked before leaving the car to make sure I wasn’t blocking the driveway. I checked there weren’t any markings on the curb and I checked all signs. So when I returned, it had been towed and the ticket says parked in a red zone. I took pictures of the spot and there is no red marking on the curb. But looking closer, there may have been but is severely faded to the point where it isn’t recognizable (see pic in yelp link). I’m going to a tow hearing soon, but no one I surveyed would call this a red zone marking. Also I posted a link for people to join a class action lawsuit against the DPT. Maybe you can help spread the work so we can all fight this criminal organization.

    Yelp Posting [Bernard H.] : http://www.yelp.com/biz/dpt-department-of-parking-and-traffic-san-francisco#hrid:cFIsyGcn5hhjlRgBbaDMvg/src:self

  • Ken Butler

    I took my wife to dinner at the old Enrico’s last night. 11-11-11. We live in SF. I’ve lived in San Francisco for over 30 years and probably parked on Broadway hundreds of times. When we finished dinner we decided to take a walk. Even though there was a light rain it was pleasant out. North Beach is always pretty at night.
    When we got back to Broadway where we parked our car, it wasn’t there! We finally realized that it had been towed!

    Now it has started to rain harder and of course you can’t get a cab in sf on a rainy Friday night.
    I finally get a cab but my wife has stepped into Vesuvio’s to use the restroom. The cab driver won’t wait because he claims he will lose money by doing so. He leaves me there on the street. He can’t wait 30 seconds?
    It now takes us another 40 minutes to get a cab. We walked almost all the way to Market!
    We get in the cab and he takes us to Auto Return and we have to pay nearly $500. to get our car back.
    Dinner $120., Music and drinks $40. Cab $10, tow $437. citation $60. (i think, haven’t actually seen it yet)
    Total? $657. for dinner in North Beach! NOT PRICELESS
    What the hell is going on here?
    Does John Wicker have something on someone high up?
    I just read that the homeless are being blamed for the tourism number one spot going to Charleston.
    I think it is the abuse of people visitng our city by towing their cars and ticketing them and cabbies rude behavior.

    I live here and feel violated!
    My mistake was not reading the new sign on Broadway. I’ve parked there so many times. This is a new policy. Tow cars after 10?
    A tow should cost $75.
    This is a terrible way to treat people.
    If we care about business at all I think a kinder approach might be better. Some pressure on City Hall from the merchants might help.
    This is just wrong!!

  • Ken Butler

    I took my wife to dinner at the old Enrico’s last night. 11-11-11. We live in SF. I’ve lived in San Francisco for over 30 years and probably parked on Broadway hundreds of times. When we finished dinner we decided to take a walk. Even though there was a light rain it was pleasant out. North Beach is always pretty at night.
    When we got back to Broadway where we parked our car, it wasn’t there! We finally realized that it had been towed!

    Now it has started to rain harder and of course you can’t get a cab in sf on a rainy Friday night.
    I finally get a cab but my wife has stepped into Vesuvio’s to use the restroom. The cab driver won’t wait because he claims he will lose money by doing so. He leaves me there on the street. He can’t wait 30 seconds?
    It now takes us another 40 minutes to get a cab. We walked almost all the way to Market!
    We get in the cab and he takes us to Auto Return and we have to pay nearly $500. to get our car back.
    Dinner $120., Music and drinks $40. Cab $10, tow $437. citation $60. (i think, haven’t actually seen it yet)
    Total? $657. for dinner in North Beach! NOT PRICELESS
    What the hell is going on here?
    Does John Wicker have something on someone high up?
    I just read that the homeless are being blamed for the tourism number one spot going to Charleston.
    I think it is the abuse of people visitng our city by towing their cars and ticketing them and cabbies rude behavior.

    I live here and feel violated!
    My mistake was not reading the new sign on Broadway. I’ve parked there so many times. This is a new policy. Tow cars after 10?
    A tow should cost $75.
    This is a terrible way to treat people.
    If we care about business at all I think a kinder approach might be better. Some pressure on City Hall from the merchants might help.
    This is just wrong!!

  • l was towed for parking in a building construction parking space. the construction parking space was actually the space behind the spot l took and there were 2 markers marking that space, neither was easily visible from where l parked; where l parked there was none.

    only 3% of car owners of towed vehicles ask for a hearing.

    70,000 vehicles are towed annually in San Francisco and only 2333 tow hearings in a calendar year.

    ask for a hearing, there is a 15% chance to get the $500 back; not ask for one like 97% of the people, and there is 0% chance of getting it back. also, not protesting encourages illegitimate ticketing and towing.

  • l was towed for parking in a building construction parking space. the construction parking space was actually the space behind the spot l took and there were 2 markers marking that space, neither was easily visible from where l parked; where l parked there was none.

    only 3% of car owners of towed vehicles ask for a hearing.

    70,000 vehicles are towed annually in San Francisco and only 2333 tow hearings in a calendar year.

    ask for a hearing, there is a 15% chance to get the $500 back; not ask for one like 97% of the people, and there is 0% chance of getting it back. also, not protesting encourages illegitimate ticketing and towing.

  • superasiaone

    I am at a loss as to what to do…I was towed for construction that was happening on Fulton street but there was no sign when I parked. The sign was placed there after I parked and here is the kicker, it was backdated to a day BEFORE I parked there. How can I prove the sign was not there? There were many other cars parked there at the time and my only hope is that I can find someone to corroborate my story other than my mom who lives around the corner and did not see the signs either. If you were towed on Wednesday or Thursday 8/23-24/2016 from the south side of Fulton between 36 & 37th Ave please contact me!