There’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!