Supe seeks to slash storage fees for stolen vehicles

Some drivers who get their stolen vehicles recovered in San Francisco may not even want to pick them up after they see the bill for storage and tow fees incurred.

Supervisor Scott Wiener wants to reduce those fees for drivers who had their cars stolen, dumped somewhere in The City and ultimately towed:

“Then the person who has absolutely done nothing wrong ends up being responsible for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in towing fees and storage fees and so forth.”

The supervisor is calling for a hearing with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the police department and AutoReturn — the City’s tow service provider — to get a clear understanding of the rules, fee schedule and policies and practices for stolen vehicles.

Wiener said drivers currently have a 20-minute window to pick up their stolen car if it is found on the street by the police department. If the driver fails to show, AutoReturn tows the car to its storage facility:

AutoReturn gives the driver a four-hour grace period for city residents before storage fees start building up. The cost is $57 for the first day and $66 for every day after that.

The towing fee is $220 and $263 for a city administrative fee, according to AutoReturn’s schedule of fees (PDF).

He said the drivers should get a longer grace period and that fees reduced if any at all for drivers who had their vehicle stolen.

Wiener also said drivers of stolen vehicles get treated as drivers who had parking illegally on the street:

“It’s not an acceptable situation. We’re treating people who have been victimized or victims of crime — we’re treating them as if they’ve done something wrong.”

AutoReturn contract expires next year with the SFMTA. Wiener said his hearing will help with exploring the idea of reducing towing and storage fees before the renegotiation of AutoReturn’s contract:

“It has to take into account the fact that owners of stolen vehicles should not be treated as if they had illegally parked their cars.”