The City of San Diego towed more than 9,700 vehicles since 2015 for violating the 72-hour parking restriction. Far more than half of those vehicles, 5284 were later sold at auction.
The 9,700 vehicles towed as a result of the 72-hour violation is in addition to thousands of other vehicles towed for other reasons such as unpaid parking tickets, as previously reported by NBC 7.
The city and it’s towing contractors recovered more than $2 million in storage and impound fees since 2015 from those who could afford to get their vehicle out from impound.
NBC 7 Investigates obtained the data in a public records request to the city.
That data reveals the number of vehicles towed for violating the parking ordinance since 2015 has increased year over year. In 2015 the city’s police department, through the contracted towing company, towed 1,467 vehicles. That number spiked to 2,185 during the following year, followed by another increase to 2,380 in 2017, and 2,462 in 2018.
Public advocacy groups criticize the law, claiming it targets the unfortunate and benefits tow companies and the city.
In a March 2019 report the ACLU, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the Public Law Center, found parking restrictions such as these in San Diego and in other California cities “punish poor people.”
And while the City of San Diego and its tow operators recovered more than $2 million in impound fees, the report found the city likely loses money on the practice.
“Cities are losing money on tows, especially when the reason for the tow is someone’s inability
to pay government fines and fees,” reads the report. Towed vehicles sold at lien sale in San Diego generally accrue over $3,000 in fees and fines, but the average sale price for these vehicles is about $565."
The data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates supports the groups’ findings. Since 2015, the number of vehicles sold has increased from 788 in 2015 to 1,392 in 2018.
But the City is losing money elsewhere as well, namely in attorney’s fees and hours it has spent fighting what advocates call discriminative towing laws.
Currently, a group of homeless people are suing the city in a class action lawsuit for the City’s Oversized Vehicle Ordinance which prohibits overnight parking of recreational vehicles in locations throughout the city as well as prohibits them from parking in other locations for more than 72-hours.
Ann Menashce with the Disability Rights California is the lead attorney in the litigation.
"It is a travesty that most of the people whose vehicles are being impounded cannot afford to pay the exorbitant fines and fees so they can retrieve their vehicles,” Menasche told NBC 7 Investigates. “Instead, they end up losing the vehicle forever while the city and towing companies profit handsomely off their suffering.”
Menasche feels the city and Mayor Kevin Faulconer has waged a war on San Diego’s most vulnerable people.
“That the vehicle being impounded may be a person's only shelter from the elements, their only form of transportation, their only significant asset, is not even considered. This is just one more example of the merciless nature of San Diego's war on the City's poorest and most vulnerable residents including many people with disabilities and seniors."
The City of San Diego did not respond to our request for comment.