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Reader got caught up with friends, car towed
A regular Street Smarts reader, who wanted to remain anonymous, wrote in recently that his car had been towed from the CVS/Trader Joe’s parking lot. The lot has a two-hour time limit for patrons to park there, but the reader had left his car there for much longer. Try five hours. “I had done my shopping there (at CVS) and at Trader Joe's, and had walked over to Bookshop Santa Cruz to see what was new there when I ran into some friends and we decided to go to dinner together,” he wrote. When he returned to where his car had been parked, he was greeted by an empty space. A security guard helped him track his car down to an impound lot. It cost him $340 to get his vehicle out of hock. “I wish I had known about the two-hour limit. I would have gone back and moved my car before going to dinner,” he said. While “Mr. Reader” thought the fee he paid was highway robbery, the city actually regulates tow companies that do business within its limits, said Capt. Steve Clark, of the Santa Cruz Police Department. “Each of the tow companies that tow from private property are required to be permitted,” he said. That permit requires them to follow certain rules of operation, he said. Through city council resolution, it also sets fee amounts. Periodically, the council will change the fees tow companies can charge in order to “stay current with contemporary costs of operation and reasonable market rates,” Clark said. Something else to consider, had Mr. Reader continued to shop inside CVS or Trader Joe’s, he may have been alerted to the fact that his car was about to be towed. Managers at the stores told me they make announcements to alert customers that their beloved ride is about to be hauled off. So the moral of the story is: read and heed the parking signs posted in private lots. If there’s a time limit, keep an eye on your watch, return to your vehicle and move it when you’re supposed to in order to avoid being towed. Or, consider finding a spot in the free public lot next door. That lot has a three-hour parking limit. If you get a ticket for going past the time allowed, you can expect a $40 parking fine, rather than $340 tow and impound fee. One more idea, perhaps try riding your bicycle to the stores. Parking is free, with no time limit attached.