Parking in the CVS/Trader Joe’s lot means a big tow bill, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I had my car towed last Saturday night from the parking lot behind Trader Joe's and CVS. I was parked on the Front Street side in the last row by the street. It cost me $391.48 to retrieve my car. I went to the bank that is in that lot and to the movie. When I came back, I thought my car had been stolen. I hope you will warn people of this action by Santa Cruz because that is the last time anyone in downtown Santa Cruz will get my money. I will now choose to spend my money over in San Jose where they offer free parking. Please warn other people of this financial burden and the fact there are no signs where you can see them. Diane Bianconi McNiel, Scotts Valley A: I am so sorry to hear about your vehicle being towed. What a terrible way to end an evening. That lot is privately owned, not city run. I have gotten a fair share of letters over the years from readers who have been in the same boat as you. The security guards that work the lot call tow trucks to remove vehicles belonging to people who are not spending their money at the shopping center. You can imagine how many people do the very thing you did – hit the bank, maybe grab some dinner and see a movie. Also, the city does not tow, it writes parking tickets. I hope you don't swear off shopping downtown. I suggest next time, park in a city-run lot, such as the multi-story lot behind Wells Fargo near where you were parked. Perhaps use public transit to avoid the parking issue all together but don't contribute to greenhouse gases to trek over the hill for items you can buy locally. If you do chose to drive down, make sure to seek out and read signs in parking lots to make sure you can park there to do the business you plan to conduct. Good luck to you and thank you for sharing your story. I hope others will heed the warning and be spared your fate. Q: The recent columns on use of handicapped license plates and placards was long overdue. Ownership of placards has not been discussed and is probably the most abused part of the accommodation. Placards have been available for sale at flea markets and have been passed down in event of the death or incapacity of the owner. Renewal of placards is automatic. If placards are not turned in when the ownership condition changes, they are just issued to last address. With each placard issued, there is a corresponding registration certificate that is to be retained in the vehicle using the placard. It is issued to the original named applicant. Inability to provide this registration is reason to invalidate the placard. Checking for registration by attendants at gated parking facilities will greatly help in reducing the illegal use of placards. The biggest violation of use of parking accommodation are on private property, at grocery stores and large big box stores that are not monitored or enforced. A big misuse of designated spaces is by delivery trucks and contractors doing work at the business where adequate adjacent spaces are available .Thanks for your attention to a escalating problem for handicapped persons. Jerry Bair, Santa Cruz A: You are right about permanent disabled placards being automatically renewed, said Armando Botello, spokesman for the DMV's Sacramento headquarters. However, before issuing new placards, the agency consults with the Department of Health Services Bureau of Vital Statistics to make sure placards are not reissued to people whose death has been reported, he said. The DMV currently is working to renew placards for the 2013 expiration year, as the 2011 placards expire June 30, Botello said. The DMV issues two types of disabled parking placards, he added, permanent and temporary. The blue permanent placard is issued to people whose disabilities are permanent, per California Vehicle Code section 22511.55. The placard “is valid for two years and expires on June 30, of an odd numbered year,” according to the code. What's more, a disabled person “is not eligible for more than one permanent placard at any time,” the law states. This placard is issued for free. “The placard must be surrendered to DMV within 60 days of the death of the disabled person,” Botello said. The placard should be mailed to DMV, Registration Operations Division, PO Box 942869 MS C271, Sacramento, CA 94269-0001. Meanwhile, the red temporary parking placard is issued to people with temporary disabilities, such as a broken leg. It's good for up to 180 days or until the date noted by a qualified medical professional who certifies the applicant's disability, whichever is less. This kind of placard costs $6. “Local law enforcement has the primary authority to enforce parking placard or disabled person license plate misuse,” Botello said. “Placard abuse can result in the cancellation and revocation of the placard and loss of the privileges it provides, and is punishable by a minimum fine of $250 up to $3,500 or imprisonment up to six months or both.” Botello said it is illegal to:
  • Lend your placard to another person.
  • Use someone else’s disabled placard.
  • Forge the signature of a licensed medical professional.
  • Possess or display a fake placard.
  • Provide false information to get a placard.
  • Alter placards or placard identification cards.
CHP wins seat belt grant The California Highway Patrol will use a recently awarded $1.2 million federal grant to boost seat belt use statewide through public outreach and enforcement. In 2009, CHP reported 544 people died in 1,891 collisions because of non-seat belt use. That same year, officers issued 163,000 citations to people not belted in. Another 16,000 drivers were ticketed for not having children properly secured inside their vehicle.
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