Tahoe Ski Bum column: Setting the record straight on Stateline area towing fiasco (opinion)
Tahoe Ski Bum
Facebook blew up a couple of weeks ago with some information about several cars being towed from the Stateline area, specifically around Fern Avenue.
After several back and forth conversations between posters I decide to actually find out what happened.
At first I was skeptical about the amount of the towing cost which was reported to be in the $650 range. I also was skeptical of the number of vehicles that were reportedly towed and that most, if not all, of the towed cars belonged to Heavenly Village employees.
My first question about what happened went to one of our City Council members who was just as upset as most everyone else — most locals do not have the extra $650 laying around to pay such an outrageous fine.
Parking is, was and will always be an issue in the Stateline area and has been compounded now that the casinos are charging and the Crescent V Shopping Center tickets cars that are accessing the village. Both of those parking lots are privately owned and they have the right to use them for their guests and shoppers.
My next set of questions went to the police chief and both he and the council member also kept me in the loop with the city attorney and city manager via email.
Here is the rest of the story (credit Paul Harvey for that) and it is not pretty.
It seems the police department and code enforcement contacted the owner of several empty lots in the area where cars were parked on the dirt in the privately-owned lots.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the city have rules in place to prevent you from parking on the dirt and on private property, however, the city does not always issue citations for parking on dirt, especially in residential areas (think VHRs).
There were so many cars parked on this person’s lot that it eventually became an eyesore. The city contacted this person and told him to prevent people from parking on his lot he had to put up signs with the proper ordinances and information stating vehicles will be towed.
The owner contracted with a towing company, Foothill Towing, which bought out California Colors Towing, to remove any cars parked on his private property at any time.
I kinda consider this similar to an ambulance chaser who follows people around looking for a chance to capitalize off their misfortune.
The out-of-town owner just put up signs and to date I’ve found there’s been over 60 vehicles towed from his property at an average cost of $650 per vehicle. Do the math and you will see we are in the wrong business.
There is no strict city regulation preventing price gouging by towing companies — maybe there ought to be.
I do know that the police and council are looking into this, as $290 per hour and a $75 tow charge is a little steep.
One has to wonder how the Loop Road project, which will displace residents who live in that area (if it happens), will impact the serious lack of parking in the Stateline area. Answer: the problem is only going to get worse, especially if the new convention center is built in one of the only free parking lots left down there.
Perhaps the Tahoe Transportation District should take all the time, money and resources spent on the Loop Road and provide us with an adequate transportation system. Isn’t that what the TTD is supposed to be doing? TTD stands for Tahoe Transportation District and unless I am misspelling something I don’t see anything about a Loop Road.
On another interesting note, has anybody ever had their car towed for being parked in front of the motels in the Stateline area, specifically the Zalanta area? Turns out many of those signs stating the side street area is private parking are not quite accurate.
Remember I talked about the city not ticketing vehicles for parking on dirt? Well that includes city easements as well, and it turns out many motels, hotels and businesses in that area apparently paved over and put parking stripes on city easements, which is a violation of the city code.
A friend of mine got towed on the last Sunday at Heavenly from one of those places and he got a refund because it was illegal for them to tow.
It’s going to be an interesting summer for lawyers in this town if the businesses in that area tow any vehicles from a city easement. No wonder my buddy got a refund.
When we called the tow company they told us they would not be there for at least an hour so come by later. When we got there they charged for two hours of which one they were not there. I questioned that as well and he later got a refund for that too.
Regulation might not be a bad idea for the towing companies.
Kenny Skibum Curtzwiler has been in South Lake Tahoe since the ’70s and he knows “where the bodies are buried.” Reach him at skibumfamily @charter.net.