Oakland and Tow Yard Turn Misery Into Money

A minivan struck her husband and daughter while he rode his Harley in the Laurel district after picking her up from school. In a scuzzy, dank garage, the wife cried when she found his clothes shoved in the bike’s luggage compartment–the jeans, shirt and sweatshirt had been shredded from paramedics who worked to save his life. On the bike she found her daughter’s Little Mermaid blue backpack that the girl had worn. The wife and mother is a client and I am doing some leg work for her lawyer. We don’t know about driver’s insurance but it won’t even come close to covering medical costs.

Oh, and file this under insult to injury, The City and its tow-partner A&B Auto charged this grieving soul $840 for towing and storage charges. Plus, we had to pay a tow company $125 to remove the damaged bike. (I cannot say enough good things about Cycle Tow, whose two employees took 2 hours to drive from Berkeley to the tow yard, wrestle an 800-pound bike onto the lift and deliver it flawlessly into storage.)

My client’s husband and daughter did not ask for a minivan to smash them and cause brain damage for the husband. And yet the City and the tow company hammer them for storage, tow and other fees. Police had the incident under investigation for two weeks, preventing my client from getting the Harley out of storage sooner. Yes, the tow yard and City reduced some of the storage fees but the whole situation disgusts me. If police and the City wonder why the public detests the City look no further than this story.

The bill for the “basic tow” from the incident scene was $176. (Uh, Cycle Tow of Berkeley did it for $125.) The City charged 2 hours of labor at $130.00 per hour for $260.00. Storage charges were $1,200 but the tow yard knocked it down for a total bill of $840.00.

Here’s the process: Your vehicle gets in a collision or is stolen. Police authorize a tow company to take the vehicle down to A&B where storage fees start. As someone who has had a couple vehicles swiped in Oakland, the City does not notify you promptly that it found your ride. You get the call. You then wait in line down on the third floor of Oakland police to get a release form for the tow yard. You then have to get a ride about 6 miles away to the “alphabet streets” where the tow yard is located, on G Street.

It took my client 4.5 hours to get this taken care of today, with my help. The employee who drove us to find the bike in the lot sympathized as he listened to country music on the radio.

I have no sympathy for parking scofflaws, Sideshow participants and others whose vehicles get impounded. But the City and A&B tow yard should not stick it to victims. The cop at the scene should have the authority to mark “waive or reduce” all charges for victims, or maybe an injured party or victim can get a refund upon showing they had no fault in the matter. In this incident the City has killed potential for any good will a victim might have towards the City and Police.

We have a new police chief. The City has to realize that it’s situations like injury accidents or theft when functioning residents of Oakland will have contact with City government. The chief wants to know about ways to improve relations with Police. This case is a prime example.

It’s irrelevant that the client’s lawyer picked up the tab today for the $1,000 in costs, especially since she might not recover anything since the adverse party’s insurance coverage is probably minimal. I beg the City to come up with a more sympathetic system for victims, whether it’s auto theft or collision.

Shame on the City and A&B Tow for making money from victims.