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San Jose City Leaders Will Vote To Slash High Impound Lot Fees

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- San Jose City Councilmember Sylvia Arenas and Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco are aiming to lower the fees to retrieve impounded cars, and they're fighting to get the reduction done right away.

San Jose is known to have some of the highest impound fees in California; it has the highest fees in the Bay Area. Some people end up abandoning their cars at tow yards because they can't afford to pay the fees to get them out.

Currently, the city council is considering delaying the movement to slash fees until June, but city leaders say some families can't afford to wait that long.

The city charges $290 to release a car after the first day, which doesn't include towing and storage fees. The total comes up to about $640 minimum. In a press release, it was stated that other jurisdictions that were surveyed have fees around $483.

Councilmember Sylvia Arenas says most of the impacted drivers can't afford that price tag.

"When something breaks down, sometimes our working families have to wait one or two paychecks to actually get those problems fixed with their cars. And between those times that they're saving up to fix that problem, they can get towed," she said.

Arenas and Carrasco are calling for San Jose to slash the retrieval fee down to $185. A recently released auditor's report found that the current fee is unintentionally more than 40 percent above the rate it should have been.

San Jose generated $855,830 in vehicle release fees in 2017-2018.

Arenas says that working families have to decide whether or not it's even worth it to pay the high fees to get their cars back.

"These are cars that are more than 20 years old, so most of the time, no, there isn't the value. So families are actually leaving their cars in the impound," she said.

Morris & Sons Towing in San Jose isn't contracted to do work for the city, but the company recognizes the city's efforts.

"I commend them for trying to do something. That fee doesn't come out of the tow company's pocket, so to speak, and it may actually help them in that. If you lower the overall cost of claiming the car, it may increase the likelihood that a few more vehicles will get claimed," explained Art Amirkhas, the owner of Morris & Sons Towing.

The city is also looking at ways to help the poorest drivers, which include subsidizing fees and lowering the costs for first time offenders. The city also plans to do an audit of towing companies and their fees, which are regulated by the state of California.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday afternoon to go over the auditor's report and to vote on the recommendation.

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