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Posted on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

'Hey, don't tow the car': Ann Arbor willing to cut residents some slack on 48-hour rule in some cases

By Ryan J. Stanton

Planning to go on vacation soon and don't want to worry about your car being towed for violating the city of Ann Arbor's 48-hour rule for parking cars on the street?

Apparently if you tip off the Ann Arbor Police Department's Community Standards Unit, the city is willing to be a little lenient in some cases.

Normally the rule is the city can deem a vehicle abandoned and have it towed if it hasn't been moved for 48 hours after being tagged by a community standards officer.

08242012_NEWS_Brewer_Towing-1.jpg

Brewer's Towing trucks are a frequent sight around Ann Arbor where nearly 12,000 vehicles were towed and impounded over the past three years.

Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com

Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said at this week's City Council meeting that Police Chief John Seto has advised him the city is willing to give residents some leeway.

"Members of the public, if that's their situation, can get in touch with the standards enforcement office prior to leaving, and they'll keep that in mind if your car is targeted," Warpehoski said.

"They either won't take it or will delay the cycle for re-inspection to make sure you don't face that problem," he said. "So just like you put your 'vacation hold' on your mail, and if you still get a newspaper you put your vacation hold on your newspaper, if you park in the street you can also contact the police standards enforcement office to say, 'Hey, don't tow the car.' "

Mayor John Hieftje cautioned it's not a guarantee, though. He said there are emergency situations — such as heavy snowstorms — when the city needs to take action and have cars towed.

"Seven or eight years ago, we came up with just a really extreme snowstorm over the Christmas break," he said. "Many people had left town and left their cars in the streets, and the city administrator declared a snow emergency in order to be able to clear the streets.

"There were hundreds of cars towed," he added. "That's hopefully something we won't have to do again, but there can be emergencies where anything can be overridden and action has to be taken."

Seto told AnnArbor.com on Thursday the Community Standards Unit has a practice of evaluating extenuating circumstances for each individual request.

"Determination of whether or not an exemption is granted depends on the totality of the circumstances," he said. "A resident on vacation is just one factor that is considered and may not be sufficient in itself. Other factors may include the overall length of time the vehicle is left on the public street, the ability for the resident to make other arrangements and any potential safety concerns, such as snow emergencies of street maintenance."

Nearly 12,000 vehicles were towed and impounded in Ann Arbor over the past three years, according to data obtained by AnnArbor.com. That includes more than 6,700 public tows that were ordered by the city and more than 5,000 tows that occurred on private property.

According to data provided by the city, 109 vehicles were towed by the city between 2010 and 2011 because they hadn't been moved for 48 hours and were deemed abandoned.

The 48-hour rule applies even to vehicles that most people probably wouldn't consider abandoned, as one Lexus owner learned the hard way earlier this year.

Mahendra Ramsinghani said both of his family's cars, which he described as "newer looking" and "very clean," were left parked on the street near his house while he and his wife went on vacation. But they were deemed abandoned and towed shortly after he left town.

It cost him $825 to get his cars back.

Since Ramsinghani stepped forward to publicly share his story in August, dozens of other residents have shared similar stories about their towing ordeals in recent months.

Ordinance revisions approved by the City Council this month don't do anything to prevent incidents such as the one that happened to Ramsinghani, from happening in the future, but now it seems a quick call to the city before going on vacation might. The number for community standards is 734-794-6942.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

Comments

Harvey Elliott

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

I wish I read this earlier! While I was away for Christmas break, the city towed my car citing Ord 10:136 - Abandoned Vehicles. A 376ft tow to Triangle's yard down the street cost me a total of $367.25 - it's incredible!

talker

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

Since I have a garage and driveway, I don't need to park on the street, but I know many do and I recall a time when I did need to park on the street. Thus, my question may seem silly to those more familiar with parking on the street in Ann Arbor. How can police and tow truck drivers tell if a car has been driven and returned to the same spot rather than been in the same spot continuously? Is a mark on a tire enough to avoid false positives and negatives? Also, what if there is a medical emergency, such as the owner needing to be taken to a hospital or to the owner breaking an arm or leg and becoming unable to drive for weeks? Checking whether the owner is at a local hospital may not be enough. What if the owner went out of the area and was supposed to be back in two days, but had to be hospitalized away from home? There are so many circumstances that this law doesn't address?

RunsWithScissors

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Fifteen years ago, when my truck was targeted, there was an official note on the windshield AND a line of paint on the front tire extending down to the road. I was new to the neighborhood and no doubt someone thought the rolling rust heap was left there to die. I drove it around the block and parked in the same place - but now the paint mark on the tire didn't line up with the mark on the road thus proving that the vehicle is operable and not abandoned. I spoke with all my new neighbors (no one 'fessed up to reporting me) and asked them to speak with me if they had any problems with me parking in front of my own house. There are many circumstances under which many laws are kerflooey. We do what we can and try to remember that life isn't always fair.

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Remember too that the tow truck driver does not order the impound off a city street. That comes from the police department...either a.patrol officer or community standards officer.

Angry Moderate

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

They put a paper on the windshield with the time and date, and then come back to tow 2 days later if the car is still there with the paper on it.

bunnyabbot

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

fines and fees are just taxes, they'll just squeeze as many nickels and dimes out of you as they can

motorcycleminer

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

Aaaaah the beauty of the inmates running the asylum...welcome to ann arbor ..now open up your wallets...

kittybkahn

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

In a time when we are trying to save energy and therefore walking, biking and using public transportation, it sure seems counter intuitive that we are being punished for leaving our cars parked. Many people don't have a garage or even a driveway and therefore no alternative to the street in front of their homes. My understanding is that the car would not be tagged unless someone complained. Is this true? Some of the comments make it sound like the city will be the one to decide which cars to tow.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Almost all tows are complaint based until you are at a parking meter.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

One thing that would be helpful would be for the city to work with AATA to allow some way for people to use the park and ride lots as long term parking when they are on vacation. The cars would be off the street and the park and ride lots are obviously very convenient to bus routes so people could easily park their car and then take a bus home (or to wherever the bus to the airport picks up).

Angry Moderate

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

The police chief openly said that "SOME" people can have an exception from the law? What does "some" mean--how are they deciding who qualifies for this special treatment? Is it what neighborhood you live in, how nice your car is?

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Read the article, please. It tells you.

James

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

I don't presume to speak for anyone but myself, but I imagine most people don't want to look out their window and view a beater/rust-bucket across the street. That being said, the trigger for towing a vehicle should be based on a complaint, and fair warning should be issued. The current policy can only be likened to poaching.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

Almost all tows are complaint based.

mtlaurel

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

same could be said for garbage totes/peeling paint/torn screens/crumbling brick/overgrown or dead landscape features/dishevelled toys and blue tarps covering whatever. so a person has a "beater" auto......where do you draw the line/ this has to do with some desire for profit.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

The benevolent wisdom of the leaders is great! All hail the leaders, the leaders are good, We love the leaders, Long live the leaders.

SonnyDog09

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Those who know what's best for us, must rise and save us from ourselves.

Tesla

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Quote from article: "According to data provided by the city, 109 vehicles were towed by the city between 2010 and 2011 because they hadn't been moved for 48 hours and were deemed abandoned." So all this hullabaloo is about 1 vehicle a week? Seriously? The way the tin foil hat crowd is complaining about the city and Brewers towing you'd think it was 109 cars a day.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

@talker - I've been towed three times - all my fault, one by misreading the sign, the second from being unaware of a particular law, and the third I don't remember. I've got no complaints and don't blame it on anyone by myself.

RunsWithScissors

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

"the tin foil hat crowd" Love it.

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:39 a.m.

Makes them that much more careful the next time.

talker

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

It was likely a big thing to those whose cars were towed.

Tanzor

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I understand the need for regulations regarding parking, it's necessary in a city environment. What's outrageous is the cost should someone get towed. Last year my daughter parked in a "no parking tow zone" clearly her fault and she was towed, I accept that. The car was towed about one mile to the impound lot and was there less than 24 hours. Cost me almost 400 dollars to get the car back not including the cost of the parking ticket. I complained to the manger of the towing company regarding the over inflated charges. I was told that they had no control over what they charge, that they were under contract with the city of Ann Arbor and the city dictates towing fees. So, not only does Ann Arbor receive income from the parking ticket, but they also take a cut of the towing fees. Nice

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:37 a.m.

Fat Bill is correct. No need to round up. These ARE contracted rates and public information. Nice try sport...

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

Tow with dolly stored one calendar day with state fee $255. City collects 60 bucks plus ticket for admin fee at the counter... That adds up to $315... not really close enough to round up to $400...

EyeHeartA2

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

I'm guessing your daughter is careful where she parks now?

Brad

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

12000 tows X $400 = almost $5mil for someone. That's how your city council is looking after you.

EyeHeartA2

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Wait until the Huffington Post hears about this one. They will yank our honors and benefits faster than they broke McCord's sword on "Branded".

Brad

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Too bad "community standards" can't get as excited about unshoveled walks, houses surrounded by trash and people doing "weedscaping" on their lawn extensions.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

They are very responsive to unshoveled walks.

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Community Standards spent more time enforcing trash rules than towing cars this past football season...

Brian Kuehn

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

I have found Community Standards to be very responsive about unshoveled/icy sidewalks. I can't speak to trash and weeds allowed to grow too high.

Leon Tew

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

48 hours does give the appearance of a money making scheme for the city and the towing companies. I do understand the need to keep the streets free of truely abandoned cars but 48hrs is just a weekend. It would seem that a more reasonable approach would be to first tag the car with after a complaint has been received that the car needs to be moved, then ticket the car with warning that it ia about to be towed, then tow. Snow emergencies and vacations side how big a problem are abandon cars or are we just harassing students and other residents. No one has talked how many truely abandoned there have been in recent years. A Community Standards Officer, really!

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

That is what they do, in essence. It takes about a week or over to get a car towed. Someone has to report it and they usually do not until the car has been there an obnoxious amount of time. Then the city has to come out and tag it. They take their time about it. Then the city waits for at least 48 more hours before they tow it. There is no harassment here, simply enforcement of a law that makes sense. Try having of few non-resident vehicles park in front of your house so that neither family nor friends can park there for several weeks and see how you like it. Try being elderly and toting your groceries bag by bag for half a block into your house in the winter because you can't park near your house. It happens.

JGS

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

I'm so happy I don't have to deal with this. I can get all of my cars in my garage. I feel for the A2 residents though. I have many friends that live in A2 and have to deal with the parking/towing. I'm not sure I can contribute positively to bring change or an idea to the table, sorry.

LXIX

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Why the City can't give out FREE yearly resident vehicle stickers ? Add a steep fee for additional vehicles per taxable address. Landlords would have to pay beaucoup bucks for their unaccounted tenet cars in the streets. That would simply eliminate the 48 hour controversy and City Council's ability to berate its mobile residents. Oh, now I get it ! Never mind. Answered my own question.

mtlaurel

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

wasn't the purpose of the "flier" bus to the airport so that people wouldn't have to drive and park at the airport. that involves a lot of students and town people I'd think.....compare the cost of fuel and parking at the airport with a huge towing and storage fee..... now the airport parking wins. Why do officials need to keep track of students on their breaks or vacationing townspeople.........not a small number of people.

rusty shackelford

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

So why pass the asinine law in the first place if you're just kinda sorta not gonna enforce it maybe sometimes? You're just setting us all up to payout a settlement when someone sues for unequal application of the law. And how much city resources are going to track these exceptions? Wouldn't maintaining the status quo ante have been so much simpler? Amateur hour as usual with the council.

Billy

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

""Seven or eight years ago, we came up with just a really extreme snowstorm over the Christmas break," he said. "Many people had left town and left their cars in the streets, and the city administrator declared a snow emergency in order to be able to clear the streets." That was totally cool and all......until the tow companies involved in this ABSOLUTELY REAMED PEOPLE IN STORAGE CHARGES.... They COMPLETELY took advantage of this situation. Instead of just billing everyone some flat cheap rate because of the situation...they rubbed their hands together and cackled like villains. I think there needs to be a provision made in this ordinance when towing during a snow emergency that there is a LOW FLAT RATE that towed vehicles are charged...and there are NO extended storage fees allowed if towed for a snow emergency.

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:31 a.m.

The towing companies did not ream anyone on storage fees. They performed a service in which they were contracted to do. So the towing companies should just eat the cost of storing the vehicles? I don't think so. I was involved in the snow emergency in which you spoke. Not as a customer, as an employee. And yes, a lot of vehicles were towed. Some of those vehicles weren't picked up for weeks and had to be moved and relocated on more than one occasion. There were just to many, vehicles were being stored on multiple sites. Don't be quick to assume there wasn't just cause in the fees applied. Besides, all impound fees are set and monitored by the city. Everyone is as you put it, "Reamed" equally.

a2cents

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Without such a rule there would be chaos. The actual time from park-to-tow is about a week. In a student 'hood vehicles would be abandoned on top of each other. Where would uom fans park?... oh, the humanity !

A2Westsider

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

It's also a imposing a public safety risk on people. Having to divulge vacation plans to whatever this "public standards" group is, is just as bad as broadcasting on Facebook or other social media site, "hey, I'm gone for a week, come rob me."

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Chicago has a notorious reputation for corruption. Ann Arbor does not. Were I as paranoid as westsider, I would be afraid to call them when I did get robbed. As for being like Facebook, hardly.

talker

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Summerdale scandals The Chicago Police Department did not face large-scale reorganization efforts until 1960 under Mayor Richard J. Daley. That year, eight officers from the Summerdale police district on Chicago's North Side were accused of operating a large-scale burglary ring. The Summerdale case dominated the local press, and became the biggest police-related scandal in the city's history at the time. Mayor Daley appointed a committee to make recommendations for improvements to the police department. The action resulted in the creation of a five-member board charged with nominating a superintendent to be the chief authority over police officers, enacting rules and regulations governing the police system, submitting budget requests to the city council, and overseeing disciplinary cases involving officers.[6] Criminologist O.W. Wilson was brought on as Superintendent of Police, and served until 1967 when he retired.[7] 1968 Democratic National Convention

talker

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

That reminds me of a scandal that occurred when I was a little kid (and didn't quite understand it at that time). Some people in my Chicago neighborhood followed advice to alert the police (out of the district station) before going out of town. An aunt who lived in the neighborhood (as well as some others) were robbed when out of town. After a pattern of burglaries led to suspicion, the culprits were found to be out of the district police station. I haven't searched for the old news on line, but it happened at the Summerdale police district office. I have no idea if that information is archived somewhere and can be found on-line, but I'll look for it later today. I think it was in the late 1950's. I'm not sure of the year because I was a little kid when it happened.

Nick Danger

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

The city and towing companies are in collusion.The towing fees are outrageous and the city turns it's back as the citizens get ripped off

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

Pay close attention next time you or one of yours get impounded. The city has their hand in the pot too. A good portion of the cost goes to the city. Have you ever towed a vehicle yourself? Don't assume the fees aren't without cause.

a2grateful

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

NEVER underestimate the misplaced priority and folly (verging on lunacy) of the mayor and his jesters aka city council. This ordinance is just another hypocritical assault against residents and their automobiles in Ann Arbor, by those leaders that drive as much, or more than anyone else. Holiday note on your front door from the city: "Have a folly, trolley Christmas. . . Your car is towed!"

dancinginmysoul

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Okay so let me get this straight: funding for police is being cut, yet the city is still spending money to monitor if someone's parked for 2 days 1 hour? It didn't cost anywhere near $825 to tow 2 cars, so what is the profit margin on a tow? I've been towed before and was charged $100 a day for "storage" (storage = car parked in a parking lot). It's just reassuring to know such violent criminals are being pursued so vigorously by the police. Hey have we caught the serial rapist yet?

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

@dancinginmysoul: I don't think they send out police. I believe they send out parking enforcement personnel and then, of course, tow companies. Even if they did, there really isn't that much serious crime in Ann Arbor that they cannot fulfill this function. Do you propose assigning the entire police department to the groper/rapist when they have exhausted all leads?

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

$100 a day for storage? Maybe if your daily commuter was a Tractor Trailer Semi. A few years back to going rate was $15.

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:34 a.m.

Current rates are twenty dollars per calendar day. Double check that line item on your receipt

Bill Sloan

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

Nothing was said about leaving a vehicle in one's driveway for an extended period., like a month's vacation. I believe that the issue was part of the Council's discussions, but do not remember the outcome. Would you fill me in on this Ryan? The decision by Council on this issue is a bit draconian, and could have been much more citizen friendly. Further, if the City intends to be so possessive about the streets, which it cares for so poorly, perhaps it might extend this possessiveness to the lawn extensions and take over the care and maintenance of these street adjacent spaces? City land, right?

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

@Grimmk. You are not understanding my "Gripe" as you so put it. It's certainly not that I wanted that particular spot nor do need it, I park in my own driveway! I have absolutely no problem with someone's vehicle parked in front of my home. The problem comes when the vehicle sits for extended periods of time. Days or weeks without moving. It doesn't matter to me whether it's a rusted out 79 Volare or a new BMW. There has to be some guidelines and repercussions as to how long a vehicle can sit on the city streets. If you want to park for free then follow the law. If you want to leave your vehicle for extended periods of time then pay for it. There are plenty of city lots with tons of parking for a reasonable monthly fee. Why is ok for a vehicle to sit in the same spot in front of my home for days just because the owner doesn't want to pay for parking? Nobody ever said living in A2 was cheap.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

@grrimik - Apparently you are wrong. They do have a right to gripe about a car that hasn't moved for a month. They have a right to gripe about a car that hasn't moved for 48 horus, let alone a month.

grimmk

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

@ Z Smith - it's hardly abandoned if they use it. If you wanted that spot then you should have parked there first. It's first come first served. You forfeit a spot when you move your car. Maybe someone is parked in front of their house. Maybe it's you. So what? Where would you rather they park them? In your yard? On the roof? As long it is a legal spot you have nothing to be griping abut.

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

And this gives them the right to leave there vehicles on city streets in the same spot for extended periods of time? I disagree! Would you want an abandoned vehicle parked in front of your house for over a month? I know I wouldn't.

Cory

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

The problem is that some houses, in a tightly packed urban environment, don't have driveways in which to park.

Carole

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

I'm sorry, but this is just another way for the city or Brewers to make money off the public. With so many other factors that need attention in Ann Arbor, I think parking in front of one's own house is not a major crime.

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

And if it's someone else's car in front of your house for a few weeks? Several cars? You find that okay, too? Good for you. Wish I knew where you lived so I could send our problems over to you.

grimmk

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Exactly. It's PUBLIC parking. You are a public citizen. Streets are public, not PRIVATE parking. If you have a sticker who gives a BLEEP how long your car has been there. I'd say to start towing at six months. I may be more amenable to a month, but don't hold your breath. And of course if it needs to be moved for a snow emergency.

A2James

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Other factors that will prevent your car from getting towed: If you, or your family works for the Ann Arbor City Government, or one of the Ann Arbor towing companies

Zultan Smith

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

I spent a few years towing cars in town. There was more than one occasion where a co-worker's or associate's car was towed.

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

How would the employee of one company know what kind of car another company's employee drives? Unless it is an illegally parked wrecker?

SusanRk

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

I must say that I am pleased to see that extra time will be given to car owners abandoning their cars. I went thru my records, and talked to many my car junky friends have determined the actual amount of time needed to move a car for ones next usage. One should be allowed to have 49 hrs, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds to move their car before being designated abandoned. I found the law a bit preposterous that they came up with a round number of 48 hrs when actually a bit more is needed. I feel a committee should be set up to evaluate this number 4 times a year as the city encourages more bus, walking, and bicycle usage. Merry Christmas A2!!

Jack

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

My experience has been that they respond very, very slowly to these calls. We had a car in our neighborhood for over two weeks that belong to noone in the neighborhood. It took them that long to respond.

conundrummy

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

I would add a couple of minutes to that time to be fair.