San Jose lawmaker seeks changes to state towing practices
Assembly Bill 1082, authored by San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, will prohibit towing or immobilizing a vehicle due to unpaid parking tickets. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    Vehicles won’t be towed or have their registration denied due to a few parking tickets if a proposed state bill passes. For low-income families, this could prevent the loss of livelihood and housing instability.

    Assembly Bill 1082, authored by San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, would prohibit towing or immobilizing vehicles due to unpaid parking tickets. If approved, it would increase the number of unpaid tickets from one to six before the Department of Motor Vehicles could place a registration hold. The bill also seeks to create a parking ticket payment program.

    “The last thing we should be doing as a society is putting our poorest families in debt traps if there are other alternatives to holding them accountable,” Kalra told San José Spotlight.

    Colin Heyne, San Jose transportation department spokesperson, said city policy is to not tow or boot vehicles due to outstanding parking citations or expired registrations, even though it could. 

    “The law allows a vehicle to be towed if a registration has been expired for six months and one day,” he told San José Spotlight. “However, we are currently not doing so unless the vehicle has another qualifying towable condition under our vehicle abatement program.”

    Currently, the city has the DMV put vehicle registrations on hold due to one or more unpaid parking tickets. 

    “Extending the requirement to six unpaid citations could make our enforcement activities less effective,” Heyne said. “It could also significantly decrease the revenue we collect through the DMV. A person could have four unpaid citations and still complete business with the DMV without having those ticket amounts collected.”

    Heyne said San Jose collected $830,000 for unpaid parking citations with the DMV in fiscal year 2021-22, and in 2020-21 the city collected $1.1 million. He added that the cost of a parking citation is a deterrent and if people know it’s more difficult for the city to collect, they may be less inclined to follow the rules.

    “The San Jose Department of Transportation understands the strong negative impacts ticketing penalties and fees can have on people already struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “We work to make the rules clear… and we avoid revenue-heavy practices such as stacking multiple citations during a single enforcement activity.”

    Skylar Phoenix’s car was privately towed in San Jose. She said for families like hers which share a car, the loss means parents can’t get to work and kids can’t get to school. Phoenix was charged $350 for the tow, plus a parking ticket fine. Kalra said it’s not uncommon for combined fees to cost more than $1,000.

    The state lawmaker said it’s about finding the right balance.

    “I don’t believe the current policy is good for working families or cities that are trying to get accountability,” Kalra said. “We have our poorest residents having their vehicles taken away, which is a pretty severe consequence for having a few parking tickets.”

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply