Monday, January 24, 2011

Towing Wars

In Philadelphia's endless battle between the city and our cars, it's hard to imagine that City Council would choose to introduce another way to make life in the city worse for those who need to park.

I'm no fan of the car, but I accept them as a necessary evil for many. And for those who pay for the luxury of avoiding the Parking Authority, they should be able to rest easy.

But no more.

Yesterday afternoon after hitching a ride to Ikea from a friend who lives in Callowhill, we arrived back at his condo and private gated parking lot to find someone in his parking space. Now I don't want you to think my friend is petty. This parking space is private property owned by the occupant of the condo, and the culprit is a repeat offender...and Lew Blum told us why.

Apparently in Philadelphia right now, private parking is a free for all. That's right. Feel free to drive your car into any parking garage, any private space, in front of private garages, or on top of some Fairmount begonias, because there is absolutely nothing Lew Blum can do about it.
At least that's what he said when we called him to have the offending SUV towed.

City Council passed a bill that bars any private towing company from towing a vehicle until the police have been dispatched and a citation has been issued. Even on private property. What a good use of resources in a city strapped for cash.

And to those of you ranting all over the comments sections of various business reviews that may be applauding this decision: stop parking in illegal spots and you won't have to deal with these "cash only pariahs". You'll be rethinking your position when you come home to find a stranger's car blocking your driveway.

After being denied a tow, one finds himself confronted with the awkward decision of whether or not to clog up 911 with frivolous non-emergencies. Never mind how long it will take - if ever - for an officer to be dispatched to the location.

I once reported illegal drug use taking place on my property, two blocks from the 6th District police station, and an officer never showed. I hardly think a cop is going to promptly show up to ticket a car blocking a drive way.

Good luck.

It doesn't seem that bad when you think about the absurdities involved with parking in Philadelphia, absurdities that have been deemed worthy of reality television. But when you think about it from a black and white, private property legality, this is a pretty strong statement that City Council hasn't clearly thought through.

We aren't just talking about blocking an urban garage door or parking in a privately rented spot in Old City. If someone parks in your suburban Chestnut Hill driveway, you can't move - or hire someone to move - that car until the police arrive. If some drunk kids park on your lawn on prom night, you have to call 911. City Council has chosen to punish rogue tow truck companies by sacrificing your private property rights.
That isn't right.

Until enough people realize what a bad idea this is, I would like to offer a suggestion to Lew Blum and other legitimate towing companies being punished by City Hall. Find the addresses of each and every Council Member that approved this bill (it's public record), drive your tow trucks to their homes and park in their driveways. After spending the day trying to find a cop willing to process their request, they might rethink exactly what they've done

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