If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, this post will make no sense. In short, last night, several people were towed from a lot at Mill & 7th Street in Tempe. There was much sadness and confusion.
Today, all of us recovered our cars from the impound lot. Since I had no idea it was “cash only”, I didn’t actually pay the $135 fee yet. I did get my car with a clear verbal warning that if I don’t pay in two weeks, it will be reported to credit bureaus and a collection agency where fees will “at least triple” the charges.
I strongly feel that the lot isn’t properly marked with warning signs, so I did a little more research, and went back to the “scene of the crime” to take some photos and measurements.
I’ve been told by a City of Tempe official that the signs posted by the property owner follow city code in their placement, quantity and location.
Granted, I am not an attorney nor a policy maker. But I can read, and some of the Tempe City Code with regard to the notice to the public of the right to two seems very specific and clear to me.
Let’s take a look at Tempe City Code section 32-6 Towing from Private Property / Notice to public of right to tow. I’ll break it down to bite-sized nuggets of love… all emphasis in citations is mine.
Section 32-6 (a): The owner or person in possession of any private parking area shall be deemed to have given consent to unrestricted parking by the general public in such parking area unless such parking area is posted with signs as prescribed by this section which are clearly visible and readable from a distance of fifty (50) feet away and at all points of entry.
”¦and at all points of entry.
Here is a photo of what any reasonable person would consider a point of entry into the lot:
”clearly visible and readable from a distance of fifty (50) feet away”
Here is the sign on the back of the box from approximately 50 feet away. You tell me, is this readable?
Moving right along:
Section 32 ”“ 6 (b) Signs will be a minimum of twelve (12) inches by eighteen (18) inches in size and will be mounted at a minimum height of five (5) feet and a maximum height of ten (10) feet above the ground.
Pictures tell the story. Here is the sign shown above. Of note, this is the specific sign repeatedly referred to by both the towing company and the Tempe Police Department last night when we converged on the lot only to find our cars had been towed off.
This sign is 6 inches wide by just under 12 inches long. The bottom of the sign is 3 feet 10 inches above ground level.
A little math – a 6” x 12” sign = 72 square inches. The minimum size per city code would be a sign of 216 square inches. This sign is therefore 33% of the required minimum size. Yes, it is one-third the size required by Tempe City Code (and it’s mounted too low. The top of the electrical box is the minimum height of five feet).
But wait, there’s more!
Section 32-6 (a)(5) Each sign shall state, “Tempe City Code, Section 32-6.”
Shall. Not “should”, or “ought to”. Shall means it WILL.
Here’s a close up of the fine print:
Ok, so let’s assume that the sign behind the box at the main entrance doesn’t count. How you could disregard it completely and say it doesn’t matter is beyond me. But let’s pretend.
There are two other towing warning signs posted at the lot.
Here is one that is in the middle of the south end of the lot, approximately 160 feet from the main entrance.
Hey! It’s of the minimum 12 x 18 size! And it has reference to the Tempe City Code. You know, the one that says the sign has to be posted at a minimum height of five feet.
Yeah, this one is posted 25 inches above the ground. Last time I checked, 25 inches is less than half of five feet. So we’ve got yet another failure per the Tempe City code. (not to mention this sign posted two feet off the ground is 160+ feet away from the main entrance. Maybe it’s just me, but I also don’t see this quite being “readable” at 50 feet.
What about the other tow warning sign?
It’s posted at the northeast corner from the entrance, and is edge-on to the entrance. In other words, when you drive into the lot, you see the edge of the sign (it’s about a quarter of an inch thick) from 160 feet away.
Here’s a shot taken from the southwest corner of the lot. It’s the closest I could get to capturing the entire lot without standing in the middle of Mill avenue at 5:30 in the afternoon.
We’ve got a “primary” tow warning sign (I call it primary as it is by far the closest to the entrance and was repeatedly referred to by both the tow truck drivers and the Tempe Police as a reference) that is: 1) 66% too small; 2) mounted too low; 3) doesn’t contain all required verbiage; 4) not visible from the entrance; and 5) not readable from 50 feet.
You’ve got one sign that meets size and verbiage code but is posted at less than half the required minimum height.
And you’ve got one sign of proper size, verbiage and posting height. In the back corner of the lot and presented edge on to the entrance approximately 160 feet from the entrance.
And this, according to both the Tempe Police on-scene that evening and a City of Tempe official, are following city code in placement, quantity and location.
Again, I’m no attorney. I’d love to get an attorney’s thoughts on this, realizing of course you can’t give “legal advice” in this format. Given that Tempe City Code Section 32-6 (c) states, “No private towing carrier shall tow a vehicle from a private parking area unless the signs are posted as required by this section and conform with subsections (a), (b) and (e)” my next research step is looking into small claims court.