The city of Vancouver illegitimately towed my car, but should I fight city hall?
February 14, 2012 8:45 AM   Subscribe

My car was illegitimately towed by the city in Vancouver, BC. Now that I'm disputing the ticket, is there any chance of fair arbitration or do these things also go in the city's favour? Way more details inside.

This situation is kind of complicated, so please, give it a close eye.

So, I parked my car on the east side of Homer St. between Drake and Pacific (here-ish) on the night of Sunday, January 29th around 9 PM. This block is meter-free and some of the only meter-free parking in all of downtown Vancouver. I went looking for my car on Friday (I live/work in Yaletown and generally only drive my car on the weekends) and discovered it missing, and saw a Temporary No Parking sign had been hung along about half the block, including where my car was. I got my car back from the impound yard and discovered they put up the Temporary No Parking signs at 1:30 PM on Wednesday Feb 1 and towed my car on Thursday Feb 2 at 8 AM.

When I called the city to ask about whether or not I should have been contacted or something, they said they had a list of cars that were present when the signs were hung and my license plate was not on the list. Now if they had simply said they were not required to contact me, I would have been pissed, but fine, whatever, I guess the onus is on me. But the fact that they claim my car wasn't there is absolutely maddening. Being several hundred bucks in the hole because some city employee can't do their bloody job is not okay.

This is the crux of the thing. The tow was legit in that my car was under a Temporary No Parking sign, but it was there before the sign was hung. The city was obligated to call me in this circumstance and they didn't. That's what I'm disputing.

The city says they're required to take down the plates of all cars already parked when they hang signs and that for this area (which is about half of the unmetered 1300 block and half of the metered 1200 block), there were only two cars already parked there. Now this is absurd, because that entire block is always completely full of parked cars. Always. Just counting the unmetred spots, there's space for 5-6 cars and there are hardly ever any empty spaces (generally only late at night, and even then it's only ever like one and that's still uncommon). To claim that only 2 of the 5-6 spots (not counting the metered spots which are also full very frequently) were taken during the middle of the day is tremendously unlikely. Parking services says when they towed on Thursday AM, there were 4 or 5 cars towed. So again, it seems very unlikely that during the normal, unmetered time there were only 2 cars, but when the Temporary No Parking sign were hung, indicating quite clearly that people will be towed, there were 4-5 cars in the exact same area.

After getting my car back, I filed a dispute on the ticket with the city (process detailed here). (Note: this is not court and it is no longer possible to dispute bylaw violations in court in Vancouver) Last week, I got a letter saying the screener did not cancel my ticket. So now I either have to go to adjudication or eat it and pay. Has anyone ever been through the adjudication process? Is the adjudicator just going to refer to this seemingly sacrosanct list and not give me a chance at all or do I have a hope of a successful dispute? I've been going to the 1300 block of Homer in question (it's only 2 blocks from my office) and photographing it between 1 and 2 PM, and of course, every time every single spot is full. Is this evidence of the street being constantly full going to dislodge the claim that when the signs were hung, there were only 2 cars already there?

It's just galling that I was actually wronged here. Had the bloody city just called me, I could have had my car taken care of. Any stories, successful or otherwise, would be much appreciated!
posted by Nelsormensch to Law & Government (9 answers total)
So if there were several other cars parked there at the same time as you, but only two licence plates written down, can you assume that other people were ticketed as you were?

Maybe putting up signs on that street that say WERE YOU WRONGLY TICKETED ON 1/29? PLEASE E-MAIL ***@****.COM would find those people for you and the lot of you can make a better case?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:50 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are there any rules for how long you can park your car in 1 space?
posted by k8t at 9:16 AM on February 14, 2012

It isn't clear if it is going to cost you anything more to take it to arbitration. If not, it sounds like this will be your closest shot at a 'fair' hearing as you are going to get. Up until now you've just been bouncing off the bureaucracy. Unless someone from Mefi has gone before this particular arbitration process before you probably aren't going to get a much more specific answer. Certainly it is supposed to be fair, but no way to know how heavily the arbiter will assess the 'official' record of parked cars versus your description of events.

Personally, I'd go present my case just on principle, even if I suspected I wouldn't be totally made whole. As an aside, one knock against arbiters is that they can sometimes take a "split the baby" approach, so it may be possible that you get no definitive conclusion but at least some of your money back. That's a generalization, not based on any knowledge of the specific rules of this proceeding.
posted by meinvt at 9:27 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

They can argue that you should have at least checked on your car and would have saw the temporary no parking.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:55 AM on February 14, 2012

I was unfortunate enough to learn that there IS a limit to how long you are allowed to park on a street in Vancouver, unless you either live on the street you are parking on or have some sort of special permission (usually a permit):

From the City of Vancouver Street and Traffic Bylaw NO. 2849
17.6 An owner, registered owner, lessee or operator of a vehicle must not cause, allow or permit that vehicle to park:

(f) on a street abutting premises used for residential or commercial
purposes for more than 3 hours between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.,
provided that this limitation in time shall not apply where:
(i) such premises are the property or residence of such person or an employer of such person;
I suspect that this law is to keep people from parking on streets outside of the downtown core for their workdays and taking transit into downtown - or, as was my case, from people leaving their cars near a friend's place after having had too much to drink at a party and returning to get it a couple of days later - but it is usually the onus of a neighbourhood busybody to report people who leave their cars for longer.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2012

I've fought on this particular notice and won before. All I did was tell them that I'd parked at a particular time and that there were no such signs when I parked. I don't know if I was on the list of cars already parked or not, though.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:38 PM on February 14, 2012

Oh, but, as noted by urbanlenny, I lived on the block in question.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:39 PM on February 14, 2012

You have the following working against you, fairly or not:

1) You are monopolizing precious downtown parking space for an entire week at a time. The arbitrator may be nominally "neutral", but since I can imagine the majority of the disputes (s)he hears relate to the core fact that parking (or lack thereof) is a pain in the ass in Vancouver, you certainly aren't going to win any sympathy points.
2) You are clearly in breach of the Bylaws regulating the amount of time you can park on the street (5 or 6 days is clearly greater than 3 hours)
3) If you obey the Bylaws, this is a non-issue because you become aware of the signs.
4) Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the City is under no obligation that I know of to notify you. They may record licence plates as a matter of policy, but I see no Bylaw, regulation, order-in-council or anything that actually obligates them to notify you - and why would there be? As noted above, if you are only parked for 3 hours at a time as required, you notify yourself when you see the signs

As far as fights go, this is a loser. You can fight it on principle, but you will need to go in the expectation that you will not be successful, because you almost certainly will not be.
posted by neksys at 5:17 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buster's Towing owns this town. I recently got towed for mistakenly parking across my street late at night. In years past it would have been a ticket, and fair enough for my bad, but having to pay for a tow as well was vexing (it's not like there was traffic or congestion to clear up at 1 a.m. on a quiet East Van street). Picking up the car in Buster's gleaming new facility off Main didn't help my mood. They also charged me for storage (a day's worth from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m.) and for the gas it cost them to move my car.
posted by ecourbanist at 5:33 PM on February 14, 2012

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