San Jose among highest impound fees in the state, audit reveals miscalculations

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A new audit has revealed errors in the way the City of San Jose has been calculating its vehicle impound fees when a car is towed. Right now, the city has among the highest fees in the entire state.

Shayan Shirazi has been desperate to get his car back. It was towed Friday after he blocked his neighbor's driveway. He had to wait four days to pick it up. His driver's license is in his car so he had to get a copy from the DMV.

The city charges $290 to release a car, and then there’s other fees.

“Basically, it's going to cost me around $1,200 just to get my car just to get my car out because I parked a little bit in someone’s driveway,” said Shirazi. “It's ridiculous. $1,200 is my whole paycheck.”

City Auditor Sharon Erickson said on average, residents pay $640 overnight which includes a citation. The City of San Jose’s fee is higher than other cities including Los Angeles and San Diego which charge $270.

“We believe there were errors in the way it was estimated and the fee needs to be corrected as soon as possible,” said Erickson. 

Erickson said, an audit revealed a portion of the fee may have been calculated incorrectly, based it on a police officer's salary.

“At least half of impounds are down by parking control officers so they are half the cost of a police officer per hour,” said Erickson. “There was also overestimates in how long it took to process this paperwork.”

Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas said, it was likely done inadvertently. She understands residents may be frustrated.

“My heart goes out to all those families,” said Arenas. “I don't know if there's anything we can do to have a retroactive adjustment.”

The city is now looking at lowering the fee by $150. 

Shirazi said he had to borrow money from his boss and calls the process unfair. 

“It just sucks because I didn't have the money,” said Shirazi. “I had a lot of other bills I had to pay. It’s hard to live in this area alone right now.”

The City Auditor said in San Jose, 55,000 cars are either stored, abandoned, or lived in. The city tows less than 10 percent of them. The auditor’s office also found the average age of cars that get towed is 20 years old and in many cases not be worth bailing out. The city is now recalculating its fees and hope to have it lowered next year.