The cost of a tow in San Francisco is the most expensive in the country, starting at $537 before the added tickets and storage fees. Even with current discounts available for low-income people, the price is still often out of reach. For many San Franciscans, if their car is towed it is lost for good. Approximately ten percent of towed cars are never retrieved, presumably because people cannot afford to get them out.
We have heard from community organizations and residents that when people cannot come up with the money to retrieve their car after it is towed, their situation goes from bad to worse. They lose not only their largest asset, but also often their employment and sometimes their shelter. We have also increasingly heard from community groups about the importance of access to public transportation for people experiencing homelessness and living in deep poverty. The community organizations we work with have shared that many of their clients either do not take the bus, or risk fare evasion citations and ride without paying because they cannot afford to pay. Even the current discounted monthly fare of $40 represents more than a third of their monthly income for many of their clients.
Earlier this month, the SFMTA adopted a new budget that creates a new tow and boot fee waiver for people experiencing homelessness, creates deeper discounts on towing and booting for low-income people, and expands access to free Muni for all young people under the age of 18 and to people experiencing homelessness. Read more about the reforms in the Financial Justice Project newsletter.