I always tell clients to be careful about parking in Santa Monica because Santa Monica is vicious about parking. They all agree.

Years ago, a suite mate told me he doesn’t let Santa Monica parking tickets get him upset. He just figures that’s part of the cost of living and doing business in Santa Monica. I’ve followed his wise advice — until now.

Parking in Downtown Santa Monica has gotten even worse. In addition to a dearth of parking spaces, zones requiring permits, parking meters, expensive parking tickets, and Bayside District Corp. wanting to jack up parking fees even more, you can even get towed!

On Second Street between Broadway and Santa Monica Boulevard, along the west-side of the street, there are 17 metered parking spaces with various time limits. The southernmost three metered parking spaces have a double whammy: One hour metered parking from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and towing from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.! Seems it becomes a Bus Zone after dark.

Yes, I got nabbed. I should have seen the sign. I didn’t. I just thought I was lucky to get the one empty parking space. When I returned to my Prius after 9:30 p.m, it was gone. Some luck. The police officer there was waiting to have the other two cars parked ahead of mine towed. He confirmed that my car just got towed, but was nice enough to give me a ride to the police station.

There the report was completed and I had to pay a police department “Impound Fee” of $103.80 ($101.80 on my debit card and $2.00 in cash). My request for the code section for the fee was not filled. When I asked for a copy of the report, I was told I would have to wait 7-10 days to fill out a form to request a copy. There will probably be a fee for that too.

Officers Mastin and Leftwich let on that that’s all it would cost. I actually felt lucky because it could have been worse and commented to that effect. I definitely didn’t think there would be other fees. I was wrong, so wrong. But that comes later. I was still the nice lady and not upset.

When I asked how I would get my car back, Officer Leftwich told me it’s eight blocks to the east. I responded, “That’s cute.” He said “What?” and I repeated my statement. I was given a garage release form stating my car was at Tip Top Tow Service at 1654 12th St. Mind you, it was now after 10 at night. No offer of a ride or calling a taxi. No map, printed directions, or warning that it was on the north side of the freeway, not the south side.

While I’m all into walking, I’m a 64-year-old woman, it’s late at night, my two German shepherds were at home, and nobody should be walking that part of town at night alone or otherwise. It’s even creepy driving there. I support the police department’s efforts to “Take Back The Night,” but this is a bit much. Thank heavens my friend came to transport me.

At Tip Top Tow Service, after going into the caged security area, I was shocked to learn that I had to pay an additional $280 to get my Prius ($160 for the towing, $80 for the dollies used, and $40 for a one-day storage fee). My car had been there less than an hour. By now it was 10:30 p.m.

So much for the cost of living and doing business in Santa Monica. This was outrageous and I was upset. But there was more. When I got my Prius, I saw there was a ticket for $61 stuck on the window! The grand total now was $444.80 and that’s without the fee for a copy of the report.

By now I was furious. I went back to the police station to give Officers Mastin and Leftwich a piece of my mind for misleading me and to see if the ticket for $61 was in addition to the $103.80 fee I already paid. You guessed it. It was in addition.

But I had to wait for an answer because they had two other people there whose car had been towed at the same location. Eduardo said they came to Santa Monica for fun. Some fun! His Suburban had been in front of my Prius. I didn’t want them to get mugged or worse on top of all the rest of the “fun” they were having in Santa Monica. So I went back to give them a ride to their car.

I noticed a taxi waiting outside the police station. The taxi driver told me they get 10 to 20 people a night whose cars are towed from Second Street.

Now I know why there are so many taxis on Second Street. They’re part of the towing scam. Now I know how Santa Monica can afford so many consultants.

Eduardo says he’s not coming back to Santa Monica. He can’t afford to. I live here, so I have to, but I’ll definitely curtail my business in Downtown. And, yes, I’ll quadruple read the signs. But really, is this a way to treat our visitors and residents? Is this a way to lure people into Santa Monica to spend money in the Bayside District? It’s definitely a way to lure people into Santa Monica to get snared in a parking and towing trap.

Susan Hartley is an attorney and former Airport Commissioner living in Sunset Park.

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