Bill Proposes Changes to How and When Vehicles Can Be Towed

Photo by Mary O’KEEFE
Many residents worry that if AB 516 passes local neighborhood streets could fill with people living in their cars and RVs with no recourse for law enforcement to remove them.


In February, Assemblymembers David Chiu and Miguel Santiago introduced Assembly Bill 516 – authority to remove vehicles. The bill passed the Assembly floor; Assemblymember Laura Friedman voted in favor.

At its first introduction, the bill proposed to change the process, and reason/law, of towing vehicles from streets. These included that vehicles could no longer be towed for having five unpaid parking tickets, being parked in one place longer than 72 hours and/or having unpaid vehicle registration. 

The purpose of the bill was to ease at least one burden for those who live in their vehicles. When a vehicle is towed it can be very costly to reclaim. This puts a heavy toll on the owner of the vehicle who may not just be living in their vehicle but also uses it to travel to work. Towing vehicles often leaves owners homeless and living on the street.

Chiu said in an interview with CVW that he was inspired to author the bill due to a statewide report that showed how devastating towing a vehicle can be though he understood there are reasons for some vehicles to be towed.

“Let me say I am in support of many good reasons for cars to be towed,” he added.

Chiu has been defending his bill after a growing number of communities, including La Crescenta and Los Angeles, have voiced their concerns about banning towing for proposed specific violations. Many neighborhood and town councils have sent letters in opposition of AB 516. Concerns include that without the ability for law enforcement to tow vehicles, especially taking away the 72-hour time limitation, vehicles could be parked in local neighborhoods indefinitely.

According to a letter of opposition from the city of Arcata: “Vehicles parked in excess of 72 hours without being moved are a significant quality-of-life concern for those who live in and visit Arcata. Parked vehicles become places of habitation for people and animals. These vehicles block ingress and egress on Arcata streets and sidewalks, block visibility at corners causing compromises to traffic safety and become an environmental hazard with trash and human waste oftentimes being discharged adjacent to the vehicle.”

These issues were echoed by several entities including the Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities. It too sent a letter of opposition to Chiu that covered the proposed relaxing of towing laws for non-paid registration and the 72 hours parking enforcement.

“It is key to note that the 72-hour parking enforcement notice is usually triggered by a complaint from a local resident or business when cars appear abandoned or haven’t moved for days. By the time a city responds, more than 72 hours have typically elapsed, when a notice is thereby issued for the vehicle to move. Compliance costs nothing and can simply involve moving a vehicle to a more acceptable location to avoid a tow. By the time a tow is actually enforced, a vehicle has likely remained unmoved for days and possibly weeks,” the letter stated.

At a recent Land Use Committee meeting with Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon, it was suggested a letter be generated by the CVTC’s Transportation Committee in opposition to AB 516. As the content of the opposition letter was formulated it was suggested that CVTC include the concerns shared by other communities and include the added worry of fire safety in La Crescenta. Abandoned vehicles, or unsafe vehicles, in neighborhoods could be a fire risk, which is a constant concern for La Crescenta and the surrounding foothill area as Cal Fire considers these areas at “very high” fire risk.

Chiu and fellow co-authors of the bill have been listening to communities that oppose AB 516, and took into consideration their concerns. AB 516 has been amended and now focuses on not towing for five unpaid parking tickets.

“If you can’t afford to pay for five parking tickets you can’t afford the towing [charge],” Chiu said. “Even if we are eliminating the [towing] for the parking tickets [owners] still have to pay.”

Chiu and others have continued to listen to the communities and have amended another portion of the bill to change the towing of a vehicle that has been legally parked more than than 72 hours to a vehicle legally parked more than five business days.

“We heard from cities that [changing from] 72 hours to five business days. They would have no problem in providing a notice that the vehicle would be towed [if not moved],” he said.

If the bill passes, a vehicle that is legally parked more than five days can get a notice of possibly being towed.

“This bill would not impede a city from towing an abandoned vehicle,” he added.

He said that he is in support of towing any vehicle that violated parking restrictions during a Red Flag warning. Many high-risk wildfire neighborhoods have parking restrictions during Red Flag days.

AB 516 would not override city ordinances. A “Myth vs. Fact” flyer that was released by Chiu’s office states, “AB 516 preserves local control because a local government retains the authority to pass a local ordinance to tow.”

The bill has been amended several times in committees in both the Assembly and Senate. As of press time AB 516 is still waiting for a vote in Senate Appropriations Committee.

There has been a lot of misunderstanding about AB 516. To read the “Myth vs. Facts” informational flyer, visit