BELLFLOWER — After meeting last week with owners of local towing companies opposed to restrictions on their business operations, city officials have revised a proposed ordinance and plan to present it to the City Council on Monday night.
But some owners of the city's 10 towing companies say they are not satisfied with the changes and that the ordinance could hurt their businesses.
"If this ordinance is passed as is, the people who will suffer most will be the public," said Jeanetta Jimenez, owner of Astro Towing in Bellflower. "It's going to create more problems than the city realizes."
The proposed ordinance is a direct response to hundreds of complaints received by the Norwalk sheriff's station between November and March from motorists who said they were over-charged for towing services or had items stolen from their cars, Mayor Mike Brassard said.
Most of the complaints were against Bellflower towing companies, sheriff's Capt. Robert Pash said.
"We realize there are problems with some towing companies and we are trying to regulate that," said Gonzalo Vazquez, an administrative assistant to the city administrator. "But we also realize there are some good companies out there so we want to work with them and come up with an ordinance that's best for everybody."
Last week's meeting was the second since April 13 when the council first considered the ordinance, Vazquez said.
One of several restrictions under the ordinance would prohibit wrecker drivers from towing cars from private property until the property owner points out which cars should be towed.
"That means every time we go to a shopping center or an apartment building late at night we'll have to get the owner out of bed to come down there and point out which cars need to be towed," Jimenez said.
Jimenez said that towing companies usually have contracts with several apartment complexes and shopping centers that allow them to tow whenever someone is parked illegally, without having to involve the property owner. The proposed ordinance would create more problems for both property owners and towing companies, Jimenez said.
The ordinance also would require towing company owners to undergo a background check and site inspection by the Sheriff's Department in order to obtain an operating permit. Operating without a permit would be a misdemeanor, the ordinance states. Bellflower presently only requires towing companies to have a business license.
Both Jimenez and Dave Poling, owner of Moody's Tow Service in Bellflower, stressed that they are not opposed to the background check or the inspection, but are opposed to many of the regulations in the ordinance.
"The state codes are so vague, I don't see anything wrong with some guidelines," Poling said. "But this ordinance is so strict it could change the way these businesses operate."
Pash said deputies at the Norwalk sheriff's station are drafting a similar towing ordinance to be presented to city councils in Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and La Mirada within the next few weeks.