Chapter 10.75


10.75.010    Purpose.

10.75.020    Definitions.

10.75.030    Application for placement on rotation list.

10.75.040    Selection and designation,

10.75.050    Rotation contract.

10.75.060    Approval of drivers.

10.75.070    Minimum equipment standards for tow trucks.

10.75.080    Radio dispatching equipment.

10.75.090    Vehicle storage.

10.75.100    Release of vehicle.

10.75.110    Hours of operation.

10.75.120    Insurance.

10.75.130    License requirements.

10.75.140    Inspection requirement.

10.75.150    Schedule of fees and rates.

10.75.160    Response time.

10.75.170    Protection of vehicles.

10.75.180    Inventory.

10.75.190    Authorization for repairs or alterations.

10.75.200    Duty to obey orders and responsibility at scene.

10.75.210    State law governs collection of fees, lien sales and disposition of abandoned vehicles.

10.75.220    Records open to inspection.

10.75.230    Accessibility of vehicles for appraisal.

10.75.240    When a request is a rotation turn.

10.75.250    Abandoned vehicles.

10.75.260    Changes in order of rotation.

10.75.270    Prohibited acts.

10.75.280    Termination of towing service.

10.75.290    Reinstatement to rotation list.

10.75.300    Appeal procedure.

10.75.010 PURPOSE.

The public health, safety and welfare require that hazards to vehicular movement and traffic safety be promptly removed from the city streets. In order to insure the efficient removal of vehicles posing a hazard to traffic, and to provide a dependable towing service to the public, it is necessary to establish minimum standards for vehicle towing services.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).

10.75.020 DEFINITIONS.

In this chapter unless the context otherwise requires:

(a)    “Attendant” shall mean an employee of an operator, qualified by knowledge and experience to operate a tow car or tow truck.

(b)    “Chief of police” shall mean the chief of the Santa Cruz city police department.

(c)    “Operator” shall mean a person engaged in the business of towing motor vehicles.

(d)    “Person” shall include an individual, a firm or a copartnership, a corporation, a company, an association or a joint-stock association.

(e)    “Police department” shall mean the Santa Cruz police department.

(f)    “Rotation list” shall mean a list maintained by the police department of operators who comply with this chapter and from which the police department will make calls for towing services on a sequentially rotating basis.

(g)    “Tow truck” shall mean a motor vehicle altered or designed and equipped for, and exclusively used in, the business of towing vehicles by means of a crane, tow bar, tow line or dolly, or is otherwise used to give assistance to other vehicles.

(h)    “Towing service” shall be the business of towing for compensation motor vehicles in the city. Such business also includes the storage of towed vehicles, pending their return to the owners thereof, by the person who towed such vehicles or by some other person for the person who towed such vehicles.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The owner or operator shall fill out an application furnished by the police department requesting placement on the rotation list.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The police department shall maintain a rotation list for towing services. The number of openings on the rotation list shall be set by the city council by resolution. The police department shall make an appointment to a vacancy on the rotation list in the order in which applications are received. The chief of police may refuse to appoint an applicant to the rotation list if the applicant is unable to meet the requirements of this chapter. The determination shall be based upon information supplied to the chief of police and upon past experience with the applicant. The applicant shall be rejected if the applicant has knowingly submitted facts and information in an application for permit which are untrue, or intentionally omitted or failed to indicate in the application facts which, if submitted, could have resulted in a rejection of the application for a permit, provided such facts should have reasonably been known by the applicant. The decision of the chief of police may be appealed by said applicant in the manner set forth in this chapter.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The city manager may execute contracts in conformity with this chapter with tow operators holding permits under this chapter wishing to be placed on the rotation list.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Each towing service on the rotation list shall employ only capable and competent drivers and attendants. Each towing service shall provide the police department with a current list of drivers and attendants authorized to perform operations of each tow truck. The chief of police may recommend that the city manager remove an operator from the rotation list if the operator employs a driver who, within the thirty-six months preceding employment, has been convicted of one or more of the following crimes:

(a)    Auto theft, burglary, possession of stolen property, grand or petty theft;

(b)    A crime of violence on the person of another;

(c)    A violation of the Health and Safety Code relating to narcotics or dangerous drugs;

(d)    A violation of Section 4461, 4462b, 4463, or 5017a of Division 3 of the California Vehicle Code;

(e)    A violation of any provision of Division 4 of the California Vehicle Code; or

(f)    A crime relating to illegal acquisition of vehicles or vehicle parts or documents relating to vehicle registration or ownership.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Each approved towing service shall have two fully equipped tow trucks operational at all times. Each tow truck shall meet the following minimum standards:

(a)    Truck Chassis. At least one ton capacity with dual rear wheels or equivalent.

(b)    Company Name. Each vehicle shall be marked as required by Section 27907 of the California Vehicle Code.

(c)    Lights. Each vehicle shall be equipped with lighting equipment required by the California Vehicle Code, plus one white utility light (adjustable or portable) and may be equipped with such other lights as the operator desires, notwithstanding the provisions of the California Vehicle Code.

(d)    Winch. Each vehicle shall have one chassis-mounted power-driven winch equipped with safety dogs or equivalent braking devices with a minimum cable length of one hundred feet.

(e)    Additional Equipment. Each vehicle shall have:

(1)    Flashlight in operating condition;

(2)    Dustpan or square-bladed shovel;

(3)    Crowbar or prybar;

(4)    Material capable of absorbing five gallons of spilled petroleum products;

(5)    Rope or strapping implement for securing steering wheels;

(6)    Miscellaneous handtools, such as hammer, screwdriver and wrenches;

(7)    Set of dollies;

(8)    Safety chain;

(9)    A device intended and manufactured to protect impact resistant vehicle bumpers; and

(10)    Brooms, tag lights and other equipment required by the California Vehicle Code.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Each tow truck shall be equipped with communications between the tow truck and its dispatcher. Dispatching shall be from a central dispatching point available by telephone twenty-four hours per day. For the purposes of this section, citizen band radio equipment shall satisfy the communications requirement.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Each towing service shall maintain a clean and orderly storage facility (lot or building) providing sufficient. space for all vehicles towed by the service. The storage facility shall be enclosed with substantial fencing, at least six feet high, capable of protecting stored vehicles and their contents from theft or tampering. Gates and buildings shall be securely locked when not in use, and the facility shall be reasonably screened from public view. All outside lighting shall be arranged and shielded so as to prevent any nuisance, inconvenience, or hazardous interference to adjoining streets or property.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Vehicles impounded under authority of this chapter must be released within two hours of the owner’s demand, or at such time as may be mutually agreed, upon proof of ownership or entitlement of use and tender of lawful fees to the tow service operator. The tow service operator must accept cash or a valid bank credit card within limits imposed on use of the card. If exigent circumstances prevent prompt release of the vehicle, the storage fee shall be calculated at the time demand for release was made. Failure to release vehicles promptly is grounds for removing the operator from the rotation list.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The service shall render available one employee to respond to police and citizen requests for release of vehicles, twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, including holidays.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).

10.75.120 INSURANCE.

The city, and/or its city council, and/or its officers, and/or its employees, shall not be responsible for any loss or damages arising from towing and storage of vehicles or the performance of any requirement imposed by this chapter.

As a condition of being granted a permit under this chapter and being placed on the rotation list, the operator shall defend, indemnify and save harmless the city, the council, and city officers and employees, from any suits, claims, or actions brought, or disease or illness or damages sustained or arising out of the operation of towing services and storage of vehicles and arising out of the performance of any requirement of this chapter by the operator or in consequence thereof.

The operator shall maintain public liability insurance, primary coverage, in amounts established by resolution adopted by the city council for bodily injury, and property damage. The operator shall further be responsible for actual cash value of customer vehicles and contents as provided by law.

A certificate of insurance for workman’s compensation shall be provided to the city. The city finance director shall be furnished with a certificate of insurance for the above coverage providing not less than thirty-day notice of cancellation to the city.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


(a)    The operator shall possess and insure that each attendant possesses a valid California driver’s license as outlined in Section 12804 of the California Vehicle Code.

(b)    The operator shall obtain and maintain a business license issued by the city.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The operator shall render available all tow trucks and the storage facility for inspection by a representative of the chief of police upon request of the chief of police.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


For towing services provided under this chapter, the operator may charge no more than the maximum rate set forth in the rate schedule of the Santa Cruz office of the California Highway Patrol. A copy of the current California Highway Patrol rate schedule shall be kept on file and available for public review at the office of the city clerk and at the administrative office of the police department. The rate for road service calls and for towing to points other than the operator’s established storage facility at the request of the vehicle owner or agent shall be negotiated between the operator (or attendant) and the vehicle owner or agent thereof. The operator shall keep business records of all rates charged and collected for towing services and these records shall be rendered available for inspection whenever required by the representative of the chief of police.

(Ord. 97-01 § 1, 1997: Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).

10.75.160 RESPONSE TIME.

Not less than one tow truck and attendant shall be able to respond to any location within the geographical limits of the city within thirty minutes. In addition thereto, at least one standby tow truck and attendant shall be rendered available and ready to respond to service within thirty minutes from the time the operator is notified by the police department. In the event of the unreasonable delay in time taken for the response, police department personnel charged with calling the operators shall evaluate the length of delay and, if possible, the reason for the delay. If, in the judgment of the police department personnel, the tow will be unreasonably delayed, they may call another operator and the tow will then be handled by the designated alternate operator. For purposes of this section, twenty-minute tow service will be the normally accepted time prior to the time evaluation procedures commence. In the event a vehicle of greater weight than a private passenger auto, station wagon or unladen pickup truck must be removed, the police department will notify the operator on the rotation list next in line qualified to handle the assignment.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The operator shall hold a vehicle impounded for special investigation (for example, fingerprinting) until the police department authorizes its release in writing. The operator shall maintain a secured building for storage of impounded vehicles. If the storage facility of an operator does not include a secured building, the tow shall be assigned to the first operator next on the rotation list possessing such a facility.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).

10.75.180 INVENTORY.

Operators, when assuming custody of any vehicle stored or impounded by police order, shall inventory the contents of the vehicle open to view and in its unlocked compartments. This inventory shall be signed jointly by the operator (or attendant) and the peace officer ordering the tow and shall, in addition, certify that any and all seals affixed by the police department are intact. By signature on this inventory, the operator acknowledges acceptance of full responsibility for the safe and proper tow and storage of the vehicle and for the security of all property therein.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


All operators shall refrain from making any repairs or alterations to a vehicle without first being authorized by one of the persons authorized to order such repairs, or their insurance carriers or duly authorized agents. Parts and accessories shall not be removed from vehicles without authorization, except as necessary for security purposes. Under such circumstances, the parts or accessories removed shall be listed on the appropriate records and stored in the business office of the operator, subject to examination. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit operators (or attendants) from making emergency alterations necessary to permit the removal of the vehicle.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Each operator called to the scene of a tow by a peace officer shall abide by any lawful directions of the peace officer at the scene. Each operator shall remove all hazards and debris from the location from which a vehicle is towed prior to leaving the scene of the tow.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


(a)    Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to modify state law regarding fee collection and the conduct of lien sales for storage and disposition of abandoned vehicles worth one hundred dollars or less, or the state licensing requirement therefor. The method of paying tow and storage fees shall be governed by Vehicle Code Section 22658(k).

(b)    No abandoned vehicle shall be stored with an operator unless such operator possesses a valid dismantler’s license issued pursuant to Section 11500 of the California Vehicle Code.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The police department may inspect an operator’s business records during normal business hours. The operator shall maintain adequate records to include the description of vehicles, nature of service, time and location of the call, and the disposition of the vehicle.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


(a)    The operator shall make each vehicle, except impounded vehicles, available during normal business hours to the owner or owner’s representative for the purpose of estimating damages to the vehicle and appraising its value.

(b)    The operator shall provide the police department with access to each stored vehicle. A stored vehicle shall be released to its owner or owner’s representative upon payment of the necessary fee. All personal property within the vehicle shall be released to the owner or owner’s representative upon request, even though the vehicle is retained in storage, except in cases of impounded vehicles, in which case the operator shall not release any part of the impounded vehicle or its contents without written consent from the police department.

(c)    When requested by the police department, the operator shall make a reasonable attempt to assist the police department in obtaining motor vehicle serial and identification numbers, including the removal of grease and the hoisting of vehicles for such purposes.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


A request for vehicle towing, emergency road service, or any other nontowing service calling for a response by the operator is a rotation turn, except when:

(a)    No compensation for services provided is charged;

(b)    A citizen requests the services of a specific operator; or

(c)    The requested service consists of towing an abandoned vehicle.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


If any operator possessing the required dismantler’s license declines towing or storing a vehicle abandoned and valued at one hundred dollars or less, the police department may assign another operator to the tow; however, such action will cause the loss of the rotation turn to the operator declining such tow, and not the responding tow service. Such refusal is also grounds for removing the tow company from the rotation list.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The police department may deviate from the order of normal rotation if the operator next on rotation is, in the department’s judgment, incapable or improperly equipped for handling a specific task. If no operator on the rotation list has the necessary skills or equipment to handle a specific task, the police department may request the service from an operator capable of handling the request. A change from the normal rotation does not cause the loss of handling the next normal turn by either the operator judged capable of handling the request or by the rotation operator who responded.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


It is unlawful for:

(a)    An operator not on the rotation list to remove and tow a vehicle from the public right-of-way, unless the owner or driver of the vehicle has requested it;

(b)    An operator, his agent or employee to solicit towing service without first having been called by the owner or operator of the vehicle or by the police department;

(c)    An operator to perform towing services governed by this chapter in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter.

Violations of this section are punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


The chief of police may remove or temporarily suspend a towing service from the rotation list if the operator fails to comply with this chapter. The chief of police may also remove or suspend a towing company from the rotation list if the company has been terminated or suspended from conducting towing service by another law enforcement agency. In the event of termination, the chief of police shall give the operator written notice of the reasons for termination twenty-four hours in advance of the termination. The operator may appeal the decision of the chief of police in the manner provided by this chapter.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


After a tow service operator has been removed from the rotation list under Section 10.75.280, said tow service operator may reapply to the police department under Section 10.75.030 no sooner than one year after the termination.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).


Any applicant who desires to appeal any decision of the chief of police, made under this chapter, shall, within ten days of the mailing of notice of the decision of the chief of police, file a written notice of appeal with the city manager. The applicant is entitled to reasonable notice of time and place of hearing of his appeal by the city manager and is entitled to be personally present, to be represented by counsel, to call witnesses and to hear and examine responsible personnel and all witnesses called in support of the chief’s decision. Said hearing shall not be governed by the rules of evidence nor normal courtroom procedures. The city manager’s decision shall be final.

(Ord. 87-15 § 1 (part), 1987).