Wreckers’ haul wrecks Wrex the Halls

The Center’s Ernie Hahn finds the tow policy at area lots “egregious.”
  • The Center’s Ernie Hahn finds the tow policy at area lots “egregious.”

Is it a fair way to enforce property rights or just another big scam in the concert business?

Pechanga Arena San Diego

3500 Sports Arena Boulevard, Midway District

On Sunday, December 8, the Valley View Casino Center/Sports Arena hosted the sold-out Wrex the Halls show presented by 91X.

The arena’s parking lot was packed with cars by fans paying up to $20 each for parking. Some concertgoers opted to park across the street at the retail strip that includes Home Depot, Ralphs, and Target.

Not a good idea.

A 91X DJ went onstage at about 11:00 p.m. to alert the crowd that 66 cars had already been towed from the retail lot across the street and that it would cost $300 each to get those cars out of impound.

An insider with knowledge of the towing situation around the arena says that even more cars were towed during Thursday’s Macklemore show.

“It’s egregious,” says Ernie Hahn, whose Arena Group 2000 oversees the operation of Valley View Casino Center. While he was not aware of the exact number of cars towed, Hahn says this has been an ongoing problem for most of the 22 years he’s been with the arena.

“I’ve tried to speak with the property management company,” says Hahn. “They blew me off, so I gave up.”

Hahn says Valley View Casino Center made its own signs to post along Sports Arena Boulevard and on the center’s property to alert concert attendees that if they park across the street they may get towed.

Hahn says he is particularly miffed that Western Towing has rows of tow trucks parked behind the retail strip (on Midway and other streets) that pounce on concertgoers’ cars as soon as the show starts.

Susan Bylund, who works for the Douglas Allred property management company and oversees that particular property, did not respond by press time to a request for comment.

Sgt. Todd Sluss, who oversees towing activities for the SDPD, says his department spells out that city-ordered towing is $260 and that companies like Western Towing, which has the contract for private towing in that lot, charges $300 per tow. He says that rate is the “reasonable rate” spelled out by the vehicle code.

Sluss says as long as there is signage warning of the tows on those lots, those tows are legal.

Tim Beaty, a manager for Western Towing, said he would only respond to questions about his $300 tows in writing, which would then be reviewed and answered by his legal department. Mr. Beaty did state, however, that his company is “providing a service in compliance with the California Vehicle Code.”

I asked Sgt. Sluss about one proposed way to foil the Western Towing gravy train: what if you could prove you had been a customer of one those businesses?

“Definitely. I know that Western Towing, who is the largest, goes to court all the time over this. If you can show up in court and say, ‘Here’s my receipt,’ I think you would win.”

Ernie Hahn maintains that there are plenty of options for adjacent free parking if people look hard enough.

“I would like to see Turko to do an exposé on how fast these tow-truck drivers speed out of there,” said one of Sunday night’s disgruntled attendees. “They creep in the back way of that shopping center and then break the law by speeding to and from their yard so they can get as many tows in as they can. For them it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It would be nice for SDPD to round up these guys and ticket them.”

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