CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Parking is a hot commodity in the Holy City, with more than 86,000 people living and working in downtown Charleston each day.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Live 5 News requested tow records from the City of Charleston from Jan. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.
Among the 11,515 total tows, 4,347 cars were towed for illegal parking and private parking violations.
According to city data, the top stops where the most cars have been towed for illegal parking and private parking violations include:
- 200 block Calhoun St. – 210 drivers have been towed in this area of Calhoun St. for illegal parking, according to city data. Signs in the 200 block warn drivers of Monday thru Friday rush hour tow-away zones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on one side of Calhoun St. to 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the alternate side of the street.
- 328 Meeting St. – Citadel Square Baptist Church’s parking lot borders Calhoun St. and Meeting St. City data reports 169 tows from 328 Meeting St. over the 18 month period examined. According to the church’s pastor, Citadel Square Baptist has a tenant-only parking lot on Henrietta St. The church’s pastor is following up with their private towing contractor regarding city reported numbers.
- 7 Cherry St. – The Burger King on Cherry St. accounted for 167 tows. The restaurant has multiple signs in its parking lots indicating “customer only” parking. We reached out to Burger King for a response, but they were unable to comment on these numbers or reasons behind the frequency of tows.
- 300 block Meeting St. – 112 records show drivers being towed from this area of city metered spots, which prohibits parking from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for rush hour.
- 370 King St. – City data showed 143 cars tallied from this lot, which is located behind Walgreens pharmacy, Carolina Ale House and King Street Cookies, along King and Calhoun streets.
The owners of 370 King St. lot sent us the following comment through an email conversation with Live 5 News:
Thank you for the email below. Thank you for allowing the owners a chance to have a voice. Please see below the owner's response to your questions regarding the towing at King and Burns Parking lot. The response must be presented in its entirety or it may not be used. Live 5 News and any of its employees, staff, affiliates, associates, contractors, agents, representative, or personnel may NOT edit, amend, alter, nor modify the response below in any way and can only be applied to the questions addressed in this email.
Thanks for chatting with me earlier. Per our conversation, we're analyzing city of Charleston tow records and have 370 King Street lot listed as one of our top 5 spots where cars are towed. I'm aware of the signs in place warning drivers and see that it's also a 24/7 metered lot; however, I wanted to reach out to the owners for comment to see if there's an outstanding reason why the majority of vehicles are towed (approx. 140 in the last 18 months according to provided data). Might the owners provide comment? In response to your statement – "if there's an outstanding reason why the majority of vehicles are towed (approx. 140 in the last 18 months according to provided data)" A majority of the vehicles that park in the lot are not towed. We have on average 330 cars a day that park in our lot therefore 140 in the last 18 months is less than a one/ tenth of a percent (.07) of the traffic we see in this lot. Additionally, We are a privately owned and managed lot. We have signage that states parking is available for a fee which can be paid in time increments starting with the first 30 mins then each additional 15 mins. We ONLY tow those who are non-compliant with our terms meaning there is no ticket visible in the dash of the car or the time is expired. Our lot is located in a very high demand/traffic area in downtown Charleston and we wish to provide adequate parking to all those in need therefore we must enforce our rules to afford everyone with the same opportunities.
In addition, I've spoken with one couple whose car was towed this past Aug. from 370 King St. According to the couple, at that time, the signs did not instruct drivers to put their receipts on the dashboard. I understand that since last August, instruction signs have been updated to tell drivers to put their receipts face up on the dashboard. Can you please confirm that timeline and whether new signs were added to clarify? There was a couple towed in August who did not display their ticket however there was signage on the machine that instructed pay and display. At no time did the lot go without signage or instructions to patrons to display their ticket in the dash of the car. However ownership has add additional signage to the property and ordered tickets that also state "pay and display". Additionally, those patrons were refunded their money for the tow as an act of kindness and good faith by the ownership. The owners of the property are always working to make parking in the lot easy and convenient for locals and tourists alike.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any additional questions or concerns. Have a great day!
The below spots also made our list of "Top 20 Towing Hot Spots"
- 411 Meeting St.
- 40 Bee St.
- 400 Meeting St.
- 155 Meeting St.
- 930 Morrison Dr.
- 21 George St.
- 1 Warren St.
- 144 Bee St.
- 9 Amy Elsey Dr.
- 74 Folly Rd. Blvd.
- 76 Society St.
- 50 George St.
- 301 King St.
- 16 Cannon St.
- 2020 Proximity Dr.
Drivers also have rights when it comes to being towed from private property.
According to the City of Charleston Municipal Code:
- It shall be unlawful to charge for the removal of any motor vehicle from commercial property without authorization from the owner of the motor vehicle or of the city, except under the following circumstances.
- The property owner has posted the property with signs. Each sign face shall be at least six (6) square feet.
- The posted signs were in place, clearly visible and legible to any driver approaching any point of ingress to the property where parking is prohibited or restricted at the time the vehicle was parked; and the posted signs contain a clear warning that violators' vehicles will be towed, at the vehicle owner's expense, the telephone number to call and the address where release of the towed vehicle may be obtained.
- Any towing carrier performing a nonconsensual tow, shall within thirty (30) minutes of the removal, telephone the police department to verbally report the tow by providing the applicable information on the tow record/invoice form described in section 19-397 above.
- Every vehicle storage facility doing business within the corporate limits of the city shall accept major credit cards in addition to cash. There shall be no additional fee charged for the use of credit cards.
- The city's most recent franchise towing fee for towing on city streets of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than ten thousand (10,000) pounds is $100 downtown and on Daniel Island and $50 in West Ashley, James and Johns Islands.
- The maximum rate that may be charged for a nonconsensual private tow of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than ten thousand (10,000) pounds shall be no more than one hundred fifty (150) per cent of the city’s most recent franchise towing fee for towing on city streets, which shall include charges for all services rendered including, but not limited to, hookup fees, gate fees, and all other services rendered in performing such private property tow, except as stated elsewhere in this section.