City offers limited response in parking controversy
COMPTON— Compton City Attorney Craig Cornwell offered angry residents limited relief from the tow truck controversy at local fast food restaurants during the Dec. 20 City Council meeting.
The protests began over a month ago by the Save Compton Group, representing a coalition of citizens protesting the towing of cars from McDonald’s and Popeye’s Chicken on Compton Boulevard, with the hope that management changes its policy.
“Cars are towed from Popeye’s, although they made the mistake of taking an attorney’s car the other day,” said Save Compton organizer Benjamin Holifield. “He said he took names from people at the restaurant who had similar experiences.”
Holifield said the situation at McDonald’s improved significantly in the last month, but the same company, Alpha Omega Towing of South Gate, is taking cars from Popeye’s.
“In order to deal with this situation there is a legal document called pre-emption, meaning federal law pre-empts state law and state law pre-empts local law,” Cornwell said. “State law defines private property tow, and one of the guidelines is that towing can only occur within a 10-mile radius. That means local law cannot make a rule requiring the company to be based in the city’s jurisdiction.”
Popeye’s is located in Civic Center Plaza, but that does not include parking for the Compton Courthouse.
“ There are signs saying that parking is for people using those businesses in the plaza,” Cornwell said. “I implore the community not to use that parking lot unless you are shopping there.”
The city can make sure that the company has a license to operate in the city, insurance and other state law requirements.
“I will provide the Council with an update on this matter,” Cornwell said.
The company uses a spotter at the location to identify cars in Popeye’s lot. Once someone parks, he calls a nearby truck to tow the car. Many residents complain their car got towed even when they patronized Popeye’s.
“ This is a serious issue, and it does not just imply businesses that are under contract with the company,” Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux said. “They park in lots with restrictive parking signs, wait for someone to go over the limit, and tow the car without being licensed with the business. This would not be allowed in Southgate. We need a thorough investigation.”
The Compton Bulletin spoke to an employee at Alpha Omega Towing who did not wish to comment because he said he would be fired. The owners of the company did not reply to The Bulletin’s request for comment.
Popeye’s management did not return a call seeking comment before press time.
For more information about the Save Compton Group, contact Benjamin Holifield at 310-920-7986.