El Camino Real no longer used-car lot 

Local businesses, police and lawmakers have apparently thwarted a slew of illegal used-car sales activity that authorities said had plaguedEl Camino Real.

Prior to this year, Millbrae had been flooded with calls from angry businesses and motorists furious that the used-car sales activity was taking precious parking spots, potential buyers were walking into the road and sellers were slowing down traffic, said police Sgt. John Aronis. The sellers used El Camino Real as a "craigslist" of the used car sales world because its heavy traffic provided free and easy advertising, he said.

But after Jan. 1 of this year, when a state law went into effect that allows local law enforcement to tow cars parked with "for sale" signs on state highways such as El Camino Real, Millbrae has not had to tow a single used car parked for sale on El Camino Real, police said.

"I have gotten zero complaints since it went into effect," said Millbrae Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Ford.

The city had solicited the aid of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo-San Francisco, to pass the bill illegalizing used car sales activity on state highways. In addition to Millbrae, all of California’s local law enforcement can enforce the law on state highways withincity borders. Previously, only the CHP and Caltrans could police the infractions on state highways.

Art Schwass, general manager of Best Western El Rancho Inn & Suites on El Camino, said the used-car sellers would fill open spaces with new vehicles as soon as one sold. If his employees tried parking in the open spots, they would find their car windows broken or vandalized, he said.

"We had basically car after car from bumper to bumper with ‘for sale’ signs on it," Schwass said. "Since the first [of the year] it looks like the old hotel again."

Palo Alto, another big backer of the law, has towed 49 cars during the first four months of the year.

In Palo Alto, the prevalence of used car sales along El Camino Real in front of Stanford University was also causing safety concerns because potential buyers were walking around the cars to scope them out along the busy street, said Palo Alto traffic Sgt. Steve Herrera.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

State highway used-car sales law

0: Millbrae tows of used cars for sale on El Camino Real since start of year

49: Palo Alto tows of used cars for sale on El Camino Real through April

Applicable roads: El Camino Real, 19th Avenue in San Francisco

Jan. 1: Date law went into effect

Sources: Millbrae police, Palo Alto police, Leland Yee’s office

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Mike Rosenberg

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