Yee seeks to clear the streets 

Illegal used car businesses in San Francisco and the Peninsula are monopolizing parking spaces on state thoroughfares because local police and traffic officers have little, if no, jurisdiction.

However, the operators of such businesses — who do not pay taxes and do not have business licenses — may hit a dead end with their parking schemes if a bill by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, is passed.

Dozens of used cars for sale are parked for days along 19th Avenue and El Camino Real — the two main state thoroughfares in San Francisco and San Mateo.

Illegal car dealers take advantage of those two thoroughfares because they are state roads, and local police officers do not have the jurisdiction to tow cars. The California Highway Patrol is responsible for those roads but is too busy policing freeways to crack down on illegal car lots, said Adam Keigwin, Yee’s spokesman.

While city officials are limited to ticketing such cars, Yee’s bill would allow them to go ahead and tow them away sothat the general public could get the parking spaces back.

"Sen. Yee was on the San Francsico Board of Supervisors and he lived close to 19th Avenue, so he knows about this problem first-hand," he said.

In Millbrae, where it’s a particular problem, city officials have tried to combat it by painting the curbs red, but then the operations moved elsewhere. While it’s unclear who runs these businesses, parking tickets and citations go unpaid, City Attorney Joan Cassman said.

"They run their business using a cell phone," Cassman said.

Millbrae police Cmdr. Marc Farber said tracking license plates and coordinating elaborate investigations require too many resources.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s an illegal business or just one person," he said. "We don’t want people selling cars on public roadways."

On top of it being an eyesore, Farber said potential car buyers obliviously wander onto the street while inspecting them, causing drivers to swerve. Parked cars also draw vandalism and crime.

"When people leave cars for weeks at a time, people know no one’s really watching them and they’ll either steal them, strip them or vandalize them," he said. "And what happens is that people who legally park their cars there to shop at stores nearby — their cars are vandalized, too."

Staff writer Tara Ramroop contributed to this report.

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