HUMBOLDT PARK — They came by car, by taxi and some by foot.
Drivers who had cars towed on the first night of the city's annual Winter Overnight Parking Ban arrived at City Auto Pound #6 at 701 N. Sacramento Ave., angry, frustrated and tired early Sunday morning to retrieve their cars.
Aurora Ramierez and her husband traveled to the pound by taxi with their two young children, ages 2 and 7 in tow, both still dressed in their pajamas underneath winter coats.
"It was at 6:10 in the morning, we heard four knocks on the door but by the time we went outside the car was gone," said Ramierez who lives on West Division Street. "The sign says if there's 2 inches of snow...they could be more specific."
It was an expensive mistake for towed drivers who were hit with a $150 tow fee, $20 per day in storage fees and a $60 parking ticket.
Crysthal Melendez was livid at being towed when she showed up at the auto pound.
"They towed it as soon as the time hit - they were waiting," said an upset Melendez. "I'm a student. I have two jobs. I don't have money for this. It's going to set me back a lot of money. My electric bill, my gas bill."
While most drivers were upset by the experience, Mike Fritzler was somewhat resigned to his plight.
"I was asleep and my roommate woke me up saying 'Dude, they're towing your car,'" smiled Fritzler. "They [the tow truck drivers] were hustling, running to tow people. You should have seen those guys."
But Fritzler had to contend with more problems than just picking up his towed vehicle. It turns out his license plate sticker expired at midnight Saturday and he couldn't remove his vehicle without renewing his plates. But when he went to a Currency Exchange to renew, they told him he needed to get his vehicle emission tested before the license could be renewed.
"My plates expired last night, and now I need to get it towed out," sighed Fritzler sitting in his friend Brett Kreznor's car. "You have to make the best of the situation."
Kreznor's car almost got towed at the same time as Fritzler's, but he was lucky enough to get down the stairs of his apartment while the tow truck driver was still hooking up his car. Kreznor says he sweet talked the driver into not towing it.
"His boss told him to let it down," chuckled a relieved Kreznor.
According to Department of Streets and Sanitation spokesperson Molly Poppe the city towed a total of 239 cars early Sunday morning, substantially less than the 301 towed last Dec. 1.
"We towed fewer cars than last year," said Poppe. "People are paying attenton. It's a good sign. People are understanding the ban is important to the city. "
Poppe says the city needs to keep what it considers critial arterial streets free of vehicles just in case a snowstorm hits overnight so plows can easily remove the snow, which would not happen if the cars were still parked.
The Winter Overnight Parking Ban covers 107 miles of streets and runs from December 1 to April 1, every night between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. whether there's snow on the ground or not.