SF torchbearer gets car towed during run

April 16, 2008 9:28:37 AM PDT
It's been almost one week since San Francisco's Olympic torch run led runners on a surprise course through the city. That last minute route change left one torch runner with a hefty bill. His plight has a familiar ring for anyone who's tried to park in San Francisco.

If you park in the wrong place and at the wrong time in San Francisco, life can be hard. Say goodbye to your options, or maybe your car. Then, plead your case in a place with no accommodation for sympathy.

"It's terrible. Unbelievable," says a chuckling Vladimir Prikupetz.

Vladimir Prikupetz is a Russian immigrant, and perhaps the most prolific Olympic torchbearer in history. He'd done it three times and then, this year, spent long hours outside the Mayor's office lobbying for a fourth in San Francisco.

"It was impossible to not remember Vladimir. He was probably the most active in seeking the opportunity to run the torch of any of the torchbearers," says Mayor Gavin Newsom.

He is also persuasive. Last week, just before the run, and just after finding a legal parking spot on O'Farrell Street, Vladimir figured he had it made. He had a disabled parking placard on his car and the signs said no towing until 4:00 p.m.. He had plenty of time to get back. Right?

The good news? Vladimir got his torch run. The bad? Instead of returning at 2:30 p.m. as planned, city officials diverted his bus to the airport for closing ceremonies.

"[It was] like jail for a few hours," says Vladimir.

End result? One towed car and a bill for $280 dollars.

He made one desperate trip to the impound yard, with a torch for evidence, hoping for mercy.

"And they told me they don't care. Mayor maybe cares," says Vladimir.

After all, Vladimir says, it was Mayor Newsom who diverted and delayed the bus.

So, we talked to the mayor. Officially, Newsom told us that he has no power to fix tickets. Unofficially, Newsom hinted that he might take personal responsibility, and write a check.

"We've spent a lot of time with Vladimir. He's had a lot more attention than anyone else. Why not continue that call?" said Newsom.

His Olympic dream is fulfilled, but the resolution is still pending.

"It's money. Only money..." says Vladimir.


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