This is infuriating to me. A very similar situation happened to me, but it went a few steps further since I tried to assert my rights as a victim and fight the cost. Well, low and behold that just ended up costing me more. Here's my story published in the Examiner a couple months back: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/05/tow-truck-flap-driving-sf-man-crazy
The city and officials are aware of this problem but they don't care. I thought the matter had Scott Wiener's attention but he had higher priorities and brushed it off until I stopped bugging him. When I last contacted him to ask on the progress on getting things changed he stated "There hasn't been [any progress]. I'll follow up, but SFPD doesn't seem inclined to change the policies."
That was July 17th and any changes to the process of auto theft victims seems to be dead in the water.
The city towing contract with Auto Return and the policy on retrieving stolen cars preys on people of modest income. If you can't afford to get your car out of hock (almost $500 for after one day) they'll just sell it off at auction.
Something needs to be done. I don't know if we need to get a class action lawsuit going or what but something really needs to be done.