One of the biggest complaints from Oakland residents about the road is the prevalence of abandoned cars. Anywhere in the city, from freeway exits to main streets and residential roads, almost anyone can identify a car that they know has crashed in place.
Laurel District resident Marcella Cortez told The Oaklandside through our Road Condition Survey that abandoned cars contribute to poor street and sidewalk conditions. North Oakland resident Danielle Blumen said she had to call 311 a few years ago to retrieve an old Honda sedan outside her small apartment complex after it had been sitting for more than six months. He had occupied a prime parking spot, and she feared more cars would pour into it.
“It worried me. The mentality of ‘Oh, this is a good place to leave an abandoned car, so I can do that too,'” she said. abandoned cars are a turning point for the general plague. Since it’s technically a trash can, other stuff can start piling up.
Just a month ago, several stolen cars, stripped of parts, were dumped in the middle of Alameda Avenue near 24 Hour Fitness and the I-880 off-ramp. The useless carcasses of metal and plastic sat there for days, causing traffic jams. Local businesses have repeatedly called for their removal.
For decades, the search and towing of abandoned cars has been the responsibility of the Oakland Police Department, but the job is now shifting to the Department of Transportation, or OakDOT.
Oakland’s Director of Interdepartmental Operations Joe DeVries confirmed to The Oaklandside that OakDOT will take over the relinquished automotive responsibilities within the next six months.
“The aim is to onboard the staff over the summer and have them partner with the OPD staff currently doing the work, to get the best training from those with the most experience in work,” DeVries said.
The Oakland Department of Transportation is reorganizing by splitting its parking division into five units: Parking Enforcement, Parking Citation Assistance Center, Meter Collection, Parking Reduction, and Mobility Management. The changes were first described in the Fiscal Year 2021-23 Budget.
“If you ask residents or neighborhood service coordinators what the main concern is, they will tell you that violent crime [such as homicides]. And then they’ll say the second biggest is abandoned cars,” OakDOT parking manager Michael Ford told the city’s Cyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Board last month.
Ford said OakDOT is working to ensure its mobility unit has enough staff to handle the massive number of abandoned car notices that come in each month. Currently, only three police officers are responsible for responding to more than 1,300 requests for abandoned cars per month. OakDOT did not say how many staff it will use when it takes over law enforcement.
- Currently, anyone can submit an application to the city through its OAK 311 app or through SeeClickFix when they see an abandoned car, they think it should be removed.
- The city can put a warning sticker on the car’s windshield to let the owner know they’ll be back in 72 hours and check to see if the car has passed an odometer or tire marker check.
- Then, city staff will investigate and may remove the car if it has an expired registration, has five or more unpaid parking tickets, or is missing obvious parts.
Similar to how OakDOT handles pothole submissions by residents through 311, OakDOT expects its staff to decide when and where crews will be deployed to recover abandoned cars.
The decision to have OakDOT take over the abandoned automatic control of OPD was prompted by the Task Force on Reinventing Public Safetywhich recommended civilizing things that don’t require badges or guns, and the work of another joint abandoned car task force that has been meeting weekly since August 2021.
The latter group, which includes the OPD and the Department of Economic Development and Workforce, described in an October memo a pilot program aimed at civilizing the recovery of abandoned vehicles. Under the program, OakDOT technicians will receive a list of abandoned cars and check them first to make sure they are still in the same location and need to be recovered. This allows OPD law enforcement and tow trucks to avoid wasting time because, according to the city, 52% of the time when personnel are dispatched to an abandoned car location, “the vehicle is already left “. DeVries told The Oaklandside it reduced the time it takes to remove an abandoned car from the pilot area by about 60 percent.
Getting the abandoned car situation under control can take some time
Currently, the city has more than 5,000 open requests for abandoned cars, although some are duplicates sent by multiple residents.
Jules Simone, who lives on Piedmont Avenue, called an abandoned car near her home four years ago and the city picked it up in less than ten days. More recently, however, she said city staff told her there was a 200-day backlog of work on abandoned cars.
In an attempt to address this workflow issue, OakDOT’s Ford announced at a recent Bike and Pedestrian Committee meeting that the department is working to create a “one-stop shop” for all related issues. parking and mobility at 270 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. . Currently, it is the location of the city’s parking meter collection unit and parking citation assistance center. Going forward, any resident will be able to speak to an OakDOT staff member in person about their issue, including paying parking tickets, or registering a request to remove a car from their street.
Ford also said the city is ready to increase parking fines. In May, OakDOT will present a report to City Council on how Oakland’s citations match those of similar cities. Ford said a common problem is cars blocking bike lanes. The current penalty for this is $48 for each violation, compared to $162 in San Francisco.
“We will definitely ask the council to increase the fine for breaching cycle lanes,” he said. Parking violations are currently the same in both cities, at $110.
Will OakDOT make the discount of abandoned cars fairer?
Homeless people in Oakland have complained for years that their cars, often the places where they sleep, were wrongly towed after hosted residents and businesses asked the OPD to remove them. Plains residents in both East and West Oakland also suspect the city is prioritizing car moves in the city’s wealthier and less diverse neighborhoods.
Ford told the Cyclists and Pedestrians Advisory Board at a recent meeting that, based on the data he’s seen, the opposite is true: the city responds more quickly to abandoned cars on the plains. The reason, according to Ford, is that abandoned car complaints from East and West Oakland are 30% more likely to refer to an actual abandoned car needing removal compared to complaints from North Oakland. As a result, the city knows to get cars out of east and west Oakland first, he said.
“[In] North Oakland, people are probably complaining about their neighbor, who hasn’t moved his car in a week. This is an example where I think it’s really important for us to look at our data, see the story it tells, and ask how our resources are distributed.
In an October report on abandoned cars, City Administrator Ed Reiskin pointed to neighborhood disparity.
“Owners feel they have a right to park in front of their house and therefore become increasingly frustrated when someone else’s car sits there for long periods of time,” he wrote. While current California law prohibits storing a car for more than 72 hours, Reisken noted that it also does not give owners the right to park in front of their home or prohibit others from doing so.
Some Oakland residents have also pointed out that improving parking enforcement isn’t fair if city employees frequently violate parking laws themselves. Police and fire vehicles, and even parking technicians who issue tickets, have been spotted parked in “compromising or dangerous situations,” including in bike lanes.
“Let’s make sure our parking enforcement technicians park safely. that they don’t block the sidewalk,” Ford said at a recent Bike and Pedestrian Committee meeting. “I admit that I have not made as much progress as I would like on this point.”
For many Oakland residents, they just want to have a system that works better for everyone.
Blumen said in an interview that she didn’t want to be a jerk to have someone’s car towed if it wasn’t clear she had to leave.
“I think it’s nice to have neighbors and a good community asking around and saying, ‘Hey, is that your car? He’s been here a long time.