More Than 28,000 Cars Will Be Abandoned in this California City, New Study Predicts  

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Apr 17, 2024

The California city of Oakland has attempted to limit the amount of abandoned cars off the city streets. However, the new civilian team is overwhelmed, and the Oakland Department of Transportation states the problem is worsening.

A new report from the former OakDOT Director Fred Keley and Parking and Mobility Manager Michael Ford unveiled shows why the problem is getting worse in Oakland.

The Bays Growing Car Problem

Recent images of carjackings in Oakland and San Francisco have taken over social media, revealing the increasing problem that has plagued the Bay cities for the last several years.

Vehicles on Suspension Bridge

Source: Snapwire/Pexels

The San Francisco Chronicle has started to track the reported car break-ins on their website to show the increasing level of threat citizens of San Francisco and Oakland face. Manager Michael Ford unveiled a presentation that shows why the problem is getting worse in Oakland.


The Car Problem Effects Daily Lives

In Oakland, clusters of abandoned vehicles have become a literal roadblock for the city’s residents. Many stolen cars clog the streets and obstruct access to homes, businesses, and schools.

Van Wreckage and Mosque behind Fence

Source: Ludvig Hedenborg/Pexels

Daily lives are being affected by the city’s escalating battle with auto crime. Unfortunately, the problem seems to only be getting worse.

The Abandoned Car Problem is “Staggering”

Within 6 months in 2023, Oakland received more than 11,000 private requests to pick up and move abandoned cars and trucks.

An abandoned car sits on a city street

Source: Valentyna Gupalo/Canva

Ford, the parking and mobility manager at Oakland’s Department of Transportation, said that the increase in abandoned cars is “staggering.”

Oakland Can’t Afford to Tow the Cars

Over 14,000 vehicles sit abandoned on the side of the Oakland streets.The lack of city resources means that no one is available to tow these vehicles despite the availability of roads.

Oakland, CA at night from a skyscraper

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The city has so many abandoned cars that it pays nearly $1 million annually in storage costs, with one lot holding up to 2,000 vehicles.

A State of Emergency

Councilmember Noel Gallo declared an emergency in the city of Oakland during last week’s Public Works and Transportation Committee meeting, which received the report.

Vintage Station Wagon Parked Near Line Post

Source: Aleksandr Neplokhov/Pexels

The financial burden is increasingly pressuring Oakland, a city already burdened by a lack of educational and economic opportunities.


The Current Problem

The city’s current calculations estimate that approximately 7,000 abandoned vehicles litter the streets at present.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at night

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ford has requested additional resources from the Oakland City Council to double his team’s capacity for picking up these cars and relocating them from the central hub of the city.


Police Were In Charge of Moving Abandoned Cars

The OPD was last responsible for clearing abandoned cars off of Oakland’s streets two years ago, when the situation was far worse than it is today. However, the OPD assigned three police staff to respond to the thousands of requests.

A police officer stands idly against his squad card

Source: Freepik

According to the OakDOT team’s report, police officers towed about half the number of vehicles in 2022 compared to what the team did in 2023.


What Is OakDOT?

Last February, OakDOT established the Vehicle Enforcement Unit with one manager, an administrator, and 13 on-the-ground technicians.

Abandoned Car by Ruins of Factory

Source: Dmytro Kormylets/Pexels

Compared to the city’s staff, this team, which has picked up and moved vehicles that Oakland’s three police staff, is no larger than the trash services.


The Broken “See Click Fix” System

The number of requests for abandoned vehicle removals is so large that it has passed the request for illegal dumping in the city’s Oak311 “see click fix” system.

An abandoned white car sitting in front of a brick building

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This system, which applies to various issues in the city, allows citizens to report incidents to OakDOT through their website portal.


Oakland’s Teams Work Together

The OPD, in collaboration with the city’s towing contractors, Auto Plus Towing, and OakDOT’s vehicle enforcement unit, continues to tow cars in Oakland, removing vehicles after crashes and other crimes, including stolen cars.

An Abandoned car sitting under a decrepit building

Source: Library of Congress/Flickr

Last week, Ford informed the City Council’s Public Works and Transportation Committee that OakDOT towed nearly 60 percent of vehicles in the first nine months of operations, which were either stolen or inoperable.


OakDOT Needs to Expand

OakDOT reported 13,856 service requests for abandoned vehicles and 10,983 for illegal dumping between June and November of last year. These requests accounted for about 70 percent of the 36,000 total service requests submitted to Oak311 during that time.

A lot of abandoned trucks sitting in a lot in a city

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Keley and Ford are hoping to increase their wages to hopefully hire more employees to move the massive number of abandoned auto requests sent to them each year.