Hundreds Of Cars Are Abandoned In Oakland And The City Doesn't Have A Solution

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A Volkswagen abandoned in Greece
A Volkswagen abandoned in Greece
Photo: Moxmarco / Wikimedia Commons (Other)

The lifecycles of some cars unfortunately end with them abandoned. Some of these vehicles are in a state of disrepair, stolen or are on the receiving end of a crime. For the city of Oakland, California, abandoned vehicles are a growing problem and the city has no real fix.

The situation described in the SFGate report is grim. Only feet below the cars rumbling down the Nimitz Freeway are up to thousands of abandoned vehicles from cars to transit buses and boats:

They’re gutted and stripped, covered in graffiti, burned to pieces and exploding with trash. Oakland’s swaths of abandoned vehicles are an unsightly urban phenomenon, and just parallel to Wood Street, which is home to sprawling tent encampments, there’s an astonishing amount of them.

Just ahead, two people can be seen stripping a rusty truck that’s been reduced to a frame on wheels. The area, which feels like something out of a post-apocalyptic John Carpenter film, is cluttered with AC Transit buses, bombed-out BMWs and overturned Audis. But how did they get here? And more importantly, why is the city allowing them to accumulate?

According to the community, these cars aren’t just concentrated near encampments. Oftentimes, they pile up in West Oakland and the “flatlands” of East Oakland, clogging up streets and sitting for months at a time.


While the city agrees that the abandoned vehicles are a problem for Oakland’s image and environment, it still allows vehicles to pile up, specifically in black and brown communities.

The city is trying to clear the streets of abandoned cars, including a sweep of hundreds of cars back in 2018, but it isn’t keeping up:

In the past year alone, there have been nearly 1,000 reports of abandoned cars on OAK 311, the city’s maintenance request service. In response, the city council allotted $150,000 to Oakland’s Abandoned Auto Detail to tow inoperable vehicles.

While the city has been cracking down on them since 2020, the cars continue to pile up. Lt. Sean Fleming and Sgt. Gregory Bellusa of the city’s Traffic Operations Section say that in the past year and a half, eight major vehicle enforcement operations have taken place to clear the Wood Street train yard alone. “The Oakland Police Department, the California Department of Transportation and California Highway Patrol have collaborated and removed hundreds of stolen, stripped and abandoned autos. However, vehicles continue to be dumped at the location,” they say.

Ultimately, these mangled cars can’t be attributed to just one problem. They’re often abandoned, in a state of disrepair, or left on the streets after a hit-and-run collision. Oakland’s unsheltered citizens also use them as homes. Despite Oakland’s response efforts, locals are still frustrated, and say that by the time abandoned vehicles get towed, they’re already stripped down to their frame. “It can take at least three months for them to tag and tow abandoned cars,” says Grant Chen, a Hoover-Foster resident.


Residents feel that wealthier Oakland districts are treated differently than others. The allocations of city resources aren’t being distributed evenly, making the problem even worse for black and brown people.

Residents and even police are taking matters into their own hands. SFGate spoke with Keisha Henderson, a public safety advocate and generational District 6 resident, who said that she and other community members cleaned up the waste in their neighborhood. After the cleanup of mechanical waste, wildlife like birds, squirrels and insects returned to the neighborhood.


Still, Henderson feels that neighborhoods shouldn’t have to do this. After all, that’s what their tax dollars are supposed to do.

This is just a snippet of the excellent SFGate report. Read the rest here!