OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Oakland residents told KRON4 that they’re feeling fed up and frustrated by countless cars left abandoned along their neighborhoods’ streets.

Why are so many cars parked in the same spot, unmoved, for months at a time?

“We have an abandoned car on every single block in the Oakland flats. Whose cars are these? More than 50 percent are stolen. It’s insane,” one resident told KRON4.

The resident, who requested to remain anonymous, used a unique strategy to get rid of a stolen Mercedes SUV that was left abandoned outside of his house for seven months.

The Mercedes had a broken widow and was being slapped with tickets every other week.

He wrapped the Mercedes with brown paper and hand-written messages to city leaders. “Inept City of Oakland won’t tow me!” one message wrote.

No tow
A stolen Mercedes was abandoned on a residential street for seven months before it was towed.
A stolen Mercedes was abandoned on a residential street for seven months before it was towed.

The unconventional strategy worked, and a tow truck finally hauled the Mercedes away this week.

“To get a car towed, you have to have an Oakland Police Department officer. OPD doesn’t have enough officers to do this stuff, so it never gets done,” he said.

The problem is especially pronounced on streets stretching alongside highways. Wood Street was described as a “cesspool” with hundreds of vehicles under I-880.

Wood Street in Oakland (Google Maps Street View)

Oakland is currently backlogged with abandoned vehicle reports, City Council member Dan Kalb told KRON4.

Kalb said the city is making changes to address the problem. Starting July 1, the city will shift abandoned vehicle abatement duties away from the Oakland Police Department Vehicle Enforcement Unit to the city’s Department of Transportation (OakDOT).

“We are understaffed at OPD. If they have to choose between going to an armed robbery, or an abandoned vehicles, what are they going to do? Through OakDOT, we are hoping they can manage this better and get to a vehicle within three weeks instead of three months,” Kalb said.

Kalb acknowledged that the number of cars parked for extended periods of time in Oakland is increasing, partially because more homeless people are having to live in their cars.

“There are some vehicles that are truly abandoned. And then there are other vehicles that look abandoned, but are not, because a homeless person is living in that vehicle. We are not removing vehicles if a person is living in them and they are parked in normal, legal parking spaces,” Kalb said.

Much like the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, people in Oakland are struggling to afford housing, and some resort to living in the only space they have to call home.

Oakland’s policy states that a person experiencing homelessness can live in their parked car for an indefinite period of time.

“We don’t push them along unless we have a place for them to go,” Kalb said.

Kalb encourages residents concerned about cars to report abandoned vehicles by calling 311, or by filing a report online through the city’s website.