San Diego cracks down on abandoned cars, reducing response time from weeks to days

San Diego is planning an offensive against abandoned vehicles that will reduce the time it normally takes to remove them from about seven weeks to just six days.

Abandoned vehicles – that is, cars and trucks that remain in the same parking spot on the street for more than 72 hours – are the first complaint the city receives through phone calls and the Get it Done app.

The volume of complaints, averaging more than 4,500 per month, causes residents to wait between 45 and 60 days for a municipal response. The city’s goal is to respond within three days and tow the car three days later.

The campaign, slated to begin this summer, is part of Mayor Todd Gloria’s growing attention to quality-of-life issues that have frustrated residents for many years.

It also hopes to more quickly address pothole repair, lack of trash pick-up, streetlight repair, traffic sign repair, sidewalk problems, weed removal and tree maintenance, they said. The authorities.

Abandoned cars are a big problem in San Diego’s more residential and suburban neighborhoods, as the lack of parking meters and no-parking zones means that parking law enforcement is virtually nil.

Many residents are frustrated when a car or truck that they do not own is parked in front of their home for days without being moved.

David Moty, a longtime neighborhood leader in Kensington and Talmadge, said Friday that abandoned cars often leave residents very frustrated.

«Sometimes a car is there for two weeks and they finally realize that it is not going to go away,» he said.

Council Member Chris Cate said complaints about abandoned cars have consistently been one of the issues his staff has dealt with the most since he was elected in 2014.

The city’s plan calls for doubling the number of employees dedicated to the problem – from six to 12 – and purchasing half a dozen new enforcement vehicles for Police Department code enforcement officers.

City officials acknowledge that doubling staff might not be enough to immediately solve such a big problem.

“Since we started with such slow response times, it remains to be seen how much progress five additional code enforcement officers will bring us,” said Kirby Brady, the city’s chief innovation officer.

Brady said it would be fair to call the goal of reducing responses to six days for abandoned car reports «aspirational.»

«We have set very ambitious service levels, knowing it can take a few years to achieve,» he said. “I think it is the best way to do it. We say that this is the standard it should be, and that we are going to find out what it is going to cost to reach it. «

Brady said city staff can also discover new approaches that help shorten response times without adding more staff.

For example, last year an option was added to Get it Done! to allow people to cancel an abandoned car report when the car is retired, helping code officers avoid hundreds of unnecessary trips.

Cate praised Gloria for prioritizing quality-of-life issues and taking a data-driven approach. But he noted that San Diego often struggles to hire enough people to fill the new jobs the city creates.

«It’s not as easy as saying we’re going to put a lot of money into the problem,» Cate said, stressing that there is a big difference between funding a position and actually filling it.

The city’s independent budget analyst has raised similar concerns about Gloria’s plans to quickly address quality-of-life issues, which are included in a budget document released in November called the Five-Year Outlook.

«The outlook sees the creation of hundreds of new positions in departments that already have high levels of vacancies,» wrote the independent budget analyst. «If the reasons behind the high vacancy rates are not addressed, simply adding positions may not significantly increase service levels.»

The city’s plan will cost $ 720,000 the first year and $ 480,000 in subsequent years. Costs will be higher the first year because the city must purchase five new vehicles for code enforcement.

Some of these costs could be offset by increased collection of fines. The fine for an abandoned car is $ 53.50, plus towing costs.

Brady said his staff at the city’s Department of Performance and Analytics is focused on improving the lives of city residents.

“We know that parking is an important and scarce shared resource, so we really wanted to make sure we were improving it as much as we could,” he said. “This mayor has very high expectations and wants to provide basic services in the way that residents demand. We just try to do better: air our own dirty laundry and say how long it takes to get things done. «

In addition to reporting abandoned vehicles at Get it Done !, the city accepts complaints at (619) 531-2000 or (858) 495-7856.