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Posted on: July 26, 2019

Parks and Wreck: Addressing abandoned and illegally stored vehicles

We get a lot of calls at the Department of Transportation about cars that have been parked on the street for too long, sometimes in obvious disrepair. In fact, each year DOT receives 55,000 to 60,000 requests to investigate vehicles that may be illegally stored or abandoned. Each request is usually responded to in four to seven days. However, only about 7.5 percent of requests result in a vehicle being towed. 

With so many complaints, why don’t we tow more cars? There are several reasons a car may violate local or state laws, but the decision to tow a vehicle is not made lightly, and must consider several factors.

Gray sedan on blocks

When is a vehicle in violation of the law?
In the City of San José, it is against the law to:
  • Park a vehicle on a city street for more than 72 hours (three days) without moving the vehicle.
  • Park a vehicle with registration that has been expired more than six months on a city street.
  • Park a vehicle that is not drivable (missing essential parts) on a city street.
When does the City decide to tow a car?
We learn about vehicles that may be in violation of these laws through requests from the public, using the My San José website and mobile application.

PTCO ticketingAfter we receive your request, a parking officer is sent to the location you provide. If the officer finds the vehicle in same location reported to us, they will usually place a bright orange warning sticker on the windshield, explaining the law and giving the owner a chance to move the vehicle. Often, the vehicle has already moved before we arrive.

When an officer returns to visit the vehicle, they will make a decision about whether or not there is cause to tow it. There are many reasons why a vehicle that appears to be abandoned or illegally stored may not be towed:
  • The vehicle has moved within the required 72-hour period, even if it is returned to the same location.
  • It appears someone is living in the vehicle. These instances will be referred to the City’s homeless concerns team.
  • The vehicle is not located in the City of San José or is on private property. DOT can only take enforcement action on vehicles parked in the City’s right-of-way.
Though we may tow vehicles in violation of the law without notice, DOT tries to “allow compliance.” That means we first give vehicle owners warning if possible, allowing them to move their car before costly towing and impounding.

Vehicle being towed

How can the public report illegally stored or abandoned vehicles?
If you believe a vehicle is abandoned or has been parked without moving for longer than the 72-hour time limit: 
  1. Visit or download the My San José app to your mobile device.
  2. Choose “New Request,” then choose “Abandoned Vehicle.”
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen. Enter as much information as you can about the vehicle and its location and submit your request. 
Thank you for helping us keep San José's streets free of abandoned and illegally stored vehicles!
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