The Towing & Lien Sale Division of the Fleet Services Bureau of the City of Long Beach, Calif. is one of only five municipally ran towing operations in the U.S., providing support services for many different city departments. There are 30 staff performing day-to-day towing and storage for these departments, including the Police Department, Marine Bureau, Parking Enforcement, and Street Sweeping. They work hand-in-hand with each department to ensure the streets are safe and open for the public at all times. In addition to support services, the Towing & Lien Sales Division also partners with city departments on the many special events that occur in Long Beach. The Long Beach Grand Prix and Long Beach Marathon are among the noteworthy yearly events that have dedicated routes that must be cleared for competition.
The division also conducts bi-weekly public auctions for unclaimed vehicles and property. Before the pandemic, they welcomed 200+ members of the public to each auction, with an average of 150 vehicles available at each sale. With public gatherings halted for the last few months, they were forced to stop their auctions during the health crisis. Over the months, as businesses were allowed to reopen following state and city guidelines, they worked with the City Attorney and Public Safety offices to put plans in place to resume their auctions as well.
In order to reopen safely, they reduced their attendance and worked with their Technology and Innovations Department to move to “tele-auctions." The bidder registration process was moved to an online platform to reduce human contact, and a temperature check station was established at the entrance. They now have assigned seating, properly distanced, for all attendees and television monitors that display each vehicle up for bid during the live auctions. Auction attendees are randomly chosen from a pre-registration list to give everyone a fair shot of attending. The first auction (after four months) started off with 30 attendees in “tele-auction” mode to ensure safety protocols were met and it was a success -- 147 vehicles were sold. They plan to continue increasing attendance for each auction, with a goal of reaching a maximum of 100 people.