Action Auto Picks Up Trash

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Action Auto Care has offered car repair services on 17th and Vermont streets for 20 years. Owned by Robert Kim, who has worked in the neighborhood for a quarter-century, previously at another shop, Action boasts more than 400 five-star reviews on Yelp. Described by commentators as “thoughtful,” “friendly,” and “honest,” Kim is often an unexpected highlight for customers. His demeanor takes the sting out of an expense few want to incur. 

While most San Francisco businesses were forced to partially or fully close when shelter-in-place orders were first issued last year, vehicle repair shops were largely allowed to remain open. Action Auto staff had to engage in physical distancing and mask-wearing. Kim’s business went “down just a little bit” as people used their cars less. 

“We’ve been around for so long…so because our customer list is so deep, I haven’t had any problems this year. I’m really one of the fortunate ones,” Kim said. 

Kim has been challenged by a lingering problem. Action Auto Care takes out its trash and recycling bins on Monday and Thursday nights. Over the past year, someone has been kicking the bins and flipping them over in the middle of the night. At around four in the morning, when sanitation workers arrive, they’re unable to take the shop’s garbage, as it’s spilled all over the sidewalk. When Kim and his employees come later in the morning they have to clean it up. 

“It takes us maybe 20 minutes to put the trash back together,” said Kim, after which he calls Recology to pick it up later in the week. Once Recology cleared away the sidewalk garbage, but Kim isn’t expecting that to happen again. 

Kim has security cameras, but through the dark, night-time footage, he can hardly make out the figures wearing masks and hoods who are messing with his garbage. Even if he were able to identify them, Kim worries that alerting authorities wouldn’t solve the problem, as picking through trash isn’t illegal. 

“It’s a real nuisance,” Kim said. “In the morning, at seven o’clock when I get here, I have to really run to get everything together so the customers don’t see it.”

Dan Lanir, whose 17th and Kansas streets office is a block away from Action Auto, regularly sees Kim and his crew sweeping the sidewalk in front of the shop. 

“They’re really, really, good neighbors,” said Lanir. “A good business, a business that’s interested in the community.” 

“I trust [Kim] whole-heartedly,” wrote Katy Clem. “I have called him from the side of a highway in Utah to walk me through an issue with my gas pedal.” 

“Robert is honest and straight-forward,” added Silvia D. “He will tell you exactly what’s wrong, how much to diagnose and fix and if it’s worth fixing. He really is not in it for the money.”