Supervisors take aim at abandoned shopping carts

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – In a move aimed at clearing streets and sidewalks of abandoned shopping carts, Riverside County supervisors on Oct. 22 directed the sheriff’s department to study whether an ordinance requiring merchants to collect carts taken from their establishments would prove effective.

Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed his Cart Assistance Recovery Tracking – CART – program during the Board of Supervisors’ policy agenda.

“There is blight when shopping carts are dragged throughout communities, leaving trash and debris that flows into streets and gutters,” Stone told his colleagues. “We need to work with retailers to prevent carts from being taken. Hopefully we can save them some money, too.”

Stone said his goal is for the county to model CART after similar ordinances enacted in area cities, including Banning, Hemet, Palm Desert and Riverside. According to the supervisor, the issue of abandoned carts was brought to his attention by constituents in the San Jacinto and Hemet valleys.

“A lot of homeless end up in the San Jacinto Valley,” Stone said. “There is a shelter there that accommodates a number of homeless people, but it’s filled beyond capacity.”

Stone complained that a person cannot drive down Florida Avenue in the unincorporated East Hemet area without seeing “the impacts” of discarded carts.

“This is a blightful issue in our communities,” he said. “You see homeless people schlepping around with two and three carts at a time. This needs to be deterred.”

Under the supervisor’s CART program, business owners who make 10 or more shopping carts available would be required to “develop, implement and comply with the provisions of a written containment plan, approved by the county, to prevent customers from removing shopping carts from the premises…without prior authorization of the owner.”

The supervisor said individual businesses should be responsible for collecting carts removed from their property.

Under the city of Riverside’s cart retrieval program, any grocer or other outlet that fails to pick up abandoned carts within three days of being notified of their presence may be subject to a $50 fine and the cost incurred by the city for collecting the cart.

Stone noted that his proposal is not intended to “over-regulate” businesses in unincorporated communities, but rather get them actively involved in solving a problem that affects neighborhoods and other businesses.

Temecula resident Paul Jacobs questioned the logic of imposing additional burdens on sheriff’s deputies and code enforcement officers, who would ultimately be responsible for enforcing CART.

Jacobs, a self-described libertarian, also feared CART would cast the county as an “unfriendly” overseer, scaring small businesses away.

Board Chairman John Benoit said he was loathe to create “more fines against businesses” but agreed to keep CART alive and reconsider it at a later date, after personnel in the sheriff’s and code enforcement departments had evaluated the proposal and its implications.

A report is due back to the board in 60 days.

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