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San Luis Obispo city ordinance addresses abandoned shopping carts and illegal tents at parks

shopping cart .jpg
Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 22:41:30-04

Abandoned shopping carts are littering the city of San Luis Obispo and some community members are concerned about traffic safety and pollution.

A proposed city ordinance, aimed at decreasing illegal activity, addresses abandoned shopping carts and erected tents at public parks.

When she first took over ownership of the Grocery Outlet in San Luis Obispo, Jenni Walker was fetching shopping carts weekly.

“It's a problem. you see the carts everywhere,” said Walker. “We were being responsible and we were picking up our carts, but there are larger corporations who are not picking up their carts and you see them all over our roads. It looks dirty."

After losing about a dozen shopping carts, she bought a locking mechanism that prevents theft.

“[Cartlocks] locks the wheels and it won't move. [The cart] also has this kickback here so they can't lift it to go over stuff either,” Walker said.

The cart even stops when you attempt to leave the parking lot.

It stalled one customer while he was running errands.

“I was doing my laundry over here and then I came to get groceries and was within three cars of my car and the cart locked up,” a customer, Patrick Devine, said.

This locking tactic is helping business owners keep their carts which can cost up to $200 apiece.

A proposed ordinance aims to hold these businesses accountable for retaining and retrieving carts that are taken from their properties.

With the new policy, the city wants to:

  • Ensure pedestrian and vehicle safety
  • Ensure the flow of traffic,
  • Protect streams and other natural areas
  • Reduce litter, clutter, and visual blight associated with abandoned shopping carts.

“These ordinances may seem to some to be directed at the homeless and they are not. They are directed to illegal behaviors, not someone's status or standing,” Shelly Stanwyck, assistant city manager of San Luis Obispo, said.

Some argue the person who steals a shopping cart should be held responsible, but city officials said businesses must report shopping cart theft to police.

A second ordinance lets the people know tents and enclosed structures are not allowed in public parks.

Since mid-March, San Luis Obispo police have responded to 190 calls about tents at city parks. Of those, 24 resulted in arrests, 28 citations for illegal activity (three of which were related to tent violations).

“There have been communications from residents who felt uncomfortable in our parks when an enclosed tent has been erected,” Stanwyck said. “You can have a shade structure in a park, that's perfectly fine as long as people can see through and see what's going on."

The city also wants to ensure kids can safely use play structures at parks without surrounding illegal activity.

It's illegal to steal a shopping cart in California, you could face jail time or fines if you are found in possession of one.

City staff also plans to highlight services and programs that have been implemented to address the homeless crisis.

The city council will discuss this proposed ordinance and hold a public hearing Tuesday.

CLICK HERE to read the proposed ordinance.