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    City Hall Ready To Bring Hammer Down On Fugitive Shopping Carts

    (Jan. 31, 2007) -- Following the City Council's passage of a shopping cart containment ordinance (which became fully effective on October 1, 2006), LB City Hall has indicated it's preparing to bring the hammer down on fugitive shopping carts.

    At a Jan. 30, 2007 City Hall press event attended by (among others) Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal (who pressed to enact a toughened shopping cart containment measure for several years), Deputy City Manager Reggie Harrison, Community Planner Steve Herhardt and Deputy City Attorney Lisa Peskey Malsten, city officials reiterated to shopping cart owners their obligations for cart containment under the ordinance (while also discussing best practices regarding shopping cart containment.)

    Effective October 1, 2006, LB's Shopping Cart Containment ordinance holds the owners of shopping carts [i.e. some LB businesses] responsible for containing their shopping carts on their business premises.

    At the press event, Deputy City Manager Reggie Harrison spoke. Following Council approval of the ordinance in early 2006 (with an interim period to educate businesses), city staff sent letters to shopping cart owners.
    Jan 30/07 shopping cart event
    Photo courtesy Nikki Tennant/Chief of Staff to Vice Mayor

    City staff also conducted citywide shopping cart sweeps on June 3, 2006 and September 30, 2006 and says it collected a total of 1,400 carts during the sweeps...and didn't see a significant reduction in the number of abandoned shopping carts collected during the second sweep versus the first.

    Meanwhile, City Hall has been compiling a database of shopping cart owners, allowing city staff to identify the worst violators and reinforce the terms of the ordinance.

    The bottom line: City Hall is sending the message that while it welcomes cooperation in solving the continuing problem, it's quite prepared to begin enforcement of the ordinance where indicated in the coming weeks.

    Jan 30/07 Shopping cart event
    Vice Mayor Lowenthal prepares to speak at Jan. 30 City Hall event. Photo courtesy Nikki Tennant/Chief of Staff to Vice Mayor
    The issue of fugitive (loose) shopping carts has been a sore point for Vice Mayor Lowenthal for several years (although the problem transcends her 1st Council district).

    After effectively shepherding a proposed ordinance through near-endless public meetings and committee hearings, the measure came to a showdown Council vote in February 2006.

    When some industry-interests objected to the ordinance as proposed (background below), a Council-majority supported an amendment to make it more "business friendly" by requiring city staff to identify and notify a business when its carts are off premises...and allow the business 24-hours to retrieve the cart(s) before levying a $100 fine.

    The ordinance in the somewhat diluted but still potent form is now on the books....and in remarks prepared for the Jan. 30 event, Vice Mayor Lowenthal said:

    As you know the City of Long Beach established a shopping cart containment ordinance in response to overwhelming community complaints about the number of stray shopping carts in our neighborhoods

    ...ALL of our neighborhoods across the city. This has been a longstanding problem in our community for at least 15 years. Some of you have been around during those years, and some of you have not. This City Council and members of past City Councils have tried to solve this neighborhood blight problem in a cooperative manner with the grocers, but to be frank, it has not worked.

    • Abandoned shopping carts contribute to neighborhood blight

    • They lower property values

    • They are a health and safety hazard (kids pick them up and play in/on them)

    • They contribute to the broken window syndrome

    On two recent sweeps for abandoned carts over the past 6 months, over 1,400 carts were picked up (and those were carts that were NOT picked up by the retrieval service!)

    Our ordinance calls for educating the public that removing a cart from store premises is a crime, but ultimately we feel it is the store owner's responsibility to contain carts on store property. State law has clearly defined shopping carts as property with cart owners having certain rights. We are working to both protect those rights and remove the blight of shopping carts from our neighborhoods.

    We need your help in solving this problem.

    City staff has informed me that some store owners are working to comply with our ordinance. Some have electronic containment devices; some have put up barriers to keep carts on premises; some have a process to check-out carts and return them to the stores; and others make "granny" carts available for sale.

    All of these efforts are greatly appreciated. But there is still much to do as you can see by the number of carts that still litter our neighborhoods.

    Today you will have an opportunity to communicate directly with staff regarding your obligations under the ordinance. You will also have an opportunity to share "best practices" regarding cart containment.

    Thank you very much for attending this meeting. I hope you will take this information back to your stores and communicate with other store owners to help us all solve this problem.


    On February 21, 2006, a 6-2 City Council majority indicated it would approve a shopping cart containment-regulation ordinance advanced by then-Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Patrick O'Donnell, but with an amendment so significant that Lowenthal & O'Donnell both felt compelled to vote against it.

    The controversial amendment, offered by Councilmembers Tonia Reyes Uranga and Val Lerch, requires city staff to locate, identify and notify a business when their carts are off premises...and permit the business 24-hours to retrieve the cart(s) before levying a $100 fine.

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said the Lowenthal-O'Donnell proposed measure only addressed shopping carts in a punitive way. "Even with a car, I don't know how people [can handle groceries] without a cart, let alone if I was walking or taking a bus, so people will find a way [to take carts off premises] even with a containment system...The neighborhoods are being littered with these unsightly shopping carts and this does not allow for any retrieval," she said.

    Councilman O'Donnell responded that requiring City Hall to notify stores each time a shopping cart is loose will require taxpayer-paid staff time and resources...and labelled the amendment taxpayer-unfriendly.

    At the time, Damon Rice, Director of Gov't Relations for Vons, a division of Safeway with five LB stores, spoke in favor of the amended ordinance:

    Safeway [Vons] rep Rice: ...We have seven day a week cart retrieval service at all of our locations and that has proven to be by far the most effective way to get carts that have been removed from our lot back onto it. But as important is the 24-hour notification policy. We are confident the majority of our carts are brought back to our lots in a timely fashion. In the instance that one is overlooked, this will allow us the opportunity to collect that cart without fines. With those two amendments, we're in support of this ordinance. Without that, this ordinance becomes de facto electronic containment, and there's this perception hat electronic containment is the end-all be-all to this problem and it simply isn't...

    ...[Vons' downtown LB store] has containment...we lose approximately 8-9 carts per day...That [locking wheel] mechanism costs about $50,000 to put in. Even with that ineffective spend, we still need cart retrieval to service our downtown location...

    Jennifer Forkish, Director of Local Gov't Relations for the CA Grocers Association testified:

    Grocers Ass'n rep Forkish: ...[Regarding taxpayer costs to give stores notice]...[T]he loss in tax dollars would be greater should [the ordinance] be passed as it is drafted originally [Lowenthal-O'Donnell] than should it be passed with the amendments. And the reason behind that is because the tax dollars that come in from the grocery stores, and not just grocery stores but other retailers that have shopping carts, [it's a] very business-unfriendly environment. I've spoken to our members about it. We want to work with the City of Long Beach as I've said before. We're hopeful that you'll pass the amendments...

    The grocery industry recognizes, we are not in denial, that there is a problem with stolen and lost carts in Long Beach. We are disagreeing up until this point about how we're going to solve this [supports ordinance as amended]...There are many ways to help solve this problem, and the grocers agree that containment could be an option for those that cannot maintain a responsive retrieval service.

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