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Citrus Heights passes ordinance to curb shopping cart blight; drops hefty fines

File photo, a shopping cart and other belongings are shown outside a store on Sunrise Boulevard. // CH Sentinel

By Phillip Pesola–
The Citrus Heights City Council last week passed an ordinance intended to reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts in the city, with the final version modified from an original draft.

Under the new regulation, business owners who have more than five shopping carts on site will be required to submit a plan to the city, detailing the measures they will take to prevent and deal with shopping cart theft. Additionally, each shopping cart must be labeled with identifying information, and business owners can be fined $25 per cart if not retrieved from being impounded after 3 days.

The city’s General Services Director, Regina Cave, told the council the city’s retrieval service collects about 900 carts per year, with an additional 1,176 carts on average being retrieved from within the Sunrise MarketPlace business district, which has its own retrieval program.

After being initially released online for public review on Sept. 26, city staff said the draft ordinance was amended based on feedback submitted community members. There was concern that proposed fines up to $500 for possessing a stolen cart would be ineffective, since offenders tend to be homeless and would be unable to pay the fine. The offense will still be considered a misdemeanor, but with no specified penalty.

City staff said local businesses contacted for input about the draft ordinance did not express any concerns, with businesses like PetSmart reportedly stating they have dealt with similar regulation in other jurisdictions.

Under the new ordinance, businesses which have more than five carts impounded in a period of 30 days could be compelled to either install wheel locking mechanisms or be prohibited from using carts altogether. During the discussion of the ordinance, city staff said the cost of installing such mechanisms varies, but can run $15,000 on average.

Councilman Bret Daniels initially opposed the ordinance, saying during the meeting that: “There’s no way I’m voting for this. I cannot further victimize someone who has had there property stolen from them.” Following further discussion, he later voted in favor of the ordinance in a 5-0 vote, telling The Sentinel his change of mind was based on staff “assurance that any determination to require wheel locks would be something way down the road and dealing with the problem.”

City Manager Ash Feeney said during the meeting that the goal of the ordinance is compliance rather than punitive action, calling the wheel locking requirement a “tool in the toolbox,” which hopefully won’t be needed. He went on to state that something needs to be done to address the problem, and that the specifics of the ordinance can be adjusted if needed.

After further discussion, the council unanimously passed the ordinance with two modifications. Rather than allowing a cart to remain impounded for 30 calendar days before being disposed of, it will be disposed of after ten business days. Also, the number of carts which a business can have impounded in a 30-day period before potentially being required to install wheel locks was increased from five to 10.

The new ordinance is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 11. Businesses will have until Feb. 28, 2023, to submit a shopping cart plan, and one month after that to implement it. The full staff report on the ordinance can be found on the city’s website, starting on page 168.

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