Credit: Raul Hernandez File

The proliferation of abandoned shopping carts has achieved sufficient critical mass that the Santa Barbara City Council saw fit to pass an ordinance declaring them a public nuisance and potential health and safety hazard. This Tuesday, the council put the final touches on a measure that puts the onus on containing errant carts on the business owners who own them. 

Under the new ordinance, business owners will be required to secure their carts and effectively brand the devices with the name of the business and a phone number where the owner can be reached.

In addition, businesses will be required to submit prevention plans for shopping cart abandonment. These plans must describe the employee training programs the owner intends to initiate to prevent carts from being taken off premises.

Although the language of the ordinance does not mention homeless people, the proliferation of shopping carts on streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces clearly coincides with an increase in the number of homeless people in those same spaces. The new ordinance will not empower city officials to seize shopping carts from homeless people, but it will empower them to seize unattended carts left in locations that “could impede emergency services” or when there’s no owners’ identification on the “unattended” carts. 

In 2020, city workers retrieved 538 shopping carts. The year before, the number was 20. The year before that, it was 32. 


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