San Jose wants to get tough on abandoned shopping carts

A San Jose city councilman is fed up with the blight and is proposing to toughen laws surrounding abandoned shopping carts littering city streets.

Sergio Jimenez sees it as a growing "quality of life" problem. Last year, the city collected 5,000 abandoned carts and now, he wants to hold stores accountable.

“It’s not a pretty sight,” said Jimenez. “Some of them are damaged, have stuff in them and others are falling apart. I think it gives the image quite frankly that we are a dirty city.”

Jimenez wants to revisit a shopping cart ordinance from 2001. He’s proposing increasing fees to cover the cost of collecting carts. Right now, he says the city is losing money and he also wants all businesses to participate. Currently, only stores with more than 26 carts must abide by city rules and he wants better signage so carts are easily identified.

“Grocery markets and supermarkets have a pretty thin profit margin,” said Eddie Truong of The Silicon Valley Organization. “We want to make sure any kind of issue is proposed with a balance perspective.”

The San Jose Chamber of Commerce is concerned it could hurt small businesses since the program's annual fee is $700 and locking mechanisms to deter the carts removal are also costly.

“If all you have is inside a shopping cart and they come around and want to take that shopping cart
because they don't want to get fined or they send a crew to pick it up,” said Homeless Advocate Robert Aguirre. “How do you carry your things?”

Then, there are concerns with the homeless since many of the carts end up in encampments. The councilman said the proposed policy change isn't meant to penalize them.

“I think this change in policy would cut off that pipeline of carts flowing into the homeless encampments and other places around our city,” said Jimenez. 

Last year, the city issued 260 citations amounting to $65,000 in fines. The proposal will first go before the city council next month to determine if it's a priority. The councilman is also looking at creating a blight squad to tackle the problem.