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At the recent March meeting of the Mira Mesa Town Council, a concerned resident stood before the group to voice her dismay on an issue that has plagued the town for years -- abandoned shopping carts. Although a number of measures have been put in place to help resolve the problem, shopping carts continue to be strewn across the quiet residential streets of the area, often more than a mile from the main shopping thoroughfare, Mira Mesa Boulevard.

“These carts are just graffiti on wheels,” said Terry Forshey of San Diegans Against Abandoned Shopping Carts (SDAASC), a neighborhood action group formed by residents in 2006. “The City of San Diego has an ordinance to address graffiti, but none to address abandoned shopping carts.” The reasons behind the shopping-cart thefts vary. “Some are cases where lack of vehicles to provide transportation are a factor,” according to Forshey. “Others push carts up their driveways, past parked vehicles that could have been used to transport goods home.”

Although the theft of a shopping cart is a misdemeanor, the law is rarely enforced. Forshey says that the SDPD doesn’t address the dilemma and that abandoned carts become depositories for trash and food waste and make it difficult for disabled residents to use the sidewalks. Bus stops on the streets around Mira Mesa Boulevard are often crowded with abandoned carts.

The SDAASC worked together with former councilmember Brian Maienschein to create a citywide abandoned-shopping-cart ordinance, but Maienschein was termed out of office in December of 2008 without an ordinance in place.

“We have been continuing our efforts through his successor, councilmember Carl DeMaio,” says Forshey. “We are currently juggling between keeping the residents patient and encouraging the city officials to act. We plan to stay on course until it becomes evident that there is no will in the city to provide relief. At that point we will have to let the residents succumb to their impatience and do what they will.”

Jeff Stevens, president of the Mira Mesa Town Council, notes that the shopping-cart problem is a frequent concern in the community. “It is an issue that comes up often,” he says. “The town council as well as the previous and current city council offices and San Diegans Against Abandoned Shopping Carts have been trying to do something about it for several years now, but it has proven surprisingly difficult to resolve.”

Councilmember Carl DeMaio echoes Stevens’s belief regarding the significance of the problem. “I consider the shopping cart problem to be one of the most important issues facing the Mira Mesa community,” he says. “Working closely with the community, my office is pursuing options to remedy the problem through the city, as well as exploring public-private partnerships with the community and local businesses.”

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beachwood April 3, 2009 @ 10:38 a.m.

As a resident of Mira Mesa, I was happy to see more attention being brought to this problem. In the article, Ms. Winslow states, "Although a number of measures have been put in place to help resolve the problem...". What are these (not one but a number of) measures? As I visit my local Vons or other store utilizing shopping carts, I have yet to see any signs asking for customers not to steal or take the carts off the property. I see no offers to sell "granny carts". I see nothing to warn people that cart thief is a crime.

The City of San Diego does take active measures to improve the beauty of our city. The street are swept on a routine basis, a graffiti hot line is available, we have an "Adopt a Wall" campaign in Mira Mesa, there are times when hazardous materials are picked up at the local high school, but the eye-sore of abandon shopping carts gets little attention and as far as I can see, absolutely no action.

For those of you who live in communities where this is not a problem, count your blessings. On a daily basis, I cannot drive but a few blocks without seeing easily dozens of abandoned carts littering our streets and sidewalks. It will take a combined effort from city government, local retailers and local residents to fight this ever-growing problem. As a member of the SDAASC, I feel the residents are doing their part, now if we can just get the retailers and city officials to come to an agreement and find a doable solution to this ‘graffiti on wheels’.


AquaCat April 3, 2009 @ 5:03 p.m.

The Target store at the Irvine Spectrum mall has an RFID system to fence in their shopping carts. If they stray too far from the store, the wheels lock up. This Business Week article mentions it (scroll down to the "Invisible Detectives" section).


The purpose is to deter thefts of merchandise (people loading up the carts and then taking off), but a system like this could help with the theft of the cart itself. Perhaps Mr. DeMaio could work with some of the local stores on implementing a system like this.


SDDreaming April 4, 2009 @ 9:56 a.m.

Hmmmm “Others push carts up their driveways, past parked vehicles that could have been used to transport goods home.”

Do I see a lack of green sensitivity here, or just suburban thinking?


favod April 8, 2009 @ 8:36 p.m.

I have lived in Mira Mesa for almost 8 years and see no cessation of this problem. No one wants to makes a hard decision to help us with this bit of urban blight. I think the supermarkets should be charged a fee for collection of the grocery carts or charged for their disposal.


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