The Federal Way City Council could make big changes to the way the city regulates shopping carts.
Nothing’s been decided yet. The council took a look at proposed changes to shopping cart laws during their Oct. 18 regular meeting and unanimously voted to send the matter to a first reading during the council’s next meeting on Nov. 1.
The issue stems from the use of shopping carts by those in town who appear to be homeless or transient. Numerous residents have spoken at recent city council meetings and asked the councilors to take action on the matter.
In 2018, the city passed an ordinance requiring all shopping carts to carry identification signs. Under that law, abandoned shopping carts can be impounded by the city, with the relevant fees charged to their retail owners. (i.e. an abandoned Target cart would be charged to Target, and an Albertsons cart would be charged to Albertsons).
But the fees for the first three carts per month are deferred if the retail owners show they’ve established security measures to keep their carts from being taken off-premises.
The ordinance proposed by the city would broaden the scope of that law. It suggests making possession of a shopping cart in any city right-of-way, such as a sidewalk or road, into a Class 3 Infraction. It would also make the carts in those situations subject to seizure and impounding, whether or not those carts have a proper ID sign.
An infraction is a civil enforcement measure, not a criminal violation, so it carries no jail time. The cart infraction would be punishable by a $50 ticket.
The law would expand the existing impound program to include stolen shopping carts seized under the new infraction. And it would make carts with proper ID signs and security measures from their retail owners totally exempt from impound seizure fees, rather than simply exempt for the first three carts each month.
Since the law would authorize city police to take shopping carts from people using them outside of store parking lots, the ordinance would also require the city to develop a system to process and store personal items from those seized shopping carts.
One part of the law wouldn’t change: Theft of a shopping cart, a more serious crime than possession, would remain a misdemeanor under city code, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail. That rule still only applies to shopping carts that have the proper ID signs.
Council members shared a variety of thoughts on the ordinance, including council member Lydia Assefa-Dawson’s question about businesses which couldn’t afford to update the signage on their carts.
Councilmember Hoang V. Tran shared concerns about how the ordinance would target homeless people, who are already vulnerable and often unable to easily transport their belongings. The city would also inevitably have to pay for a place to store and process any of their belongings from impounded carts, he said.
Deputy mayor Susan Honda also asked about the safety training that city workers who inventory the items collected from those carts.
City officials clarified that the ordinance does not allow the city to seize people’s personal property — the preference would always be for the person in possession of the cart to take their items out before the cart is impounded.
“I believe it’s important for us to make a stand, and say we’re tired of this behavior in Federal Way,” Councilmember Jack Dovey said.
Councilmember Erica Norton was absent and excused from the meeting.
Also on Tuesday
The council unanimously approved a settlement with Corliss over the company’s failure to comply with correction actions stemming from a 2020 Notice of Development Code and Water Quality Violation, regarding unpermitted paving of several thousand square feet. Corliss will pay the city $67,300 in fines. It had accrued $134,600, but the city agreed to forgive half of the amount as long as the rest is paid and Corliss dismisses its appeal in court.
The council heard from the Han Kirkland, public sector account manager at Waste Management, about the Mayor’s Day of Concern Food Drive on Oct. 8. This year’s effort raised 11,030 pounds plus another 1,104 raised from Fred Meyer for a total of 12,134 pounds, or six tons. The effort also took in donations of more than $1,200, according to the city.
The council was briefed on the winners of the Arts Alive art exhibition, which showcases artists from Federal Way and around the region. Hae Chon Lee won the People’s Choice Award for the painting titled “Dear Grandson.” Molly Murrah won the Commission’s Choice Award for the watercolor titled “Black Beauty,” and Murrah also won the Juror’s Choice Award for the watercolor titled “Country Girl.” The pieces will be on display from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.