Northland News

Northland Area Code Task Force

Logan: Donation drop boxes violate zoning code


Under the expanded mission of the Northland Area Code Task Force -- formerly the Graphics Task Force -- coordinator William Logan has been looking into the issue of donation drop boxes placed in the parking lots of businesses and shopping centers.

They're all illegal, he said at last week's NCC meeting.

Logan received unanimous approval from the full NCC in January to widen the scope of his volunteer group's efforts to include zoning violations in the neighborhood.

He reported at the monthly NCC session that in many instances, property owners weren't asked for their permission to place the drop boxes on their sites and didn't know it had been done.

None of the boxes, he went on to say, are placed in accordance with regulations.

City code requires that property owners authorize placement of the donation drop boxes and states that the containers must be placed close to the building or behind it, not out in a highly visible corner of the parking lot, according to Logan.

The Graphics Task Force was created in January 2010, initially with a mission of removing advertising signs placed illegally in the public rights of way. Since that time, reporting instances of graffiti and violations of the city sign code have been added to the duties Logan and his volunteers pursue.

The name was changed in January to the Northland Area Code Task Force when zoning matters also became part of the group's official assignment.

In exploring the issues related to donation drop boxes at shopping center parking lots, Logan told NCC members that he's discovered many of the charities that are supposed to benefit from items left receive little in the way of proceeds.

One California outfit that placed a box at a Northland site recently, Logan added, files required reports revealing that 90 percent of the income supports the fundraising organization and only 10 percent reaches the organization for which the contributions are sought.

As he put it, there is an "exquisitely high, self-perpetuating rate of money that goes to the organization."

"We're finding out that is the rule, more than the exception," he said.

Logan asked that residents be on the lookout for new drop boxes and report them to him when they appear via email to

The illegal drop boxes are similar to advertising benches that occasionally appear in the public rights of way without authorization or permission, NCC development committee Chairman Dave Paul said during the discussion.

This is in spite of an agreement city officials reached with bench owners some years ago limiting their placement, he added.

Logan said advertising benches posed a special problem in terms of having them removed. Complaints about them made to the 311 call center are routed to personnel in the city's traffic division, which means the person making the report can no longer track the resolution of the matter.

Action is rarely subsequently taken, he said.

"It disappears in the bureaucracy never to be seen again," Logan said.