LA consider enforcing moratorium on the opening of new fast-food restaurants

Posted by Isobel Drake on 24th July 2008

A proposal to prevent new fast food establishments from opening in the south of Los Angeles is one step closer to becoming reality.

The area is one of the poorest in LA and the high number of fast food restaurants has caused concern that it might be contributing to high rates of obesity in the area. A recent study suggested children living in the south of the city were significantly more likely to be obese than those in the rest of LA (30% compared to 21%).

The ordinance is designed to “allow time for City planners to study the economic and environmental effects of the over-proliferation of fast-food restaurants in these communities and develop permanent solutions”, according to Jan Perry, who introduced the idea to the LA City Council.

“This ordinance is in no way attempting to tell people what to eat but rather responding to the need to attract sit-down restaurants, full service grocery stores, and healthy food alternatives,” said Councilwoman Perry. “Ultimately, this ordinance is about providing choices, something that is currently lacking in our community. South Los Angeles represents a mere 32 square miles of a city that is 468 square miles in size and yet it is home to the largest percentage of fast food establishments.”

Ms Perry claims the measure is not supposed to unfairly place blame on fast-food restaurants, but merely provide more options to a sector of the city where there is precious few. “South Los Angeles is ripe for development. Studies have shown that there is a large and growing residential population that is in need of important amenities like grocery stores and sit-down restaurants for the entire family to enjoy. The people of our community deserve choices,” said Councilwoman Perry. “As a City we can create policies to encourage these businesses to open their doors in South Los Angeles.”

Councillors are now attempting to attract grocers and restaurants to the area, by preserving existing land for these uses, with an incentive package to be put in place.

The California Restaurant Association is, however, fearful that the suggested policy measure may imply that fast-food restaurants are primarily to blame for the obesity epidemic and suggest it places too much blame on the sector. “Even fast food establishments have healthy choices now. They all offer salads and smaller portions,” Andrew Casana, a spokesman for the California Restaurant Association, told Reuters.

The issue of obesity has led to a number of changes in certain sections of America, with the introduction of compulsory calorie counts on chain restaurant menu boards in New York one of the most prominent and widely discussed.