Council bans new fast-food outlets in South L.A.

From the Los Angeles Times

The one-year moratorium, proposed by Councilwoman Jan Perry, is aimed at attracting restaurants serving healthier fare to the area, where a study found 30% of children are obese.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and David Zahniser
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

July 30, 2008

A law that would bar fast-food restaurants from opening in South Los Angeles for at least a year sailed through the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday.

The council approved the fast-food moratorium unanimously, despite complaints from representatives of McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr. and other companies, who said they were being unfairly targeted.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who has pushed for a moratorium for six years, said the initiative would give the city time to craft measures to lure sit-down restaurants serving healthier food to a part of the city that desperately wants more of them.

“I believe this is a victory for the people of South and southeast Los Angeles, for them to have greater food options,” she said.

The ban covers a 32-square-mile area for one year, with two possible six-month extensions.

The area contains about 500,000 residents, including those who live in West Adams, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park.

The law defines fast-food restaurants as “any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers.”

A report released last year by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found 30% of children in South L.A. were obese, compared with 25% of all children in the city.

Still, several fast-food workers told the council that the panel was ignoring the good things their franchises accomplish. The workers argued that fast-food establishments provide residents with job opportunities and, in recent years, nutritious menu options.

“McDonald’s believes in healthy choices,” said Don Bailey, who has owned and operated the company’s restaurants in South Los Angeles for 22 years.

Another foe of the measure was Madelyn Alfano, whose company, Maria’s Italian Kitchen, has restaurants in Sherman Oaks, Brentwood and other parts of the city. Alfano said the law would create new red tape and force restaurateurs to spend thousands more to start businesses.

“The intent of this bill, and this proposal, is a very good one. There is an obesity problem,” said Alfano, whose company recently opened an express version of the restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. But “I don’t think the restaurant industry is to blame.”

Moratoriums frequently last as long as two years at City Hall, to give planning officials enough time to craft new zoning rules. Perry said businesses can apply for a “hardship exemption” if they are intent on opening a fast-food restaurant.

The councilwoman also said she expected city officials to come up with financial assistance for some restaurants.

“This will buy us time to aggressively market the district and show potential developers that we are not only open for business, but have some substantive incentives to make it worth their while to develop in South L.A.,” she said.

molly.hennessy-fiske

@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/politics/cal/la-me-fastfood30-2008jul30,0,7844906.story

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