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The South Central Fast-Food "Ban": Free Enterprise vs. Free Radicals

Church's Chicken in Crenshaw
Church's Chicken in Crenshaw
So Cal Metro/Flickr

Last Wednesday, in the wake of an expiring two-year moratorium, City Council signed off on an amendment prohibiting new fast-food joints in certain parts of the city. The zoning ban focuses on neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, where approximately 71% of all restaurants are of a corporate-owned, quick-service ilk, 30% more than neighborhoods located west of Beverly Hills. According to a December 9th Nation's Restaurant News article, supporters of the amendment believe these areas are clogged with fries and ketchup packets because no community-bred regulations were put in place to "ensure diverse retail and dining opportunities."

A few of the details:

"The amendment establishes specific criteria for permitting, including requirements about walls, lot coverage, trash storage, parking and landscaping. A key restriction, however, is that new stand-alone fast-food restaurants cannot be within a half-mile of existing fast-food restaurants--though those integrated into mixed-use developments or joint-tenant commercial centers are exempt."

There are a few perspectives on this. One is that the Council's meddling with zoning laws in order to encourage small, locally-owned, community-conscious businesses to take root not only skirts free enterprise laws, but also condescends to people living in these areas by telling them they should feed their families at grocery stores, not convenient fast-food establishments. Another opinion holds that the overabundance of fast-food restaurants presents a very real public health issue, suggesting that artificially inexpensive (thanks, subsidies) and overwhelmingly unhealthy fast-food options contribute to the area's high rates of diabetes and heart disease. By this logic, the amendment could save lives as well as bolster local economies--particularly in neighborhoods where a disproportionate number of residents live without health insurance.


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