L.A. Considers Temporarily Banning New Fast Food Restaurants In South L.A.

NYC isn’t the only big city picking fights with fast food restaurants these days. Citing high obesity rates in her mostly working-class district, Los Angeles councilwoman Jan Perry has proposed a 2-year ban on new fast food restaurants in parts of South L.A., in the hope that it will make room for healthier restaurants to compete.

The Los Angeles Times says that South Los Angeles has the “highest concentration of fast-food eateries” and “far fewer grocery stores” than the rest of L.A. They also point out that “30% of adults in South L.A. are obese, compared with 20.9% in the county overall.” The policy director of a local advocacy organization says that with the low income levels and limited transportation options, many South L.A. residents are “almost a captive audience for these restaurants, unfortunately.”

Critics are saying it’s a perfect example of a nanny welfare state policy, and that there are better ways to entice “healthier” restaurants to set up shop. But Mark Vallianatos, director of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College, says it’s a step in the right direction:

“While limiting fast-food restaurants isn’t a solution in itself, it’s an important piece of the puzzle. [It’s] bringing health policy and environmental policy together with land-use planning. I think that’s smart, and it’s the wave of the future.”

The proposal will be considered this fall by the L.A. City Council.

[The headline to this post was updated to improve accuracy—thanks, B.]

“Limits proposed on fast-food restaurants” [Lost Angeles Times]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. jaredgood1 says:

    I can only imagine the amount of deep fried bacon I could get in a fast food speakeasy…

  2. Buran says:

    This is a little bit over the line. Providing healthy food is a great idea. Actively denying choice isn’t.

  3. Greeper says:

    I find the increasing paternalism of government to be really alarming. I remember during the health care reform debates in the early 90s when people predicted that government would try to dictate what we could eat one day….and people guffawed and laughed and thought it would never happen. And here we are, governments increasingly trying to control our every move under the guise of “public health” or “for the children” or “war on terror.” Am I the only one who finds this kind of stuff troubling?

  4. hypnotik_jello says:


    Mmmm. Move over, eggs. Bacon just got a new best friend – fudge.

    – H. Simpson

  5. Me - now with more humidity says:

    “Do these pants make my ass look fat?”

    “No, your ass makes your ass look fat.”

  6. Bulldog9908 says:

    Is it April 1st already?

    Oh wait, it’s just the Peoples Republic of California. Nothing to see. Move along, people.

  7. I really don’t see this working out, especially if it’s only for two years, and ESPECIALLY with L.A. expanding the Metro this year.

  8. roche says:

    @Greeper: I find it disgusting. I am an adult, not a 5 year old kid. The government needs to solve some real problems like violent crime and let the rest of us lead our lives.

  9. B says:

    They’re not banning fast food resturants as much as preventing new fast food franchises from entering South LA.

  10. theWolf says:

    Thank you, Mommy Government.

  11. SOhp101 says:

    One good thing about her plan is that she doesn’t want NEW fast food establishments to be set up.

    However the only problem with her plan is that healthy food tends to be more expensive than unhealthy food. People in that area aren’t as rich and will end up going to all of the older chains instead.

    The best way is to start educating families to start cooking at home and cooking healthy.

    Also I have to question her motives. If she cared a shred about healthy eating, she would look immediately to school lunches. Ever notice how usually 70% of whatever is on the plate is empty carbohydrates and whatever protein is on there is breaded? Things like the Farm Bill which was recently passed in congress further subsidize the farmers in our country that can’t take care of themselves and encourage them to dump low quality food on our school children that no one else with a half-healthy mindset would ever put in their mouths.

    What about stop trying to ban recess and instead encourage physical activities? Teaching healthy living starts with the new generation and politicians fail miserably at that.

  12. leftistcoast says:

    I think it’s generally a bad idea as well. In all honesty, I think the better idea would be to implement a ‘fast-food’ or ‘processed food’ tax. The funds generated from the tax could be used to offset the medical costs of the poor who are disparately impacted by the health problems associated with fast food (because it is, calorie-for-calorie, the cheapest food out there). The funds could also be used to educate and assist the same in making healthier food choices.

    Alternately, the fed could just fix the tax law and the farm bill to quite essentially subsidizing the industries that produce this crap.

  13. IndyJaws says:

    Would this even come close to surviving a court challenge?

  14. Scuba Steve says:

    Does that mean subway is banned? I don’t understand the nuances.

  15. enm4r says:

    What are the healthy “fast food” alternatives? That’s what I want to know. And if they’re legit alternatives as far as time, cost, etc, why can’t they survive on their own?

  16. junkmail says:

    “Critics are saying it’s a perfect example of a nanny welfare state policy, and that there are better ways to entice “healthier” restaurants to set up shop.”

    Yup, sounds about right.

  17. killavanilla says:

    Yet another example of rampant liberalism on the left coast.
    Thanks to this piece of government garbage, everything will be better.
    Healthy food joints don’t do as well because their product is more expensive.
    Fast food DOES well because it is cheap, quick, and convenient.
    Thanks to yet another government official trying to influence the free market by placing restrictions on it and making it less free.
    Great idea! Let’s ban new gas stations too.
    This. Is. Stupid.
    A classic example of a know-nothing trying to make the world ‘better’.
    What’s next, teachers spending class time teaching about veganism instead of the subject matter?
    Oh wait, that already happened.
    Do we really need more legislation to protect us dumb citizens?
    No. We don’t.

  18. morganlh85 says:

    We have the same problem here in Detroit…tons of fast food but barely any quality grocery stores. You have to travel 10 miles to the suburbs to get any quality, fairly priced healthy food.

  19. Swifty says:

    It’s ridiculous to think that by not building new fast food joints, people will be deterred from eating at existing fast food joints, much less eating fast food less often.

    Personally, I think the solution would be for a community government to define a “healthy meal” (i.e. so many grams of fat, so many calories, etc.), and at the very least, offer incentives for restaurants to actually serve x% healthy meals.

  20. ooolam says:

    This reminded me of the movie, Demolition Man. Maybe we will only have Taco Bell in LA by 2010.

  21. hypnotik_jello says:

    @ooolam: Or Gatorade instead of water, ala the movie Idiocracy

  22. rphoenix says:

    I don’t see the big deal here. Governments make zoning decisions all the time, like how many liquour stores or strip clubs are in an area. I don’t think this is any different. I am not sure how effective it will be, but I have to say that I am in urban areas like South LA a lot on business travel and it is frustrating to only have 4 different fast food chains as your only choices.

  23. Xerloq says:

    Banning fast food is about as effective as banning fat people. It’s ludicrous. I believe people are (generally) intelligent beings, that know the consequence of their actions. People should take responsibility for the choices they make and not rely on The Motherland to relieve them of responsibility. You eat too much fast food, you get fat and die.

  24. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    Wonder if what’s-her-face got any campaign donations from the existing fast food franchises in her district?

  25. 2Legit2Quit says:

    No one had asked the real question.

    What’s considered fast food?

    Burger King? Starbucks? Dunkin Donuts?

    Anything that doesn’t require you to be seated to eat or allow pick up is technically considered “fast food”. Therefore… what is allowed?

  26. protest says:

    agree with the poster that said she should put her efforts into improving school lunches and health/fitness education in schools.
    maybe instead of banning new fast food, find out why there is such a lack of quality grocery stores and farmers markets and fix that.

  27. adamondi says:

    The old cliche “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” comes immediately to mind. People are not choosing to eat at fast food places because of limited options and transportation. People eat at fast food places because they either like them, or they are lazy and don’t want to seek out the alternatives. Either way, there is no way that banning new fast food joints will stop people from eating at the existing ones. If anything, you have just made the existing ones more profitable due to decreased competition.

  28. philipbarrett says:

    I’m sorry Ms. Minimum wage, you can’t have that $1 cheeseburger. Can we offer you a $12 salad instead? Really, it’s much healthier.

  29. killavanilla says:

    Here’s a different question:
    Instead of punishing fast food restaurants, why not incentivize healthy restaurants with tax breaks or a check to cover 3 months rent.
    That way, instead of killing the economy, you actually stoke it.
    They don’t want to do that for three reasons:
    1) It doesn’t limit anything
    2) Tax breaks and incentives are two things liberals despise.
    3) It would limit government control by incentivizing market growth…

  30. supra606 says:

    @Greeper: Nope. You (we) are just in the minority I think.

  31. Amelie says:

    So only the poor need Big Brother to watch what they eat? If this bitch was serious about improving the health of people in the area, she would do something about the lack of grocery stores.

    This story is reminiscent of a council person who attempted to ban smoking in public housing, somewhere else.

    I guess being poor isn’t bad enough, you have to suffer the indignity of not having the same freedoms as people higher up on the socio-economic ladder.

  32. Freddie Fresh says:

    my girlfriend lives like 5 minutes from where all this is going down. its on figueroa in south central 10 minutes from the staples center. everyone i know calls it food ave. USC is a couple blocks from so i figure its alot of business. the panda express is open from 11:00 am til 4:00 am…theres 2 24 hour subways, 2 24 hour yoshinoya’s a jack and the box a mcdonalds, del taco, fat burger and a whole bunch of mom and pop spots.

  33. Techguy1138 says:

    This really isn’t a big deal. It’s a zoning ordinance. It doesn’t impact the existing fast food places nor does it state what they can and can not serve.

    It’s the same as a place saying you can’t build high density condos in place of low density single family homes.

    The city council is trying to encourage a different type of business to open up in south LA and this is one option for it to happen.

    I doubt it will make any difference. I can only assume the market is saturated with fast food and the entire area has sufficient fast food coverage that little headway can be made by grocers.

    I personally live within walking distance of a Rallys, Checkers, In and Out Burger, McDonalds and a Jack in the box. That doesn’t even count ethnic foods and smaller burger joints. I could see how building MORE fast food places would be over kill.

    I really don’t mind.

  34. SaraAB87 says:

    Unfortunately people who want to eat fast food will eat it, no matter what. Banning new fast food restauants in this area will not help because there is still plenty of food to eat.

    I agree with the other posters, how about instead passing a law outlawing fast food in schools and use the funding to provide healthier food for school children. Everything starts when you are a child, if we teach them now that fast food is bad for them and that there are better alternatives then we might be making some progress, but this will not happen unless we show them not to eat the food. You can preach all you want to a kid but if its thrown in front of them they will eat it, and thats not reinforcing what is taught about healthy eating in the schools. As a side effect of this there would also be less childhood obesity and more well-behaved kids, because kids that eat healthy behave better, and they are also less likely to become fat, unhealthy adults if they are taught early.

  35. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @Buran: You don’t hear the folks in Beverly Hills complaining. There are NO fast-food, liquor stores, or gas stations/mini marts allowed within the city limits.

    Like the man said, “While limiting fast-food restaurants isn’t a solution in itself, it’s an important piece of the puzzle.

    @Techguy1138: Word. As a former South LA resident, I can tell you this is a welcome change. My only question is: will they encourage alternatives, like Whole Foods or Trader Joes? Doubtful.

  36. Trackback says:

    Emily Banneker: When Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation came out in 2001, it incited discussions about the prevalence of fast food fare in our diets. Three years later Morgan Spurlock placed some french fries in a jar and wondered, “Why on earth don’t these things decompose?”

  37. MrEvil says:

    Mind you the obesity epidemic is based upon BMI which is a metric that was created by a MATHEMATICIAN (not a doctor) to correllate body mass and height to…here it is…..SOCIAL STATUS. It has absolutely nothing to do with measuring a person’s health. A good portion of that 30% LA defines as “Obese” are probably in overall good health according to their family physician. Government does not exist to dictate. It exists to SERVE the people. Telling me weather or not I should have a Baconator is not serving me at all.

  38. FLConsumer says:

    @Greeper: I’m with you on it. Judges won’t force restaurants to provide nutrition info, yet they’re willing to virtually ban new restaurants of a certain type for health concerns? Go figure.

    I don’t see this is any part of the solution. The solution is education and let people decide for themselves. Otherwise people will do what they’ve always done. Remember, surgeons didn’t used to wash their hands before surgeries either and they’re about the most bullheaded lot on Earth.

    Alternatives are in order as well. For example, it’s 3am, where can I go eat a healthy meal? Taco Bell? Not really. McDonald’s? Not at the one here. 7-11? The deli sandwiches are about as good as it gets, which isn’t a bad choice providing it’s not been on the shelf too long. There are “good” fast food restaurants, sometimes in wolf’s clothing. There are McDonald’s Bistros over in Orlando with real, edible food served on actual plates w/real silverware. [www.mcfun.com] And many of them are open 24/7 with the full menu.

    Price is another huge issue. Why do people eat at Taco Bell? 1) Quick, 2) Cheap. Look at the McDonald’s menu. I don’t have one in front of me, but I’m willing to bet the burgers are less expensive than the salads. While $2-4 difference might not seem like a lot (esp. when you’re used to sinking $60+/plate at dinnertime), there’s a large group of people out there who are living in debt and can barely afford the $1 items at the fast food places.

  39. mikewal79 says:

    Don’t people have an inherent right to be fat if they want to be?

  40. EtherealStrife says:

    @mikewal79: No. Not when their lardass has a heart attack and takes ER doctors away from other critical patients. Same goes for cigarette smokers (but more so).

    To the folks blasting this policy, really, stfu. You haven’t seen the area. You have to go cities over just to find a decent sit-down restaurant.
    Hell I eat half my meals at Del Taco or Carl’s/Green Burrito, and have no intention of quitting. This isn’t about restricting access to fast food. It’s about PROVIDING access to healthier food choices, in a region that is otherwise devoid of it. People will still have plenty of crap to choose from, but hopefully (should this pass) they will also be able to find something healthier to eat without driving 30 minutes out of their way.

  41. kromelizard says:

    Your fat ass doesn’t need a new place to get a burger.

  42. bcostin says:

    What a stupid concept. Next we’ll have police running sting operations on drive-thru windows and SWAT teams verifying that little Sally did, in fact, eat all of her peas. Before assessing a fine on Mom for operating a Fry Daddy without a license.

    Notice how the first impulse of these folks is always to ban something? If the government really wants a particular result, like more people eating healthy meals, then they should do be willing to do something proactive. Set up community gardens and cooking classes. Offer substantial tax breaks to encourage more grocery stores to open in those areas, for example. But that would ultimately decrease the bureaucrats’ control and potential revenue, and they can’t abide that. More control is always the real priority.

  43. synergy says:

    @mikewal79: Yes. But will the people also ask to be allowed to die because of their heart disease from being fat or will they be running to Mommy Government to pay their hospital bills?

  44. Robert Synnott says:

    I just love that there is a center for ‘Food and Justice’.

    This seems like a sensible enough measure, though…

  45. DJFelix says:

    The people of California receiving not only the government they elected, but the government they deserve.

    How’s that liberal utopia working out for ya there?

    I thought the hippies in California were going to all leave the country in a mass protest after Bush was re-elected. Why are they still here?

    For some damn screwy reason, they all decided to leave LA, and come to Austin.