Earlier this week, Los Angeles developed some new restrictions for new fast-food restaurants:
New fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles will be banned within a half mile of existing ones under an ordinance approved Wednesday by the City Council.
The law includes other restrictions on stand-alone eateries, the Los Angeles Times reported. They include guidelines on landscaping, trash storage and other aesthetic issues.
Similar limits are in place in other LA neighborhoods. The council imposed a moratorium two years ago in southern Los Angeles.
Is this an example of the government telling people what they can or cannot eat? Is this example of a government limiting business or jobs opportunities? The rationale for these new regulations is interesting:
The goal of the restrictions is to encourage the development of stand-alone restaurants and grocery stores.
“For a community to thrive, it is important to have balance, a full variety of food, retail and service providers,” said Councilman Bernard C. Parks, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.
The ordinance includes exemptions for fast-food restaurants in mixed-use developments and shopping malls and for existing restaurants planning to expand.
These sorts of rules are not unusual in communities. How does this differ from a suburban community that decides it won’t allow any more banks in its downtown? Or communities that have restrictions against tattoo parlors? Both banks and tattoo parlors create jobs and bring in some sort of tax dollars. If the City of LA wants to promote other kinds of development, this seems like a reasonable rule that doesn’t force out already existing stores but limits their future growth.
At the same time, the issue of fast food seems to bring out passionate arguments from people. Do we have a “right” to fast food restaurants? A lot of critics of sprawl argue that fast food restaurants represent the worst of sprawl: they are completely dependent on the automobile, the food is cheap, mass-produced, and not healthy, and the restaurants and their signs are garish advertisements for multi-national corporations who couldn’t care less about local communities. Others argue that we should be able to eat what we want when we want.
In Los Angeles, they seem to have made a decision about promoting other kinds of development. Communities make decisions like this all the time, depending on factors like tax revenue and what goals or values they wish to promote.