Rationale for ban against future fast-food restaurants in South LA

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.

The effect of terrorism on New York City: more security measures

There is little doubt that what happened on September 11, 2001 was consequential for the United States. But it is also necessary to think about how this event (and other terrorist acts) have affected the American way of life.  The AP looks into what it means for the daily lives of New Yorkers – here are a few snapshots of an altered city:

Visitors to the Statue of Liberty must go through two separate, airport-style security checkpoints. Taking pictures of the PATH trains that run under the Hudson is illegal. Even the city’s architecture is changing: closed “sky lobbies” are replacing ground-level public spaces; vehicle barriers are de rigueur.

At Rockefeller Plaza, concrete barriers emblazoned with “NYPD” blocked part of the streets running through the promenade, which draws thousands of visitors to see its Christmas tree and ice skating rink.

In the subways, train conductors tell passengers, “If you see something, say something.” So do posters and ticket machines. Police conduct occasional spot checks, setting up a table in stations and searching travelers’ bags at random.

Times Square — now partly transformed into a pedestrian mall — sports wider sidewalks aimed at creating buffer zones around high-profile buildings. Nearly every lamppost now has at least two domed cameras and an antenna for beaming live images to police.

“Cameras, cameras and more cameras,” said Robert Jacobs, 30, a visitor from Chicago. “Makes you wonder who’s got time to watch it all.”

The overwhelming theme in this story is security: a greater separation of pedestrians or workers from potential harm while at the same time increasing vigilance through cameras, checkpoints, and the active participation of residents.

But what does this mean for the average resident? A little more inconvenience and time to travel? Some visual reminders that terrorism is a consistent threat? What I would want to know: has terrorism significantly altered people’s mindsets (perhaps stress levels about possible attacks) and behaviors? Do people or businesses not move to New York City because of the possible threats? This article suggests terrorism hasn’t altered much beside raising the general level of anxiety by some amount.

h/t The Infrastructurist

How rural homelessness might differ from urban homelessness

An Illinois sociologist argues that rural homelessness can look quite different from urban homelessness:

“In rural America … a lot of homelessness is hidden from the community,” said Judi Kessler, associate professor for the department of sociology and anthropology at Monmouth College. In a big city like Los Angeles, “homeless is easily identified and easily spotted.”

As a result, residents conjure up images of the homeless in larger cities, which contrasts sharply with homelessness in rural Illinois…

Instead, some rural homeless people “couch surf” by living with a friend until they are no longer wanted. They then move in with a new friend or into a rundown, low-rent home that may not have proper utilities. This process, while very telling, goes largely unnoticed by the general population.

“I think it’s fair to at least speculate that homelessness is much bigger than is immediately evident to our eyes,” Kessler said

Being homeless in rural America also presents unique challenges, which were discovered last spring by a group of students in Goble’s class who were assigned to produce a documentary on rural homelessness.

The group decided to focus on one person who had some bad luck and was staying at a Monmouth shelter…

Among the problems she faced were the lack of mental health services and public transportation in a town of 10,000 residents. Health services are at least 30 minutes away from the shelter, yet the female didn’t have a vehicle. She also had kids, and child care was hard to come by.

This brings up the issue of the social problem of rural homelessness – if people can’t easily see it, then they don’t know it exists. And if they are unaware, it is hard to motivate people to act. Is there a concerted effort in Galesburg or other rural areas to tackle this issue? How can social services be distributed in rural areas in a way that people could access them on a regular basis or in a time of crisis?

A second thought: how prevalent is rural homelessness? Are there figures from certain areas or across the country? I wonder how many cases of rural homelessness are linked to not knowing anyone in the small community.

Six reasons for living in the country versus in cities

The Yahoo Green blog provides a list of “six amazing things city dwellers miss out on.” Here are the six items on the list: stars, fresh air, peace and quiet, greenery, sounds of nature, and animals and wildlife.

It is interesting to think how many cities have created spaces where city dwellers can get glimpses of these things. Many large cities have large parks (think Central Park or Grant Park or the Golden Gate National Recreational Area) where some of these things are possible. However, as this blog suggests, seeing the stars even in the suburbs or thinking about city wildlife versus country wildlife is quite different.

To have all six of these things, how far would this blog suggest one has to move from the city? And for most Americans, how would these six amenities rate against the amenities that cities offer?