Fast-food freeze is a good choice for South Los Angeles

Joe Hicks’ Op-Ed article criticizing the moratorium on fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles complained that the ban would mean fewer choices for the area’s residents. In fact, the move will ultimately provide them with more.

The Los Angeles City Planning Department is mandated to “partner with all Angelenos to transform Los Angeles into a collection of distinctive, healthy and sustainable neighborhoods -- the tapestry of a great city.”

Somewhere along the way, the residents of South Los Angeles got left out of the mix. As a result, there is very little land remaining for the people of this community to develop. Years of shortsighted zoning, coupled with a failure of land-use planning to consider the needs of the community, created an environment that is neither healthy nor self-sustaining. That is why we must determine how best to ensure that South Los Angeles grows in a direction consistent with the desires and best interests of the people who work and live there.

When the Planning Department conducted a preliminary study, it found that there is a proliferation of fast-food establishments in the area. In fact, a greater concentration of fast-food outlets exists in South Los Angeles than in any other part of the city.

Last week, my colleagues on the City Council voted to support a one-year moratorium on new fast-food establishments in the South and Southeast Los Angeles communities. This moratorium will not affect those outlets currently in existence, but rather speaks to the need to address an absence of food choices.

The ordinance is a planning tool. It is designed as a stopgap measure that will give us the time we need to analyze current development in the area. It also is intended to seek input from the residents of the community regarding their choices.

Many of those who live in South Los Angeles travel several miles just to eat at a sit-down family restaurant. When families have to travel that far for a desirable alternative because their preferred choices do not exist locally, it involves expenditures of fuel, time and energy that residents of other communities do not have to consider.

Furthermore, there is a significant loss of revenue for South Los Angeles. A recent CB Richard Ellis study concluded that most residents in South Los Angeles go outside of the city in order to be able to access more retail and entertainment options. The study estimated the annual leakage of business to be more than $400 million -- an amount that would support 1.5 million square feet of new retail in the Council District 9 Project Area alone. This proves what we have been saying all along: People will spend money on their families, and they deserve to do so within their own communities.

To help provide more options, I spearheaded the development of a “grocery store and sit-down restaurant incentive” strategy that I hope will encourage new businesses to invest in South Los Angeles. The comprehensive package includes programs and incentives from the Department of Water and Power, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Community Development Department. The incentives range from discounts on electric bills to assistance from the redevelopment agency.

There are many fine opportunities for development in South Los Angeles. Its proximity to downtown L.A. and the potential for development and job creation will require good planning strategies for South Los Angeles. The interim fast-food control ordinance, together with my incentive package, will help residents create a blueprint that will begin to make South Los Angeles a strong, sustainable part of this city. It is a strategy that takes into account the needs and desires of current and future residents.

Local government oversees planning and land-use issues. It does so to ensure that neighborhoods grow in a sensible and healthy manner. All areas of the city of Los Angeles deserve solid land-use policies and strategic planning. In areas like South Los Angeles, it is long overdue.

Jan C. Perry is councilwoman for the 9th District.

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