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South L.A. Moratorium on Fast Food Restaurants Simply Isn't Working

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The 2008 legislation hasn't created meaningful change.

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Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Unfortunately, it looks as though South L.A.’s 2008 moratorium on new fast food restaurants may not be having the desired effect. The well-meaning City Council proposal seemed simple in scope and in line with similar programs throughout the nation aimed at cigarettes and alcohol, but according to a new report from the Rand Corporation, has not led to the desired decrease in obesity and weight-related ailments. Over at Vox, they've compiled a pretty data-heavy look at what the report means.

The LA Times has more details on the revelation, including a quote from the co-author of the zoning restriction Councilman Bernard C. Parks. "We never believed it was going to be an overnight situation," he says, adding that the neighborhood-specific mandate has always been a single spoke in the larger wheel of strategies aimed at curbing obesity in some of the county’s poorest and most at-risk areas.

Of course, not all of those other objectives have come to pass. Much of South L.A. is still a fresh food desert, with grocery stores still remarkably hard to come by. Farmers markets, however, have been on the rise, and recent legislation changes at the city level are making it easier than ever for empowered locals to grow their own produce.

The fast food restaurant ban only ever really applied to stand-alone restaurants

Part of the issue regarding the legislation has to do with its specificity. The fast food restaurant ban only ever really applied to stand-alone restaurants, the sort with a drive-thru component, which meant that strip mall spaces, which proliferate across the area, are fair game. As a result, between 2008 and 2012 alone, 17 fast food chains increased their reach in the area, simply by moving into strip malls.

While people like Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are aiming to change the quality food imbalance with an upcoming restaurant in Watts, there remains much to be done. Which, unfortunately, does not require a prepared report to realize.