Los Angeles Limits New Fast Food Restaurants

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The Los Angeles City Council imposed a moratorium on new fast food franchises in south L.A., where healthy dining choices are slim and obesity among young children is a growing problem.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And while sit-down chains like Bennigan's struggle to survive, fast food chains like McDonald's are faring well. But they won't be expanding in one area of L.A., at least for the next year. Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council passed a one year moratorium on new fast food restaurants in a section of the city that already has plenty of fast food and a high child obesity rate. NPR's Karen Grigsby-Bates reports.

KAREN GRIGSBY-BATES: Crenshaw Boulevard is one of the major northwest streets in south L.A., and it's larded with fast food outlets, like the McDonald's on the corner of Crenshaw and 43rd.

Lamara Jones has stopped in with her young cousins for lunch. She says the moratorium is a good idea.

Ms. LAMARA JONES: When you walk down the street it's every McDonald's, every Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, any fast food you can think of on like pretty much every corner. So I totally agree. It should stop for a year.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Backers of the moratorium say a break in the construction of fast food outlets might give healthier restaurants a chance to gain a foothold in South L.A. Lamara Jones says she's ready for a change.

Ms. JONES: Sushi, anything other than just burgers. I want to try different other foods.

GRIGSBY-BATES: But critics point out that a lot of people, like Gigi Williams, are pressed for time and rely on fast food to be, well, fast.

Ms. GIGI WILLIAMS: Go in, go out. I don't really have time to stop and sit anywhere for lunch.

GRIGSBY-BATES: The Restaurant Association, which opposes the moratorium, agrees. A consultant told the L.A. Times the new ordinance was akin to, quote, "saying we're not going to allow anyone to sell Chevrolets because we want people to buy nothing but Mercedes Benzes."

Last year, the Times studied the city's restaurants and discovered that the highest concentration of fast food is in South L.A. So is the city's highest percentage of obese adults and children. The city council says the moratorium isn't about banning fast food entirely but about giving city planners a year to figure out how to add other choices to the area's fast food-heavy menu.

Karen Grigsby-Bates, NPR News.

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