You may think banning new development of fast-food restaurants in an already-saturated urban area would prompt kudos.

In reality, the restaurant industry and other critics believe the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee has egregiously blundered.

Not surprisingly, California Restaurant Association spokesperson Andrew Casana believes fast-food establishments shouldn’t be blamed for America’s obesity epidemic. “What’s next—security guards at the door saying ‘You’re overweight, you can’t have a cheeseburger’?” he asked TIME Magazine—and he’s far from alone in his condemnation.

 “Zoning and regulation run amok,” concurs Donald Kochan, an associate professor of law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif. “In a free-market economy, it is not the government’s role to decide what and where certain services or products should be provided.

“It is the height of a paternalistic government to decide that consumers should be isolated from fast food simply because the government officials think they know what is good for them,” he adds. “Such a ban violates individual freedoms but also individual choice and individual responsibility. Pizza is probably bad for you most of the time; should we allow government to create ‘no-delivery zones’?

“This restriction is not only arbitrary and capricious, offensive to the market, constrictive of individual freedom, ultra vires and beyond the legitimate role of the government, but also just further evidence of the ‘nanny state’ out of control,” Kochan concludes. “Property rights have been under constant attack in recent years, and this is just another example of the government invasion.”  

“You can’t regulate the supply side of a behavioral problem and expect results,” says Dennis Lombardi, MBA, executive vice president of foodservice strategies at WD Partners, a retail and restaurant consulting firm.  

“This is a well-meaning, but misguided, attempt to control social behavior, and it is as doomed to failure as prohibition was in the ’20s,” he says. “It’s the consumer on a tight budget who is likely to suffer most when the city stops them from purchasing a salad from McDonald’s or Wendy’s. A better option may be to incentivize grocers and/or other kinds of restaurants to locate in the targeted area. We should want to encourage more choices for people, not less.”  

In fairness, as we pointed out a few days ago, the city is trying to attract more healthful retailers to the area.  

Please share your thoughts on this controversial issue.

From Our Organic Blog