The Los Angeles City Council wanted to look like it was doing something about the growing problem of obesity among South LA residents.
So it made the area's fast-food restaurants the scapegoat.
On Tuesday, the LA City Council placed a yearlong moratorium on new fast food restaurants in high poverty South LA. The action was presented as a way to open the door for restaurants that offer healthier menu options.
It does seem that obesity is a problem in this area. According to the Los Angeles County health department, 30 percent of South LA residents are obese compared to 19.1 percent for the whole metropolitan area. But banning additional fast food restaurants is a losing strategy and an unfair attack on businesses that already are attempting to offer more healthy menu choices.
It's not the restaurants' fault that patrons choose to order a double cheeseburger instead of a salad, or a milk shake instead of a diet soda. Even if additional restaurants move into the area, customers may well make the same choices based on such factors as price and convenience, as well as taste.
The City Council's action might be marginally justified if there was any reasonable expectation that it would solve the problem it seeks to address, but there isn't. If the city really wanted to reduce obesity, maybe it could subsidize a low-cost salad bar restaurant or build new recreation centers to encourage people to exercise more. But those things would cost money, so it's easier to just point the finger at a broad class of "fast food" restaurants and be done with it.
Are there supermarkets in this area? Following the council's reasoning on restaurants, they should ban all new supermarkets that sell high fat food. Only health food stores need apply. They could even take it another step and attack other health issues. No more convenience stores that sell cigarettes.
Obesity apparently is a problem in South LA, but it's a little insulting for the city to imply that it should decide what the residents of the area should eat because they aren't smart enough to decide for themselves. If the City Council really wants to address the obesity issue, it would be better off trying to attack the poverty that leaves residents of the area with limited options in food and in life.