Wed, Apr

Grocery Companies Have Abdicated Their Responsibility to South LA Community


PARKS’ PLACE-Dinner time’s approaching…may I take your order? You want fries with that? Would you like to go biggie size? 

The RAND Corporation issued a report, "Diet and Obesity in Los Angeles County 2007-2012: Is There a Measureable Effect of the 2008 Fast-Food Ban?" that looked at the effects of the 2008 ordinance (not ban) authored by Jan Perry and seconded by me that prohibited the construction or rehabilitation stand-alone fast-food restaurants "by right" in South LA. 

The ordinance addressed specifically "imposing interim regulations on the issuance of all permits related to the establishment of new fast food restaurants on commercial or industrial zoned properties located on streets designated as Major Highway Class I, Major Highway Class II and Secondary Highway in the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Community Plan area and portions of the South Los Angeles and Southeast Los Angeles Community Plan areas." 

The new ordinance required a specific community evaluation process to determine if an over-concentration of fast food restaurants exists. 

RAND’s study is shortsighted and well, meaningless. It's a misnomer to believe that one ordinance was going to change absolutely everything overnight (the ordinance is less than 10 years old) and frankly, when a community is up against decades and generations of poor-eating habits, fast-food legacies, being surrounded by food deserts/no grocery stores, low-paying jobs, low or no health insurance coverage, etc. it’s foolish to expect instantaneous makeovers. 

As most of us are painfully aware, nearly 80% of the restaurants in South LA are fast-food, no other community in the City of Los Angeles suffers this over-saturation blight. The industry wants to shun the label, calling themselves ‘fast-service’ or ‘fast-casual’; it does not matter what they call themselves. I’m not getting caught up in those semantics. 

The ordinance did not call for the closure of fast-food restaurants that were already in existence pre-ordinance and it also did not prohibit fast-food restaurants from coming to shopping centers. If we did that, we would truly be the food police that some people feared we were becoming. 

In creating the ordinance, we simply wanted to provide people with more eating and development options. Like I’ve asked before, do we need to know 15 different ways to eat a hamburger? 

Since 2008, many positive food related changes have occurred in the community: the fast food industry is no longer over-saturating our community with stand-alone, fast-food restaurants, some restaurants like McDonald's and LAUSD schools have started to serve healthier fare by making smaller portion sizes of food and drink, incorporating more fruit, etc., many mini food-markets have replaced stores that were previously solely liquor stores and many new sit-down restaurants and farmers markets have come on line. 

The one major failure of this multifaceted approach has been the loss of grocery stores. Many major chain grocery stores have left the community leaving the bulk of the grocery business on the shoulders of independent, mom-pop and converted mini food - marts stores. This is the most unfortunate aspect of the developments of the past seven years. Grocery stores have abdicated their responsibilities to the South Los Angeles community.

It will take decades of continued education on healthy eating habits, health care, exercise, the addition of farmers markets and grocery stores to the community, and more to see drastic changes in mitigating food related diseases.

What will impede change is if roadblocks, like a union suing a Walmart for expanding it grocery space, continue to arise.

You can read more about RAND’s study and more on my thoughts about the ordinance from the links below.


The first of public hearings on LA’s proposed minimum wage increase take place next week. 

The studies from the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce’s/Beacon Economics, L.A. County Federation of Labor and the University of California, Berkeley have come out. 

All eyes will be on Seattle who will have their first minimum wage increase to $11 on April 1 (hitting $15 in January 2017). Last week I reported the city was getting sued by the International Franchise Association because of the wage increase. Well, this week a federal judge threw that case right out. 

I strongly encourage all business owners, community members and employees to attend these minimum wage meetings. There needs to be an honest discussion of the pros, cons and overall impacts that come with increasing wages. Union members are already foaming at the mouth to have Council pass a minimum wage increase with little substantive research so we need as many non-special interest backed voices in the conversation as we can get. 

Minimum wage public hearings: 

Tuesday, March 24, 1 p.m., at Los Angeles City Hall Council Chambers, 200 N. Spring St.

Thursday, March 26, 6 p.m. at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee headquarters, 10950 S. Central Ave.

Tuesday, March 31, 6 p.m. at Van Nuys City Hall, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd.

Thursday, April 2, 6 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd.


Wednesday, Council adopted the development of a citywide neighborhood cleanup program known as CleanStreetsLA.  

Department of Sanitation officials gave a presentation along with City Administrative Officer (CAO) Miguel Santana on what the program would entail to keep the city clean like employing a Compstat program for cleanliness/cleanliness rating index, holding a higher degree of accountability for the Board of Public Works, supporting business improvement districts (BID), launching a public engagement campaign (like Philadelphia’s program), even funding cleanups-I know y’all like the sound of that. 

As the CAO stated, "It is not about dollars and cents at this point, but eventually it will be."

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We’re not window shopping at Neiman’s here- it would’ve been nice to at least get an estimate on the cost of this program. I won’t be surprised if the cost is exorbitant because city employees are expensive. 

In regards to keeping the city clean, catching people who dump illegally, etc., the city has a major issue to confront: we have an inability to enforce. Whether it’s through budget cuts or the problem is larger than we anticipated, things just run amuck to their own devices. We also can’t find out if ordinances on the books are being enforced. We previously approved a budget for bus benches to be accompanied with Big Belly trash cans to help with trash disposal (the city only has 1,000 trash cans!). When’s the last time you saw a Big Belly trash can near a bus bench? 

I don’t think we need to hire a bunch of employees to do clean-up work. I think we need to provide options to where people can dump on their own for free- whether it’s opening up a city yard for public use or directing them to one in the community like Active Recycling. 

80% of people want to do the right thing, they just don’t know about resources available to them. I’ll keep you posted on this program and what size piece of the budget pie it gets.


(Bernard Parks is Los Angeles Councilman for the 8th Council District. He is also  former Los Angeles Police Chief. He can be reached at [email protected]






Vol 13 Issue 25

Pub: Mar 24, 2015

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