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Mon, Apr

Alcohol Vending Machines May Be Coming To An Apartment Building Near You

LOS ANGELES

GUEST COMMENTARY - If you’ve spent any time at all in Hollywood, you know it’s not hard to get a drink there.  Bars and nightclubs abound, and there are plenty of mini-marts and liquor stores with a wide assortment of booze.  But what if you don’t feel like going out to a bar, and you’re too tired to even walk to the liquor store?  How can you get high without leaving the comfortable confines of the building you live in? 

Lucky for you, the owner of a brand-new apartment complex in Hollywood has come up with the answer: A vending machine that offers a full-line of alcoholic beverages!  Yes, the owner of Sentral at Inspire Hollywood, 1522-1538 Cassil Place, has applied to the Department of City Planning for a permit to install two such vending machines in “club rooms” located on the fourth floor and the eighth floor, in both cases with adjacent outdoor decks.  And LA City Planning seems open to the idea.  A hearing was held on Tuesday, January 9, and while the Zoning Administrator agreed to keep the record open for two weeks for further comments, it seems likely that City Planning will approve it.  

Why would you want to install alcohol vending machines in an apartment building?  Well, reportedly the owner of Sentral at Inspire Hollywood feels that it’s a necessary step if he wants to compete with other buildings in the area.  And of course, if City Planning approves this, you can bet that owners of other buildings will decide that they need these machines, too.  (You may be thinking, “Wait a minute.  What if kids try to use the machine to get booze?”  While full details have yet to be revealed, it’s likely that these machines have the capability to do biometric IDs.  Yes, this is legal in California.)  

In other words, even though Hollywood is drowning in alcohol already, LA City Planning wants to jack up alcohol density even further.  Never mind the numerous health harms associated with the consumption of alcohol.  Never mind that research shows increases in violent crime are associated with increased alcohol density.  It’s been clear for years that City Hall feels you can never have too many establishments selling alcohol.  To cite just a few instances: 1) In December 2023 the City approved permits for FIVE restaurants to serve a full-line of alcohol from 6 AM to 2 AM daily at 5780 North Canoga; 2) In 2019 the City approved a Master Permit for TWENTY TWO alcohol-serving establishments as part of the Crossroads Hollywood project (Fortunately not built.  Yet.); 3) In 2022 the City of LA approved the Restaurant Beverage Program (RBP) which allows restaurants to serve alcohol without first obtaining a Conditional Use permit.  

Again, there are decades of research showing the harmful effects of increased alcohol density.  One study titled “Alcohol Availability and Intimate Partner Violence among US Couples” (Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, January 2009) [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18976345/] has this to say: 

"We found that as alcohol outlet density increases so does the risk of MFPV [Male/Female Partner Violence] and that this relationship may differ for couples who do and do not report alcohol-related problems. Given that MFPV accounts for the majority of injuries related to intimate partner violence, policy makers may wish to carefully consider the potential benefit of limiting alcohol outlet density to reduce MFPV and its adverse consequences." 

The LA County Department of Public Health has also weighed in on this issue repeatedly, and you can read their findings in the report “Alcohol Outlet Density and Alcohol-Related Consequences by City and Community in Los Angeles County” (LA County Department of Public Health, December 2022).  A quick look at Table 1A shows that Council District 13, which includes Hollywood, already has a high alcohol density.  And Table 2A shows that CD 13 has a far higher rate of violent crime than LA County as a whole.  But to give you a general idea of how many harms are associated with drinking too much, let’s just look at this one paragraph on page 24: 

Excessive alcohol consumption continues to be a serious public health concern with substantial implications for disease, violent crimes, traffic collisions, work loss, and social

relationships. During 2020 in Los Angeles County, alcohol was involved in an estimated 4,060 motor vehicle crashes, 5,745 motor vehicle injuries, 123 motor vehicle fatalities,

50,600 ED visits, 45,726 hospitalizations, and 2,498 alcohol-attributable deaths. 

So excessive consumption of alcohol doesn’t just harm the individual who’s doing the drinking.  It has the potential to cause substantial harm to the community.  

The problem here is not just that a couple of alcohol vending machines are going to be approved for one apartment building.  The problem is that this sets a precedent which will allow anyone else who owns a multifamily residential building to do the same thing.  That could mean a substantial increase in alcohol density across Los Angeles, including in areas that are already suffering harms from over-concentration of locations serving alcohol.  It’s likely that there are a number of landlords out there who would see these machines as a great way to increase revenue, and if City Planning says yes to Sentral at Inspire Hollywood, it will probably say yes to other applications that comes along. 

If you have thoughts on installing alcohol vending machines in apartment buildings, you can contact the City Planning staff member assigned to this case. 

Stephanie Escobar, City Planning Associate

[email protected] 

Be sure to include the case number in the subject line. 

ZA-2023-4977-CUB

 

(Casey Maddren is president of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA [www.un4la.com]) and a CityWatch contributor.)