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City Mulls Relaxed Ban On South LA Fast-Food Eateries

LOS ANGELES ( — Dozens of South Los Angeles residents Thursday were expected to attend a hearing about a plan that opponents fear could crowd the city with fast-food restaurants.

Officials with the city Planning Commission are scheduled to consider a draft of the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Park Community Plan that would exempt the 10th Council District from a ban on new fast-food eateries that has been in effect since 2008.

William McCarthy, a professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the jury is still out over whether the ban has had a positive impact on the community's health.

UCLA Professor William McCarthy

"We know that in neighborhoods where you have access to more full-service grocery stores and to sit-down restaurants, you can have a higher proportion of your calories come from fruits and vegetables," McCarthy said.

Recent data shows an estimated nearly 30 percent of 750,000 residents in South L.A. — which has around 1,000 fast food restaurants — are considered obese.

In addition to any public health impact, officials with McDonald's have attended past community meetings and claimed the ban is hurting the local economies where their stores are located.

A 2009 study funded by the National Institutes of Health — which received no financial support from the fast-food industry — found the number of fast-food chain restaurants per capita in South Los Angeles was not inconsistent with other neighborhoods, the Los Angeles Times reported.

However, McCarthy said personal responsibility for dietary choices is only one factor involved in the health issues raised by allowing more fast-food restaurants into the neighborhood, and that lawmakers can, and should, be doing more to protect the public.

"It's more than that because people are influenced by visual cues and by other influences that they're not totally aware of, so there is a role of government to help nudge them in the direction of healthier choices," he said.

The city Planning Commission hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the Civic Center.

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