Mayor agrees city should ‘time out’ on new drive-thrus until study is complete

A coalition of local advocacy groups sent Mayor Robert Garcia and the entire City Council a letter today urging the city to set a moratorium on drive-thrus until its study on existing drive-thrus is completed—and Garcia gave his thumbs up.

Though Garcia has no power to introduce items or vote for them, his call-to-action could influence the Council.

“Drive-throughs represent the worst kind of new development: auto-oriented, low-density, unhealthy, and generic—exactly the kind of development we should be avoiding,” the letter read. “This is especially troubling in underserved communities that already struggle with an over-abundance of unhealthy, usually fast food, options (food swamps) and/or a dearth of healthy food choices (food deserts).”

The group included Walk Long Beach, United Cambodian Community, City Fabrick, Long Beach Forward, Coalition for a Healthy North Long Beach, Long Beach Alliance of Food and Fitness, Long Beach Time Exchange, and Long Beach Fresh.

The proclamation by advocates comes after the city planning department announced last month that it is trying to change the process in order to better regulate where drive-thrus are placed, how they look and how they’ll interact with the surrounding environment.

That move was prompted by members of the Planning Commission who said they were being cornered into approving these drive-thrus: Since there is no way to argue against them given the lack of standards, the Planning Commission has approved 21 drive-thrus in the last five years alone, creating a grand total of 116 drive-thrus throughout the city, a trend that is “ultimately in the wrong direction,” as Christopher Koontz, planning bureau manager, told the Post last month.

Staff presented their proposal, an eight-month study examining the standards they hope to propose, at this month’s Planning Commission meeting. There was no discussion of implementing a ban or a moratorium; that is not in the purview of the commission. But the advocacy groups knew one entity that could: the City Council.

“I got the letter today and immediately felt that it was a smart move,” Garcia said. “If it comes as an item on the menu, it will have my full support.”

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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