Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Hilda Solis, the Board of Supervisors is looking to update 24-year-old regulations on liquor stores in unincorporated areas, to keep them from becoming a nuisance to the community or leading to criminal activity.
“Addressing quality of life in the communities we serve requires focused attention and constant vigilance,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Research has long shown a strong link between excessive alcohol availability and violence of all types: auto accidents caused by drunk driving, domestic abuse, youth violence, shootings, sexual assault, drug use and suicide.”
“Efforts to regulate liquor stores have made a difference but more needs to be done, particularly for the unincorporated areas of the County,” he added.
Supervisor Solis said, “With this motion, the County will continue its leadership by addressing community concerns related to liquor sales.”
“Today’s action ensures that neighborhoods throughout the County have access to more healthy options,” she added. “We’re taking proactive steps to combat food deserts and food swamps while strengthening regulations of alcohol sales.”
Back in 1992, the Board adopted an ordinance that granted permits to businesses wanting to sell alcohol for the first time or to expand existing alcohol sales – if they complied with specific standards in terms of location, operating hours, etc. It did not, however, apply to businesses already selling alcohol at the time.
Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis’ motion called for updating the Los Angeles County Code with a “deemed approved” ordinance modeled after that of the City of Oakland, which would provide tougher enforcement tools against such “grandfathered businesses,” or those established before 1992.
Citing a need to “incorporate lessons learned and to address emerging issues that continue to impact neighborhoods,” Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis called for stricter rules to prevent the “undue concentration” of liquor stores in certain areas and to limit shelf space devoted to alcoholic beverages.
In communities deemed “food deserts” which lack access to healthy food and “food swamps” which have an overabundance of unhealthy food, the motion considered incentivizing liquor stores to also sell fresh produce and whole grains.
Operators violating the proposed ordinance could have additional conditions imposed on their business, and repeat offenders could have their “deemed approved” status revoked, preventing any further sales of liquor.
Several members of the public testified in support of the motion, including Socorro Chacon, representing Social Model Recovery Systems. “I believe this ordinance will increase the safety of our community,” she said, adding many stores that sell alcohol become “magnets for trouble.”
“These stores are just across the street from our houses, but the public drinking and loitering there stop us from going in,” she added. “Having the control to address these issues is important, and I’m happy about having healthy food – not just alcohol – at these stores since there are not a lot of grocery stores nearby. This will not only help us with safety but also with what the community needs.”