INDUSTRY — Margarita Guardado remembers being startled from her sleep early one December morning nine years ago by neighbors who told her that her brother, Lauro, lay unconscious in the parking lot of the bar next door.
Later that day, Guardado said, her 73-year-old brother was pronounced dead, the apparent victim of a fight in which he was struck on the head with a pipe. Guardado said her brother had been drinking and arguing with one of the bar's customers the night before. Although nobody was ever arrested or charged, Guardado blames her brother's death on his drinking problem.
More Crime Feared
This memory is part of the 68-year-old La Puente resident's reason for joining other property owners who oppose the sale of alcoholic beverages at an Arco service station on the southwest corner of Valley Boulevard and 3rd Avenue that is to be converted into an AM-PM mini-market.
"We don't need any more," she said, claiming that another beer and wine outlet would make traffic and parking problems worse and would increase gang violence, drug use and littering in her heavily Latino, working-class neighborhood.
Some residents of La Puente and the neighboring unincorporated community of Bassett claim that selling beer and wine where gasoline is sold will encourage drinking and driving and result in increased traffic fatalities. Other homeowners note that there are at least 11 locations within a six-block stretch of Valley Boulevard where alcoholic beverages are sold.
But Arco spokesman Albert Greenstein said there is no evidence that alcoholic beverages sold at gas stations increases crime, loitering, littering or drunk driving. "These people are discriminating against one company for an illogical reason," Greenstein said.
Effort Turns to State Level
The residents have failed to stop the City of Industry from issuing a conditional use permit to Prestige Stations Inc.--the service station's franchise holder and an Arco-owned subsidiary--to open a mini-market. They now hope to persuade the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to deny Prestige a beer and wine license.
In a report prepared for the board, a deputy at the Industry sheriff's station concluded that "the addition of beer and wine sales there is not going to greatly increase the crime rate."
Greenstein said that community opposition is part of a growing trend toward what he called prohibitionist solutions to the problem of drunk driving and alcoholism.
Thirty-eight cities--eight of them in the San Gabriel Valley--and one county (Alameda) have passed zoning restrictions or bans on the sale of alcoholic beverages at service stations or mini-markets where gasoline is sold, said Freidman Whittman, director of Berkeley's Prevention Research Center, a federally funded research group studying alcohol abuse.
City Rules Vary
Arcadia, Azusa, Glendora, San Gabriel and San Marino ban the sale of alcoholic beverages at service stations, while La Puente and Pomona require conditional-use permits for alcoholic beverage sales at service stations. Duarte requires a conditional-use permit from any business that plans such sales.
The La Puente City Council has used its ordinance this year to stop two service stations from being converted into mini-markets where alcoholic beverage sales were proposed. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also is considering restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages at service stations.
Activists like Ray Chavira, a leader of community opposition efforts throughout the county and a member of the Los Angeles County and California advisory commissions on alcoholism, said that adding another outlet for alcohol sales to a community already saturated with liquor stores and bars is an insult to Latinos. He said that Latinos accounted for 47% of the drunk driving arrests in Los Angeles County last year, the highest proportion of any ethnic group in the county.
"The data suggests that Hispanics indeed do have more health problems related to alcohol abuse than other groups," said Raul Caetano, a researcher with the Alcohol Research Group, a federally funded project sponsored by the Medical Research Institute in San Francisco. Caetano based his claim on several health studies and a just-completed national survey of alcohol use by Latinos that he helped conduct.
Like Guardado, Chavira has personal reasons for his fight in Industry. A leader of what he terms the "New Temperance" movement, Chavira said he is a recovering alcoholic and former La Puente resident who was arrested 10 years ago across the street from the Arco station for public drunkenness.
"I respect his (Chavira's) strong feeling on alcohol," said Greenstein, "but this (mini-market) will not contribute to alcoholism in the community."