With the approval of neighborhood activists and law enforcement officials, the county Regional Planning Commission on Thursday backed a proposal to limit the number of retail outlets selling liquor in East Los Angeles.
The commission, in a unanimous vote, recommended that the Board of Supervisors establish "a community standards district" in East Los Angeles that would require applicants for liquor licenses to first win the approval of local residents.
The proposed amendment to the county zoning ordinance would affect new liquor stores, bars, cocktail lounges, convenience stores, restaurants or other locales where alcoholic beverages are sold. It would also cover establishments that already have a liquor license but plan to substantially expand their operations.
"I think it is a significant victory for the residents here, and a step in the right direction," said Daniel Saenz, a co-chair of the United Neighborhoods Organization, a group that has lobbied against the proliferation of liquor outlets.
Related Problems Cited
"It's not the liquor per se but the results of the drinking that concern us," he added.
Saenz and others who testified before the commission said the problems linked to the sale of alcohol include neighborhood blight, traffic problems, noise and crimes ranging from loitering to drug sales and assaults.
Residents and businesses in the nearly eight square miles of unincorporated territory in East Los Angeles already suffer from a high crime rate, said Sheriff's Lt. Al Scaduto. And he added that the crime problem is only worsened by the presence of the community's 274 liquor outlets.
"In talking with our people in the field and with veteran investigators, they are all of the opinion that alcohol plays a significant role in the commission of those crimes," Scaduto said.
By using the zoning process and requiring a conditional use permit for "on-site and off-site liquor consumption," county officials are hoping to severely limit the number of new liquor licenses approved by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The idea is patterned after zoning restrictions passed a few years ago by the city of Los Angeles that limited the number of liquor outlets in largely black communities. The Board of Supervisors last year also adopted measures to restrict liquor outlets in Willowbrook and Altadena after complaints by residents, but those restrictions dealt only with off-site sales.
The more sweeping East Los Angeles proposal will now go to the board where Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents the area and who helped shape the plan, is expected to shepherd it through. No one spoke in opposition to the proposal at Thursday's commission meeting.