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Healthy choices can help

September 27, 2007

Re "Zoning those pounds away," Opinion, Sept. 21

Laine T. Wagenseller specializes in real estate law, so it follows that he would be against almost any zoning restrictions. However, if one were to follow his reasoning to its logical conclusion, then we would have no zoning regulations, and we wouldn't need a planning department or any of its related agencies.

We have a battle here -- one of too many liquor stores, automotive repair facilities, fast-food outlets and the like. I wish Wagenseller would get involved in our segment of L.A. and help us bring some rational development and good retailers into the area. South L.A. has long been the dumping ground. At least Councilwoman Jan Perry had the courage to acknowledge a problem. Is her proposal the answer? I don't know, but maybe she can bring some attention to the issue.

Every urban study conducted regarding the area in the past 20 years has cited the extraordinarily high number of fast-food outlets as being a serious problem and has cited the failure of various agencies to enforce equally the zoning and planning regulations. And 30 years later, nothing has changed. We are overdue.

Sarah Bagby

Los Angeles

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Wagenseller objects to the proposed moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in low-income and high-obesity areas of L.A. Again we are told that the answer is personal responsibility. In the world of ideology, personal responsibility is an appealing cure-all. The real world is more complicated. Sure, each person makes a choice about what to eat. But how free are those choices? If you are poor and without a car, you are at the mercy of the food sources around you, and that's where fast-food outlets and liquor stores concentrate and supermarkets avoid. In a fast-food restaurant, how are you supposed to exercise personal responsibility when there are few healthy choices and no nutrition information readily available?

We need to find ways to make healthy food available and affordable to everyone and to educate and motivate people to make healthy choices. Neither personal responsibility nor government action alone will solve our nation's most pressing health problems. We need to do both, and that will require rising above ideology.

James Sallis

Director

Active Living Research

San Diego State University

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