Santa Monica Bans Fast Food Chains

The Lempert Report
January 22, 2019

The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to issue an “Urgency Interim Zoning Ordinance” prohibiting fast-food restaurants with more than 100 locations nationwide from opening on it’s tourist filled Third Street Promenade.

The newly passed ordinance also provides specific language defining a fast food restaurant, which includes establishments where “orders [are] placed at a walk-up window, counter, or machine,” “payment [is completed] prior to food consumption,” and “food [is] served with disposable, one-time, or limited-use wrapping, containers, or utensils.”

“Keeping things like Taco Bell Cantina or other fast food endeavors which you can find in literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other locations will help us keep that uniquely Santa Monica feel,” remarked Gleam Davis, mayor pro tem.

The ordinance will only apply to establishments with frontage on the Promenade. 2 blocks away sits a McDonald’s. All establishments with applications “deemed complete” before the ordinance took effect would be exempt. 

Initial concerns about the proliferation of fast food restaurants on the Promenade were raised by Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), which resulted in the City Council directing staff to explore methods to curtail the trend this past August.

The ordinance is a part of a citywide initiative to transform the Promenade into a one-of-a-kind community-gathering place, as the rise of online shopping has greatly reduced foot traffic in the neighborhood.

Other cities, as large as San Francisco and as small as Cotati, have adopted some form of neighborhood or citywide control on fast food restaurants due to similar concerns. 

For those who travel by planes, the trend already has hit many airports around the country, which while producing much better dining experiences, has also seen significantly higher prices for travelers who just want to grab a snack – a burger or slice of pizza for example.