From Anacostia to Alexandria, residents are fighting fast-food franchises. Are these shops a nuisance or a convenience? We present some views on the subject.
Washington is one of the last major cities to exert control over proliferating fast-food establishments. Without effective regulations and restrictions, such as those passed recently by the D.C. Zoning Commission, the city and its residents will be the big losers.
Fast-food restaurants don't mesh with the fabric of city neighborhoods. These places are objectionable because they create tremendous traffic congestion and horrible parking problems in shopping districts designed for pedestrian use. The high volume of traffic results in loud noise and crowds. The restaurants generate vast amounts of garbage and spread trash throughout the surrounding residential area.
Moreover, the designs of many of these establishments are completely incongruous with the architecture of Washington's neighborhood shopping districts. The garish lighting and gaudy trademark displays, deemed so necessary to attract large audiences, add to their intrusive presence in inner-city shopping neighborhoods.
Also, fast-food restaurants have a propensity to multiply. The industry itself testified before the Zoning Commission in the fall of 1983 that one fast- food establishment tends to bring more into the immediate neighborhood. The industry contends that an aggregation of these places helps the business of all. This is not a surprising argument. Even a cursory view shows that these establishments tend to group together. This only adds, however, to the noise, the crowds, the traffic, the trash and the offensive lighting.
These places tend to cheapen a neighborhood, drive out other businesses and lower residential property values. Fast-food chains have the market power to establish themselves in a neighborhood thus depriving residential shoppers of the much-needed small retailers offering local services.
For these reasons, the industry's arguments that its restaurants raise taxes and create employment are quite simply false. They drive out local businesses, have no net effect on employment and actually lower property values. Further, they cause a flight of capital from the city. Large franchises send a large amount of profit out of the city back to corporate headquarters. Local shopkeepers, to the contrary, spend and reinvest their money right here at home.
Consequently, it is essential that the city of Washington effectively control and regulate fast-food establishments. This does not mean that they have no place in certain areas of the city; they do. But fast- food restaurants have no place in local shopping districts and in areas next to residential neighborhoods. Otherwise, the proliferation of these places will transform this city into the nightmarish "strips."