updated 9/11/2007 1:56:17 PM ET 2007-09-11T17:56:17

A city councilwoman is proposing a moratorium on fast-food restaurants in south Los Angeles, which has more such eateries than any other part of the county.

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The ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Jan Perry would stop new fast-food restaurants from opening in the area for up to two years while the city establishes a long-term plan to deal with the restaurants that have been linked to health problems.

"The people don't want them, but when they don't have any other options, they may gravitate to what's there," Perry said in Monday's Los Angeles Times.

The ordinance is a response to suspicions that obesity and related illnesses — including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease — are connected to the high-fat foods that dominate fast-food restaurant menus.

An analysis by the Times found that south Los Angeles has the county's highest concentration of fast-food restaurants.

The area also has higher rates of obesity than the rest of the county, according to a county Department of Public Health study that found 30 percent of adults in south Los Angeles are obese, compared with 20.9 percent in the county overall. For children, the obesity rate was 29 percent in south Los Angeles, compared with 23.3 percent in the county.

Some public health experts cheered the proposal.

"While limiting fast-food restaurants isn't a solution in itself, it's an important piece of the puzzle," said Mark Vallianatos, director of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College.

But some in the restaurant industry criticized the moratorium proposal, which would only permit full-service, sit-down restaurants to open, as misguided.

Dennis Lombardi, foodservice strategies chief at restaurant consulting firm WD Partners, said the restriction was "like saying we're not going to allow anybody to sell Chevrolets anymore because we want people to buy nothing but Mercedes-Benzes."

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