Halfway there – The evolution of local alcohol control in California. Part I: The system as it has developed

Friedner D. Wittman


Wittman, F. (2016). Halfway there – The evolution of local alcohol control in California. Part I: The system as it has developed. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 5(3), 101-107. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v5i3.228

Local control over retail alcohol sales in California cities provides substantial capacity to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm. This paper shows how local control works in California to prevent harm at retail alcohol outlets. Prior to issuing a retail license to an outlet operator, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department (ABC) waits until the local jurisdiction (city or county) issues a land-use permit (also called a zoning permit or use permit). Localities have discretionary authority to impose preventive “conditions” on the use permit to protect public health and safety by imposing restrictions on setting design, operation, and hours of operation for the retail alcohol outlet. Within the state/local control system, city options include Level 1 permissive zoning (no restrictions), Level 2 problem-solving zoning (restrictions on new/expanded outlets), and Level 3 community oversight (restrictions on existing and new outlets). Since 1980 the scope of local control has progressed from nil (Level 1 permissive zoning) to Level 3 preventive surveillance for all outlets. Higher-level zoning requires local politics in which the ABC is not involved. A companion article (Wittman, 2016) describes the evolution of local control for retail alcohol availability in California’s local jurisdictions from 1980 to 2015.


Local control; city planning and zoning ordinances; retail alcohol outlets; community prevention of alcohol/drug problems; high-risk retail alcohol outlets; State alcoholic beverage control

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v5i3.228


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