Halfway there – The evolution of local alcohol control in California. Part II: Stages and factors in development, 1980-2015

Friedner D. Wittman


Wittman, F. (2016). Halfway there – The evolution of local alcohol control in California. Part II: Stages and factors in development, 1980-2015. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 5(3), 109-116. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v5i3.235

From 1980 to 2015 California cities have been increasing their capacity for preventive local control to reduce harms attributable to retail alcohol outlets. We describe a four-stage process that has evolved from reactive zoning to preventive zoning. Starting about 1980, communities turned to local zoning following the California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Department’s struggles to stem growing problems with new types of rapidly proliferating outlets in rapidly-changing cities. (See Wittman [2016] for the function of local zoning in the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Department (ABC) system for licensing retail alcohol outlets). Community coalitions teamed with local public officials to reduce problems through “local control” ordinances based on conditional-use permits for retail alcohol outlets. Working in coordination with ABC licensing procedures, cities learned to use their zoning ordinances to draw effective boundaries for outlet location and type of setting, to limit outlet density, and to impose preventive restrictions on outlet design and operation. The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and the California alcohol policy advocacy community helped develop local control into a statewide movement. This paper reviews local control’s statewide progress to date and considers its prospects for future development to prevent harm in California cities. We conclude cities are about halfway to achieving harm-reduction benefits available from self-sustaining regulatory infrastructures grounded in participatory administration of local land-use law.


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.v5i3.235


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