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There's no denying the obvious: In-N-Out Burger is close to the hearts of Californians. The fast-food burger joint is known for its simple approach (burgers and fries and nothing else) as well as the staggering length of its drive-through lines, which often wind hundreds of feet around their restaurants. The chain got its start in 1948 in the community of Baldwin Park, California -- the first drive-through in the state. But town officials aren't erecting a sign to commemorate it. In fact, they're banning new drive-throughs altogether.
The problem? Well, it turns out that the town's 17 drive-throughs are a little too popular, and politicians are hoping to curb the town's reputation as a hotspot for fast food and tame traffic problems. Baldwin Park, 15 miles east of Los Angeles, is home to about 90,000 people but is only about 6.5 square miles, so drive-through lines often stretch into residential streets.
The City Council voted unanimously last month to put a nine-month moratorium on new drive-through restaurants. "We here in Baldwin Park have taken strides to create a healthy community, and allowing one more drive-through in is not going to meet that goal," city planner Salvador Lopez, who helped craft the ordinance, told the Associated Press.
Reaction has been mixed. "To be honest, yeah, we have too many," Fabian Olguin told the AP. Olguin, who works at the barbershop across the street from the In-N-Out. He says he's seen traffic from its drive-through overflow onto nearby roads. "Sometimes I can't even get out on the street," he says.
But some residents think the measure is misguided. "They ought to put in more drive-throughs, not stop them," Isaac Colin told the AP after ordering burgers and fries at the Baldwin Park In-N-Out. "It's a waste of time getting out of your car, finding a parking spot, going in, ordering your food."
The ordinance took effect last weekend, so the jury is still out on whether it will change consumer habits – or road traffic. Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the California Restaurant Association, is unconcerned about the trend spreading. "I think," Conway told the AP, "that the drive-through is in Californians' DNA."