Beating the Competition is as Easy as Getting the City to Give You Their Business
Cities regularly use eminent domain to favor one business over another. In Illinois, the Swansea City Council authorized the condemnation of an 84 Lumber Store so that the City could replace it with a Home Depot. Cities want slicker, trendier business establishments. That’s why Lancaster was happy to condemn the 99 Cents Only store for Costco. Both San Leandro, California, and Merriam, Kansas, condemned used car dealers for new car dealers. Cleveland forced out a working-class bar so that it could have an upscale restaurant instead. And San Jose, California, is condemning a successful shopping center full of Mexican merchants and transferring it from its current owner, who has been redeveloping it, to another developer. The City claims that the project is not moving fast enough, so the plans call for keeping most of the buildings and tearing down one entire building to move it over slightly. The merchants who can now afford the leases on their spaces will be displaced for several years, then able to afford the new rents only if subsidized by the government. Unlike City officials, the local merchants would prefer their current market to the gentrified one the City seems to have in mind.
Sometimes, the choices are so incomprehensible that it seems as if local bureaucrats just want to feel like they are in control, like when Chicago condemned a piece of land because its owners wanted to build a four- or five-story building while the City wanted a two-story one built by a different developer. Government may condemn property for “public use,” not to select favorite retail establishments and favorite property owners. This type of micromanagement, resulting in huge financial gains to some businesses and losses to others, is a patent abuse of power.
Sources: All of these situations are described in this report under their respective cities.