There Goes the Neighborhood: Entire Neighborhoods Lost to Eminent Domain Abuse
Riviera Beach, Florida, plans to displace more than 5,000 residents for mostly private development. That is the largest private condemnation project in the country, but it is by no means the only one that targets an entire neighborhood. Daytona Beach, Florida, is planning to market an area of about 50 homes for private development, just as soon as it gets rid of all the residents. Hurst, Texas, forced out 127 homes for a shopping mall owned by the City’s largest taxpayer. Wyandotte County, Kansas, removed 150 families for a racetrack. Garden Grove, California, removed hundreds of apartments and a senior citizens’ mobile home park for an upscale hotel. The New London Development Corporation in Connecticut has been trying to wipe out the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in favor of office buildings and something else that no one’s sure about. Although many of the 80 families agreed to move under threat of condemnation, seven families are continuing to fight the condemnations in court. Ohio seems especially fond of neighborhood-destroying projects. Toledo removed 83 homes for a car manufacturing facility. Norwood plans to raze 77 homes for a shopping mall; and Lakewood wants to take out 66 houses and five apartment buildings for the ever-present combination of retail, commercial, and upscale condominiums.
Sometimes residents are saved by sheer luck. Sunset Hills, Missouri, hoped to demolish 254 homes for an upscale retail and residential project. The developer had already bought half the homes, and the City was threatening to condemn the rest when it realized the developer did not have enough retailers to make the project worthwhile. Lakewood, Washington, hoped to expunge more than 200 families for an amusement park, but the developer backed out when it didn’t get enough tax breaks in its incentive package. And sometimes resident outrage actually gets through to City bureaucrats. Garden Grove, California (which is fond of large projects) scuttled its plan to remove more than 700 homes for a theme park after more than 700 people showed up at a city council meeting to object.
Usually, however, City officials are more than willing to sacrifice their own citizens, particularly those of moderate income, for the promise of richer residents and larger retail.
Sources: All of these situations are described in this report under their respective cities.