Fallen Lords of Dogtown

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St. Louis Alderman Thomas Bauer has been recalled in a special election after pushing an eminent domain seizure in order to put up a gas station and convenience store in the Dogtown neighborhood. (He also tried to sue pro-recall activists for defamation.) The block Bauer had ensured was designated as "blighted" apparently was home to "half a dozen businesses, including two used car lots, a heating business and a law firm," and there were already four gas stations and a Walgreens a few blocks away. Bauer blames "hysteria over eminent domain" for the recall effort. I call it a healthy message to send: Get too enamored of your own central planning genius, and you may find citizens seizing your job for public use, to hand over to someone who can make more productive use of it.

NEXT: Deep-Sixing 527s

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  1. Get too enamored of your own central planning genius, and you may find citizens seizing your job for public use...

    Hey joe. They're coming to take you away, ha ha.

  2. The block Bauer had ensured was designated as "blighted" apparently was home to "half a dozen businesses, including two used car lots, a heating business and a law firm

    He wanted to tear down ALL of that to make room for ONE gas station/convenience store combo? How big was this thing supposed to be, anyway?

    Glad he's gone, though. Serves him right. And though I'm generally opposed to private ED, I really, really hope his own house gets condemned.

  3. Brilliant. Finally some action against CP nuts.

  4. Fuck yeah! Now can we burn him at the stake? 🙂

  5. Get too enamored of your own central planning genius, and you may find citizens seizing your job for public use...

    Hey joe. They're coming to take you away, ha ha.

    Ha ha ha

  6. That intersection is a bit shady. The buildings along that part of Manchester are old and some of them are very run down. I don't agree with the city seizing the buildings and evicting the occupants. It would be nice if the city tried to clean the area up a bit, though.

    Would it be a problem if the city wanted to build a strip mall/parking lot in that zone and invite the current businesses there to inhabit it? It seems that a lot of places in St. Louis City are getting into tearing down old buildings and building new structures that mimick the suburbs. Personally, I would rather see them attempt to rehab the old buildings because I think they add a lot of character to the neighborhood. I don't know how that would be done or if it would be at the occupant's expense.

  7. Wow - Warren beat me to the punch by country mile!

    Speaking of country miles and city planning, where IS joe when we need him? I'm sure he could explain why this is a perfectly acceptable use of eminent domain, and why central planning is the only way to accomplish any good.

    Ok, even I couldn't say that out loud with a straight face...

  8. Several years ago he agreed to close his station for a stretch each night when it became evident that round-the-clock business hours were causing area crime to spike.

    What kind of alternate universe does St. Louis inhabit - where open businesses cause crime?! In my experience, neighborhoods with shuttered businesses always have more crime.

  9. It seems that a lot of places in St. Louis City are getting into tearing down old buildings and building new structures that mimick the suburbs.

    Sounds like Buffalo (and I'm sure, many other cities). Imagine the absurdity of seeing split-level ranch houses on the east edge of downtown - but that's what they're building. And on my old corner, just north of downtown, they built a suburban Walgreens complete with wraparound parking and drive-thru. I think these are all signs of a weak economy.

  10. Even closed businesses can generate jobs. There's a sketchy street a couple of blocks away from me that used to have businesses and the landlord tripled everyone's rent about 4 years ago and besides some fly by night places nothing has opened on that strip.

    In the last year that block has had at least 3 CSI shoots and a couple of Law and Order ones (one's happening today). While not good for the people out of business, it must be good for stores on adjacent streets.

  11. mattc,

    I have to disagree. I used to live in St. Louis (until about nine months ago), and had several friends who lived in that area. Some of the buildings looked somewhat worn down, but many still looked very nice, and many others were already in the process of being renovated. At least a couple years ago, from what I could tell that neighborhood seemed to be undergoing a pretty substantial gentrification on its own. And there's certainly no shortage of traffic or business at that intersection - I have to think there's a lot of money there to fix up what needs fixing without getting the somewhat less-than-reliable St. Louis city gov't involved.

    Although those fuckers at Manchester Auto at that intersection who ruined my car several years ago are sure shady. Someone should go all ED on their asses.

  12. I'm sure he could explain why this is a perfectly acceptable use of eminent domain

    c'mon...just because someone is a planner does not mean they automatically agree with every ED decision. joe has already pissed all over the NLDC. What more do you want?

  13. Note to politicians seeking to seize land: It's probably best not to try seizing land that includes the offices of a LAW FIRM. Just a thought.

  14. What kind of alternate universe does St. Louis inhabit - where open businesses cause crime?! In my experience, neighborhoods with shuttered businesses always have more crime.

    My first instincts would be to say that they 1) provide shady characters with convenient places to hang out all night and 2) provide easy targets for quick robberies, both of the stores and of the patrons. But without any actual evidence at hand, those are complete wild-ass guesses.

  15. MP,

    unfortunately making that distinction would go against the ideology of many folks here, which seeks to confuse the generally uncontroversial actions of city planners with the egregious, self-serving decisions of a few crooked politicians.

  16. J,

    My experience in that area, Dogtown and Maplewood, is somewhat jaded by all the creeps I've known who live around there. I know downtown St. Louis, namely Washington Ave., has had an explosion of high priced luxury lofts and the accompanying businesses that go with them. I agree that there are certain parts of St. Louis city that are going through positive changes. I guess it all depends on who lives where.

    You're right, there are some well maintained buildings in that area. I also agree some of those used car dealers need to go out of business, too. One of the creeps I used to know made money selling junk cars to those little rinky-dink dealerships along Manchester.

  17. mattc,

    Yeah, I'm sure my experience is also pretty strongly colored by the folks I knew from that area, and they tended the sorts of people who were doing the gentrifying, so that's what I saw a lot of. I used to live in the neighborhood just north of the Loop, and in the eight years I lived there that neighborhood improved quite a bit as well. But there are certainly large parts of St. Louis city proper where the planned revitalization hasn't done much. But I imagine we can agree that anything that results in the recall of an alderman is probably, on the whole, a change for the better....

  18. Would it be a problem if the city wanted to build a strip mall/parking lot in that zone and invite the current businesses there to inhabit it?
    In other words, use taxpayer extorted funds to rebuild structures for the benefit of a few businesses. Perhaps they can't afford to do it themselves because of all the taxes they pay.

  19. MP, to a majority of the regulars and staff here, a deliberate, studied ignorance to the details and real world consequences of takings is a purposeful, principled position. This isn't really about the consequences of a redevelopment project, or the attachment of a property owner to his building (as willing as they are to put forward those arguments if they will help put a check in the Win column). Libertarian opposition to eminent domain as a redevelopment tool is founded on the same reasoning that leads people to say "If a city is collapsing, it's the will of The Market, and the city should be allowed to collapse."

    Seriously, do you think Julian would be lauding this effort if the properties proposed for condemnation were all junk storage, and the proposed use would create 200 jobs for neighborhood residents?

    Also, the fact that a commercial lot in the center city is occupied by a car lot doesn't suggest to me that the area isn't blighted - it suggests that it is. The presence of a car lot tells me that no one has deemed the site worth putting a building on. Car lots have one of the lowest jobs-per-acre ratios of any commercial land use. And, by imposing a pedestrian-unfriendly landscape on the district, they reduce the value of surrounding commercial properties, promoting further vacancy. Vacancy or underuse (measured objectively, in terms of business activity, jobs, or property investment per acre) that promotes vacancy or underuse in adjacent propertis is more or less the definition of creeping blight.

    That said, I still don't know enough about the project to judge it one way or the other.

  20. Let me guess - boo hoo hoo, who are YOU to claim that more jobs, more investment, and a more attractive appearance is better than a land use that actually harms the economy and livability of a neighborhood?

    That's, like, just your opinion, man.

  21. "Also, the fact that a commercial lot in the center city is occupied by a car lot...

    This neighborhood is not in the center city - at least as I understand you to mean center city (although maybe I'm mistaken). It's far away from St. Louis' downtown (technically not even in St. Louis city proper, although it is within the boundary of the mish-mash of little municipalities that make up what most call St. Louis), and the area has more of a near-the-edge-of-the-city-but-not-all-the-way-to-suburbia residential feel (I imagine there's a more succinct way to put that...). A relatively small car lot is on one corner of that intersection; the others are occupied by a gas station, two garages, and a Walgreens. In the general vicinity of the intersection are a couple strip malls with K-Mart, Office Max, and such, several fast-food and casual restaurants, a few more gas stations, another moderate-sized car lot, some local businesses of various sorts, a school, and quite a bit of housing (both single and multi-unit). As hinted at in the articles and mentioned above by me (if you consider me a trustworthy character), it's a fairly active neighborhood, and one that by most accounts is in the process of "revitalizing" on its own (it's certainly considerably safer and more prosperous than it was 5-10 years ago). It's pretty hard to see how another gas station/convenience store would make a meaningful contribution that that process - especially, as one article mentions, there are already several gas/station convenience stores in the immediate vicinity.

    Having said that, I didn't realize this alderman is the jack-ass (oh, the pun-anity!) who rode around on a donkey during re-election campaigns. A bit of local color will be lost, but maybe the donkey can take his place on the Board of Alderman, since it probably knows the neighborhood pretty well.

  22. J, thanks for the info. Such uses could certainly be a blighting influence in one type of location, and the sign of a healthy real estate market in another.

    Based on your information, it sounds a lot more like a "Kelo" taking than an blight taking.

  23. I wonder if there are any studies which look at the efficacy of planning in general.

  24. There's no such thing as planning in general.

  25. I wonder if there are any studies that look at the efficacy of war in general.

    I wonder if there are any studies that look at the efficacy of diplomacy in general.

  26. When I read this post, my mood ring turned the color of savage glee.

  27. Of course, nobody's saying that the St. Louis center city isn't blighted.

    Because, well, it is.

  28. joe,

    There's no such thing as planning in general.

    I see, so there are no general theories of planning that you scumbags consider? Its all particularized to specific areas. Man, such particularization sure does make it easier for you fools to hide your fuck-ups.

    There are most certainly are studies of the efficacy of warfare in general. I suggest you pick up a copy of Clauswitz's On War. *cackle* Man you're fucking ignorant.

  29. joe,

    Thanks for ducking the question, BTW. Its nice to see that you admit that you can't justify your pathetic profession.

  30. "I see, so there are no general theories of planning that you scumbags consider?"...."Man you're fucking ignorant."...."Its nice to see that you admit that you can't justify your pathetic profession."

    Jesus Harold Christ, what is with the hostility? This seems a bit over the top even for you. Was your uncle mauled to death by a band of marauding city planners?

  31. A wild pack of city planners once killed, and ate, the only woman I ever loved.

    But that did seem a bit gratuitous to me also.

  32. Jesus Harold Christ, what is with the hostility?

    That's just Hakluyt being Hakluyt.

  33. MP, to a majority of the regulars and staff here, a deliberate, studied ignorance to the details and real world consequences of takings is a purposeful, principled position.

    God that's an awful sentence! If you're gonna insult us at least do it w/ style. And maybe try not to paint w/ such a broad fucking brush.

    Joe, if nothing else, taking people's homes and businesses is an ugly business to be in. To try to do it on the cheap is underhanded. And when large development corporations and government officials work in concert to evict citizens, it's scary.

    Maybe it's our defense of freedom you're reacting to, but do you really think the majority of people here are blind to the various aspects of the issue?

    Hak, Joe's not ignorant. He's just filled w/ hate.

  34. Although those fuckers at Manchester Auto at that intersection who ruined my car several years ago are sure shady. Someone should go all ED on their asses.

    Ha! I know exactly the fuckers in question. And yes, these fuckers certainly are a bunch of crooked fuckers.

  35. J,

    I'm not being hostile. 🙂

  36. "I see, so there are no general theories of planning that you scumbags consider?"

    General, overarching theories? Other than "water runs downhill," it's tough to think of any. Everything is so interrelated and subject to so many variables, it's useless to think in terms of "laws" comparable to those in the sciences. Unless you get way, way down to such statements as "textured crosswalks encourage slower driving and are more visible," and then you're in the fields of transportation engineering and psycho-optics.

    Planning is not a technical profession, and past efforts to treat it as one - such as "scientific" urban renewal, have turned out to be disasters.

    "Maybe it's our defense of freedom you're reacting to, but do you really think the majority of people here are blind to the various aspects of the issue?" I'm sorry if you don't like my phrasing, but it has been made very clear that takings are EVIL EVIL EVIL, regardless of their actual consequences, to virtually all libertarians.

  37. Actually, there are certain statements about planning process that approach the level of general theory, such as the practical importance and ethical mandate of genuine community participation. But, again, the fact that process is so elevated is an indication of the lack of overarching, objective truths.

    Planning's intellectual foundation is in the social sciences, not engineering.

  38. "c'mon...just because someone is a planner does not mean they automatically agree with every ED decision. joe has already pissed all over the NLDC. What more do you want?" - MP

    Dude, based on subsequent posts by joe, I find it hard to point out that I was being a bit facetious.

    I also find it revealing that joe just flat-out admits that there's no general principles behind his work. While it says nothing about the principles behind his politics, it's certainly ONE explanation of his "results over principle" approach.

    joe will argue (and essentially has done so repeatedly) that looking at "the details and real world consequences of takings" invalidates the principle of property ownership.

    You see, he's an expert who can tell you how your property should be disposed of better than you, because it's for the greater good. Of course, he's an expert in a field that has no foundation in anything, apparently. (I hear it's good work if you can get it - banker's hours, decent pay, minimal labor.)

  39. OK, here are a couple of overarching principle: people a right to have in say in what happens to the communities they live in.

    The built environment will be more sensitive to the needs and concerns of the public if they are allowed to have some say into the development that occurs around them.

    As I said before, there are certainly broad principles guiding how to plan - just not any fixed theories about what is, and what is not, good development.

  40. In case anybody wasn't sure that rob was flailing away at a straw-joe, the phrase "decent pay" should tip you off.

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