Dallas Votes to Zone 30-year-old Garage Out of Biz. To Make Way for “Starbucks and Macaroni Grill” · Change.org


Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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117 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Well large corporations can afford higher property taxes than a small garage, and will be more likely to draw similar large chains to the area.

    I’m sure thats what it’s all about, & no kickbacks or favors or other quid pro quo is in play.

    They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      I certainly wouldn’t rule corruption out as a motivation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a desire to “improve” the neighbourhood – they wanted to gentrify the area, and decided that driving out a a mechanic to make room for an eatery of some kind would help move the neighbourhood in the direction they wanted it.

      Which is the main problem with zoning – it rests on the presumption that local government can and should centrally plan cities. I’m not suggesting a total free-for-all, but its been clear for decades that central planning isn’t a good way to run an economy, and government controls over land use should be focused more tightly on the market failures involved.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        zoning is not exactly knew. “anti-Social” industries have been kept away from residential areas since the dawn of time. The Elizabethans made tanneries and other smelly industries locate Downwind and downriver. I don’t think that should be controversial.

        Car mechanic shops are more interesting.Report

        • Avatar James K says:


          Externalities are indeed grounds for government intervention – but prescriptive zoning is an extremely heavy-handed way of dealing with the problem. A system of broad rights-assignment combined with licence fees (calculated base don the external costs of different kinds of development) for building something out-of-zone would be a more flexible system.

          The other side of this of course is the issue of Regulatory Takings. If the local government had simply seized Mr Mbogo’s business, he would be entitled to compensation. But instead they regulate him out of business, destroying much of the value of his property but they are required to offer him nothing in exchange. You can see a similar dynamic at work with some of the new abortion restrictions implemented in some states. Sufficiently advanced regulation is functionally a ban, but the law treats them as something entirely different. I wonder if this will result in some on the left dusting off some of the Law and Economics theories on this stuff, which had previously been dismissed by many as pro-corporate propaganda.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            My understanding here is that there has been no interference with title, so there should be some form of compensation negotiated on the end of the deal.
            Quite often, such take-overs are affected by means of targeted codes enforcement to soften a landholders resolve, resulting in a net loss prior to vacating.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            I suppose I want to know more. What kind of neighborhood is the garage in? Did the people who signed the petition live in the neighborhood? Did they vote for the Dallas Board of Supervisors? What if the Board of Supervisors members ran on a explicit gentrification platform and won their elections? Etc.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Why does any of that matter?Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                Elections have consequences. I am not saying that this is fully right but I am growing increasingly impatient with American politics where everyone wants to seem to have their cake and eat it too. The plan was enacted in 2005. There were plenty of times when people could have engaged in the political process to change the stuff and now it is 11 years later and people are complaining.

                Change happens for better or for worse. I am not always happy with it either. FWIW I also get cranky when people post stuff on social media from sites like Jeremiah’s Vashing New York especially if it is a “Damn developers are chasing out this business that I never went to because the business could not keep up with trends.”

                Keep in mind that I am also in favor of land-use taxes and think that taxes should be higher on vacant properties to encourage landlords to lower rents instead of holding out for someone who can pay a higher price. There is a commercial building around the corner from me that has been vacant for about 5 years. That is too long.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How does Mr. Hinga want to have his cake and eat it too?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              This article is a little more comprehensive:

              This stands out:

              “The City of Dallas re-zoned the area back in 2005 to make way for redevelopment. The change forced many other auto shops to leave. New homes and businesses are popping up, making a gateway into the downtown Arts District.

              “I’ve invested so much time here, and it’s a family business,” Mbogo said. “I’ve got four guys working here that do not know where they want to go.”

              This is the only repair shop left in the neighborhood; Mbogo has obtained special use permits to remain open. But some neighbors who support the zoning change don’t think it’s fair that he receives an exemption.

              “We are sympathetic, but it is time for him to comply,” said Linda Collins, president of Bryan Place Neighborhood Association.”

              It seems much of the area was auto shops and the like up until 2005.

              This feels really, really shitty. Even if they have the law on their side, it doesn’t strike me that this is how things should go. Buy the guy’s property. If you can’t, well, tough.

              It strikes me that this is essentially eminent domain pretending to be otherwise.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    So he can’t have a garage. Okay, sit on the property. Make them take it.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      How is the guy supposed to make a living in the meantime? Did you bother to consider that? I guess he can just eat cake while he’s at it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Way to read my comment as uncharitably as possible. Trolls gonna troll.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          You wrote what you wrote and made it perfectly clear what you think he should do. If that’s not what you meant then by all means tell us what you really meant.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Assuming the decision is final he cannot have a garage there, that doesn’t necessarily means he has to give up his property. He can keep the property and do other things with it that are consistent with the new zoning rules. He doesn’t have to roll over and let them turn it into a Starbucks.

            If I was him and had to close up shop, I’d simply sit in a folding chair holding a sign telling them exactly what they could do with the property.

            But, obviously, you saw a chance to take a potshot at me by reading my comment as poorly as possible and in doing so made yourself look like the ass you are. Well played!Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              If I was him and had to close up shop, I’d simply sit in a folding chair holding a sign telling them exactly what they could do with the property.

              How nice. Righteousness, it neither feeds, clothes or shelters you.Report

      • Are you coming out in favor of zoning? Interesting.

        But if the value of the property has been destroyed by it being rezoned he’s not going to realize any sort of windfall by selling it; Why not keep it as an asset when looking for a business loan to relocate the business to somewhere else, then hold onto it as an investment property?Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          Some zoning is important so you don’t have a fireworks factory next to a school but this isn’t that case.

          Why not keep it as an asset when looking for a business loan to relocate the business to somewhere else, then hold onto it as an investment property?

          Let’s say he does that. How long does it take him to buy a new piece of land, build a new shop and then re start his business? All this time with no income? That sounds like more spare capital than most businesses have.Report

  3. Avatar trizzlor says:

    In theory I like the idea of a community deciding what their neighborhood will be like and working with businesses to maintain that. But in practice the people who end up sitting on community boards are the worst kind of petty tyrant busy-bodies I’ve ever encountered.Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    I have no interest in reading the IFJ story on this, but I do wonder what made libertarians suddenly interested in this instance of gentrification. I mean, it’s a pretty straightforward, government aided gentrification process, using zoning to push out “undesirables,” as often happens. I guess this is a good example of how framing guides opinion (also, how “framing” makes people feel like they don’t actually have to know what’s going on to form an opinion).

    By the way, even though the city won’t compensate them, as the last hold outs in a now thoroughly gentrified area with significantly higher property values, the Hingas’ land is worth a lot more than they could have gotten for it when the zoning was initially changed more than a decade ago.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I do wonder what made libertarians suddenly interested in this instance of gentrification.

      I think that the only reasonable answer involves the libertarians having ulterior motives.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That’s one way to answer my query. I imagine there are more productive ways, though.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Were there some other big cases of Eminent Domain that “libertarians” failed to be sufficiently outraged over recently thus removing their moral standing to be outraged about this one?Report

          • There’s this:

            Global Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers, Arlington
            The city of Arlington used eminent domain to obtain 13 acres for the Rangers Ballpark in 1991. One investor, George W. Bush, transformed his initial $606,302 investment into $14.9 million when the team changed hands in 1998. That’s quite a profit for someone who campaigned for private property rights in 1994.


            • Avatar Aaron David says:

              Wait, W was a Libertarian?

              I am confused.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              So “libertarians” can’t be upset about this thing that happened the other day because they didn’t get upset in 1998 about Dumbya?

              I’m going to have to start questioning people’s motives as that’s a really powerful rhetorical tool.

              But I can’t help but wonder if people rely on it sometimes because they don’t have effective arguments against the matter at hand…Report

              • It’s a free country. Anybody can be upset about anything they like.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s one thing to have the right to be upset about something.

                It’s another thing entirely to have the moral standing to be upset about that exact same thing.

                I’m not questioning your right to be upset about X. I’m questioning whether you have the moral standing to be upset about it.

                Given that you weren’t upset when Rostenkowski was stealing stamps, I’m wondering why you’re getting upset about this.Report

              • I don’t question people’s moral standing either. How can I, when I just admitted to being motivated by animus? And I’m sure that Reason and Cato were as angry about The Ballpark at Arlington as they were about the shopping center from Kelo, and wouldn’t be even an iota more angry if it had been Bill and Hillary instead of W.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Here’s an article from 2002 criticizing it.

                To what extent does that not count?

                Is the argument “2002! Day late and a dollar short! Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with what Dallas is doing!”Report

              • Good for them. I take back that nasty crack about Reason.

                Also, I’m sure Cato would have filed that amicus brief asking the Roberts Court to gut the VRA even if it were themselves whose disenfranchisement it would have resulted in.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I guess I’m still wondering what that is in service to.

                Libertarians didn’t have a particular position then, therefore they shouldn’t have it now?

                Oh, well, some of them did have it then, but some didn’t! So the point stands?Report

              • Avatar Autolukos says:

                Come on, Jay, you know only hand-engraved gold tablets bearing joint statements of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman count here.Report

              • You know how it is. Those of us know have no principles but just want free stuff get uppity sometimes.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                This seems to be more of a “right-thinking people agree that this is distasteful but THOSE LIBERTARIANS have no standing to also find it offensive! Why, they didn’t even oppose (example from 18 years ago)! So I can’t believe that they’d oppose it now.”

                I mean, if this was an argument about how what the local government was doing was Good but THOSE LIBERTARIANS oppose it, that’s something that would make sense.

                But we’re in “we don’t want that kind of people moving into our offense at this sort of thing and gentrifying it” territory.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                More of a, “Libertarians were on that side of the issue, but for some reason, in this case, which looks exactly like the other ones, they’re on this side of the issue. Why is that?” The answer appears to be, “I know you are but what am I,” so any hope I had that this will mean a new group of gentrification skeptics is waning.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Can you imagine a perspective from which this thing does not look exactly alike some yet-unnamed example?Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Well, the libertarian movement changes. It used to be that libertarians wanted to abolish the welfare state. Now, minimum basic income is becoming less of a soft-peddled heresy and more mainstream.

                The same thing could be happening here. Libertarians have always been against eminent domain and have for some time thought that there is a lot that governments do that harm the worst off. There has however been a lack of awareness that gentrification is a product of such government action. So now, if this framing catches on, you will expect to see a lot more libertarians up in arms against gentrification.

                The way things are framed brings up different salient considerations. Libertarians care a lot about government interference, so once you make it clear about the role of government in causing X, you get libertarians up in arms.

                If, on the other hand, a lot of gentrification is not caused by government interference, why should libertarians be invested in opposing it (at least qua libertarianism). If things are instead framed as government interference being required in order to keep big box stores out, can you not imagine why libertarians would be anti-anti-gentrification?Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              I would say that, for a guy that can’t strike oil in West Texas, this is doing fairly well.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            You’re arguing with someone else. I’m merely wondering why libertarians like the IFJ became interested enough to write about (misleadingly) this case, which brings other pro-gentrification libertarians in to oppose this case in the last example of “eminent domain” (this is different from that, but whatever) after all the other similar businesses were run out and the neighborhood was thoroughly gentrified.

            I don’t think you (IFJ-influenced libertarians) don’t have moral standing. I think you don’t really care, since it never bothered you before that this was going on (as, again, it always is when a neighborhood is gentrified).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              So the people who wrote this article don’t really care about it, which is too bad, because it’s something that people should be upset about.

              I can see why it’s worth criticizing them about that, I guess.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Again, I’m curious about why they’re just paying attention now, and here. And perhaps whether it will mean paying attention to other cases in the future. I’m skeptical that it will, but perhaps there’s something about why they’re paying attention now that suggests libertarian sorts will pay attention in the future and take a more sophisticated approach to gentrification than the usual “gentrification is good” position.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Here’s what I’m asking: you and others here have, in the past, been unambiguously pro-gentrification, and critical of the people who’ve been critical of it (including, perhaps ironically, criticism of their motives). Now that your co-ideologues have alerted you to government’s role in it, will you approach it differently, or will you go back to “yay gentrification” as soon as libertarian advocacy groups stop taking about the government’s role in it (i.e., tomorrow).Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kind of depends on what aspect of gentrification. Libertarians don’t mind when gentrification prices people out but I suspect they are less inclined to support government pushing people out through zoning and regulations. And when they defend gentrification, they’re defending the former. I think bringing up the latter is likely to involve common ground. If it doesn’t, that does make a point about the libertarians who shrug it off.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Which points out the weakness of using “positive” versus “negative” rights or “affirmative” or “passive” actions to establish legitimacy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                With one set of priors yes, with another set no.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There is a difference between “pro-gentrification” and “I’m not sure that we have the right to intervene in the whole ‘people moving from this place to that place’ thing”.

                While it’s absolutely true that government policies can nudge one way or the other, there is a difference in kind between “we should make this sort of thing easier for the people who want to do it” and “we should use the government to speed up the process by shutting down businesses”.

                For the record, I’m pretty sure that I’m still opposed to this even though I’m going to get all “jeez… I don’t know” the next time some hipster moves into a part of town that was authentic 20 minutes before he got there and eating at the restaurants that only authentic people knew about and suddenly making prices go up for all of the authentic folk.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I can only speak for me and I am only “pro-gentrification” in the sense that I don’t think that we should use the government to prevent people (or businesses, I suppose… there are a lot more caveats for that one, though) from moving into town.

                Even if they are icky.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            This isn’t eminent domain. No compensation is being offered. In fact, penalties are being offered.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I suppose that that’s true. This isn’t the government taking his land.

              It feels like a taking of some sort, however.

              It definitely feels like the government colluding with big business against small business.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                As the arms race between pro-government and anti-government intellectual forces continues, gradually the tactics of either side will become more and more covert – i.e. “mission creep” on the part of pro-government types; everything that Southern state governments ever do on the other side.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If only they had claimed some sort of environmental standard.

                “Hey, we’ve decided that any business in this part of town needs to have solar panels and also not handle motor oil. For the children.”

                At that point, we could be talking about hey, it’s unfortunate… but children need solar panels.

                As it is, the city council guy gave the game away.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Wonderful example.Report

    • Does Hinga own the land the business is on? That’s not clear to me. The article talks about selling the business, not selling the land.Report

    • @chris

      I guess it depends. If gentrification is conceived only as people choosing to move to a certain place and anti-gentrification is conceived only as people setting up legal road blocks to such movement, then I can see how a libertarian can consistently support gentrification, oppose anti-gentrification, and oppose this attempt to oust the garage business. (Or apparent attempt….I read only the quoted portion and not the underlying article.)

      However, I think I see your point. It’s quite possible that the sites where people want to move are made deliberately more attractive by zoning policies and other state policies to encourage not only “people” but more specifically “very affluent people.” And those policies might wreak havoc on local businesses or residents. But these policies are usually less visible, or as you say, “framed” differently.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        There is no such thing as gentrification that doesn’t use city government. In fact, what Dallas did in 2005 is commonplace, though it’s not just zoning. They use all sorts of stuff libertarians presumably oppose, from subsidies to the police. But it’s usually only framed as poor people being priced out, and like I said, framing is a substitute for thinking.Report

        • Those are all pretty good points, most of which I hadn’t thought about when it comes to gentrification.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          But it’s usually only framed as poor people being priced out, and like I said, framing is a substitute for thinking.

          This is the aspect that the most vocal opponents of gentrification choose to emphasize. If I concede that libertarians are just a bunch of big ol’ hypocrites, could you elaborate on these other aspects?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      I’m a little confused by your argument here. Can you flesh it out/dumb it down for me? What is the particular framing you are objecting to?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not objecting to the framing, I’m just pointing out that this sort of story is what gentrification is, and people who are usually all for it are against it here because it’s framed as government infringing on the property rights of a small business owner (perhaps in the corrupt service of big corporations).

        The only part of the IFJ framing that I object to is the Starbucks shit, which they clearly took out of context to promote the framing, but as someone whose position on gentrification is clear and consistent, I agree with the government shitting on the little guy framing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          This sort of story is also what eminent domain is and “libertarians” get all hot and bothered about eminent domain. I mean, except for the Dubya thing with the Texas Rangers back in 1998. That was okay.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Again, this happens pretty much wherever there is gentrification, and in this very case has been very publicly happening since 2005.

            The usual retort to criticisms of gentrification is “the neighborhood is better now,” as we’ve seen in gentrification conversations here many times. This is part of what it takes to make them “better.”Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          What’s IFJ?

          Also, interestingly, this is local government impinging on individual property rights. I believe libertarian stereotypes are usually praising local government, but libertarian stereotypes this time around seem to be attacking local government. Typical libertarian sneakiness.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:


          I’d push back — gently — because my sense is that there is no one thing that “gentrification” is because gentrification can take different forms, some of which are much worse than others (and some of which probably aren’t bad at all). As a general rule, I’d put this and the many other forms that involve the government using its power to pick and choose who gets to stay and who has to go and who gets what perks and who gets their knuckles rapped in the “pretty frickin’ bad category”. I think what they are doing to this guy is awful and I hope he finds a way to stop it.

          However, I’m pretty confident you are well versed on the topic so if I’m wrong, please correct me.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Other than the particular deception in the linked story, I’m not objecting to anything. I’m on the same side as IFJ. I’m just wondering why they’re suddenly on this side, and “we always oppose eminent domain” doesn’t really work because a.) this is different from eminent domain in important ways, not the least of which is that this dude still owns his land, b.) this dude is the last of many businesses forced out by the very public rezoning, which was explicitly designed top rid the area of those businesses, in the last decade, and c.) all gentrification uses local government to reshape neighborhoods, through zoning, subsidies/tax breaks, ordinances, policing/enforcement, etc., yet the folks up in arms about this case have never before (to my knowledge) expressed reservations about ordinary, everyday gentrification like this case.

        So far, the only response to my skepticism has been harrumphing about my motives for questioning their motives.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          FWIW, I got what you were saying.

          It harkened me back to the day a couple of years ago when the guy a few hundred miles away from where I live stealing the county’s water to create a pay-to-fish vacation spot on his land suddenly became the concern of libertarians, who acted like such laws were new, Hitler-like, and probably somehow related to Obama.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Was that a case of you saying “I’m opposed to this but other people who are opposed to it are wrong to do so” or a case of you saying “this is being reported like the guy is catching the water coming off of his roof into a 55 gallon drum and the people who are opposing it on that basis don’t know that he’s actually making a lake!”?

            I mean, just going off of memory here.

            Because when I look at your post from the era, I’m counting either 3 or 4 “libertarian” commenters and they all seem to agree that this was a lot more complicated than a guy collecting the rain off his roof into a bucket.

            (Though I will grant that Ward still argued his original point and that there were other “libertarian” commenters who did not show up to comment.)Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              @jaybird Oh, I wasn’t counting people here.

              I don’t, as a general rule for these types of things, because for the most part the way people act/listen/are willing to learn at this site is significantly different from the rest of the intertubes and various other politically driven claptrap media. It’s why I hang out here, and not, say, in the comments section at Liberty Radio Network — or Breitbart, or Mother Jones.

              It’s like when someone identifies something as a common libertarian position here and then someone else points out that if you polled all of the libertarians on this site, the majority wouldn’t agree and thus the point is refuted, and I want to roll my eyes and say, “Oh, so I guess it’s only all of the ones that are on TV and radio and the sites that get by far the most traffic, then. “Report

        • and “we always oppose eminent domain” doesn’t really work because a.) this is different from eminent domain in important ways, not the least of which is that this dude still owns his land,

          I see that point differently (although I agree with your other points). IANAL, etc., but it seems to me that at least some of the controversies around eminent domain surround whether such and such a regulation counts as a “taking” regardless of whether the erstwhile owner still retains ownership of the land.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            That’s a valid objection. Let’s say that this is not an obvious case of eminent domain-like “taking,” particularly since this guy can sell his land for a lot more than it was worth before the “taking” (coincidentally, one of the common defenses of gentrification, by libertarians and others; apparently that the selling is largely against the will of the seller only matters when the government evokes Starbucks in the case).

            Yeah, I’m slightly irked here, because I am pretty certain — and the reaction here only makes me more so — that when the next post about gentrification comes up, a lot of folks are gonna forget that the government is always involved and go back to defending it against any skepticism.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          I’m on the same side as IFJ. I’m just wondering why they’re suddenly on this side

          The short answer is that IJ isn’t “anti-gentrification.” They are pro-property rights. This case is exactly the sort of thing that IJ does, nothing new or unusual at all. So yes, the Institute for Justice is not ACORN. I guess that could be a problem if you really believe that the ACORN model is the one true way. But short of that, not sure why it matters that most of the folks who work for IJ self-identify as libertarians.

          We can go back and look at the history of the policies that helped create yesterday’s ghettos and today’s gentrifying neighborhoods. We’ll find lots of conservatives who were responsible. And we’ll find lots of progressives who were responsible. We’ll find centrists and radicals and business owners and community activists and corporate concerns and trade unions. Probably not going to find a lot of libertarians though, for the simple reason that libertarians have not been a meaningful part of any ruling coalition at the national, state or local level.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I get what the IFJ is, but even they only jumped in for the last of the businesses (and again, this was a very public deal from the beginning).

            Also, you won’t find any libertarians because by definition, libertarians wouldn’t use government to further their business interests. You probably wouldn’t have much problem finding self-described libertarians among the influential stakeholders, though (business-owners, e.g., or even monied residents).Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Eminent domain abuse is one of IJ’s main issues, along with occupational licensing. They represented the plaintiffs in Kelo. Keep in mind that IJ is a public interest law firm, not a think tank. They promote libertarian goals, but they do it primarily by taking on specific cases in order to establish legal precedents, not by issuing an op-ed on every case that comes up.Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I am genuinely ambivalent about this certain case; I agree that there are plenty of cases where either outright corruption, or just foolish desire for the easy pickings of gentrification cause zoning boards to use their power in a brutal manner.

    But my ambivalence is the point.

    There are legitimately competing interests here, between the owner who wants to use the land a certain way and citizens who want to see it used another way.

    A sweeping simple bright line, such as asserting a sort of castle doctrine right to use the land as it has been, forever and ever, or conversely, asserting a right of the city to arbitrarily reassign land use without any other regard, is what I would push back against.

    The shop owner is engaged with his community- he consumes city services, contributes to taxes, provides employment, receives the benefit of the same gentrification that is now threatening him.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      “…between the owner who wants to use the land a certain way and citizens who want to see it used another way.”

      Does it matter that this isn’t just the owner WANTING to use it a certain way but the owner having used it that way for 30 years?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Well, yes to a point.

        But there is no such thing as new virgin land- all land has been used for something for a long long time, and yet cities still need to make decisions on how land will continue to be used, or not and those decisions- to upzone or downzone, to increase sewer capacity or not, to build a freeway exit here or there will all have a dramatic impact on people who planned their livelihoods based on assumptions that run contrary to the decision.

        This reminds me of the battles over historic preservation, where I also have ambivalence. Cities aren’t static, they are living changing entities, How a property has been used for generations doesn’t obligate us to maintain that forever.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          I think the difference here is that the government appears to be using its power to replace a business it doesn’t like with businesses that it finds preferable for the new and improved district. You’re absolutely right thay sometimes private interests need to take a backseat to the public good for expanded and improved infrastructure. However I think there’s a legitimate concern that private interests with wealth and connections in government are the ones pulling the strings in an effort to avoid costs and their own inconvenience. It feels less like government making tough decisions about the future and more like private entities using the government to avoid playing fairly.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            I agree with this.Report

          • Avatar James K says:


            I agree, and even if there is a public interest in this business closing down, the owner should be properly compensated, in a similar vein to Eminent Domain. If there is a benefit to the public at large, the cost should be borne by the public at large, not a single business owner.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I think there is a pretty significant difference between the government saying, “We’re going to turn this highway into a public park” and “We’re going to make it impossible for you to continue using your land as you have for the past three decades.”Report

          • Avatar switters says:

            Would you think similarly if someone had a 30 year old business that depended on that highway, to the point where the building of the park would destroy his business?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              This is a really good point, and it digs into the nuances of what is at play in any given case of land use and public interaction.

              Turning a highway into a park could hurt businesses in the same way that building a freeway bypass can hurt (see the wonderful Pixar documentary, Cars), but doing so still doesn’t tell a property owner that they can’t use the land the own in the manner they’ve been using, it may just make the continued use less viable. This ties into what @chip-daniels was saying, in that a business has a very weak claim on infrastructure a government provides. So if the community wants the highway to go elsewhere, because a park is more valuable, then a lone business has little room to argue just because it will suffer from that change.

              But that isn’t what is happening in the case in the OP. There, the government action is direct (rezoning and refusing to re-issue a permit), which is why it strikes people as more of a taking instead of just a change in supporting infrastructure.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    My suburb is going through sort of the opposite thing. Near one of our new light rail stations is a chunk of land that currently has a self-storage place on it. The owner has wanted to sell it for some years. However, a few decades back there was some light manufacturing there and the soil under the blacktop is contaminated. Under current state law, the contamination has to be cleaned before the land can be sold. Price tag for digging out the contaminated soil and carting it to a toxic landfill (or processing plant) is about a million dollars.

    Enter a developer who wants to put in a hundred high-end apartments and/or condos on the site. He proposed that he would buy the land (with the current owner making a nice profit) and pay for the clean-up if the city would forgive his first million dollars of property taxes. The city jumped on the deal, as they already knew the land was likely to sit in its current state forever unless the city popped for the clean-up. This way, they get to pay that off over time out of future revenues rather than having to front the money. A group of property owners, none of whom live within miles of the property in question, are threatening to take the city to court to block the deal on the grounds that their taxes will have to be higher in order to make up for the million the city is giving up.Report

  7. Avatar Lurker says:

    Wait, you have to attract a Starbucks? Most places have to actively repel them like Zika-carrying mosquitos. 🙂

    I’m in favor of some use of eminent domain and zoning to move businesses in communities around into more sensible patterns. I didn’t read anything but the OP (cause I don’t really care about this case), but I do think autobody places sometimes end up in places where they are hurting the growth of a neighborhood into something cleaner, more walkable, less busy (and this is regardless of whether we’re talking areas that are pushing out the poor or areas that are just trying to become nicer places for the poor to live.)Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Hinga is a Capitalist engaged in Climate Crime. He barely deserves to live.Report

  9. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Re: IFJ

    @chris @mike-schilling

    Did you look through the IFJ site? They have a whole section on private property that highlights not only eminent domain abuses, but also aggressive code enforcement and how zoning intersects with property rights. It’s late and I’ve had a very long weekend, so I’m not going to dive into it looking for specifics, but I think you are assuming quite a bit.

    As for why the IFJ is on this case, I will paraphrase the lesson the commentators here passed on to me some time ago:

    Activist orgs have limited resources and can not engage every battle that may align with their interests. They may not be aware of a given issue, or the issue is not a fight they feel will serve their larger goal (i.e. it’s a stinker of a case; or perhaps a just cause, but just no shot at a win due to precedent, or unsympathetic plaintiff, or insufficient evidence, etc.).

    I have no idea why they took this case, perhaps they were just made aware of it, or perhaps the councils words/deeds made the case more attractive?

    Re: The business/land

    The land might be worth more (anyone want to Zillow it?), but the building is pretty much worthless, and an auto shop is not a retail store front*. I can’t tell from Google Street View, but if he has a lift in there, or other specialized gear, that’s a considerable capital outlay that may not be easily transportable to a new location (you can’t just pack up a hydraulic floor lift like you can a toolbox), and if the new location does not have such gear installed, it’s another cost to install it. So to make notme’s point, if the increase in land value is insufficient to cover his costs to relocate not only the business (including all the business/advertising costs associated with a move), but also the cost of moving or installing new heavy equipment, or building a whole new building, I can see why he might want to fight this.

    Personally, I’d be fine if the cost of doing business made him leave, because that happens (taxes, fees, etc.). My qualm with this is the direct nature of the government action to a specific individual/business. It strikes me as backdoor eminent domain. If the guy is making enough money to keep paying the rising taxes, etc, then he should be allowed to stay, developers time line be damned. If the land is that valuable, do we know if the developer made him a generous offer?

    *A Starbucks might actually buy and use the building, but the fact that a lift is there is not something that adds value to the building, if the new buyer is in food service (hydraulic oil is stinky). I suspect, however, that the site would be razed and new construction put up, so the existing building is more of a liability than an asset). So how much has the land gone up?Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I know the Institute for Justice, and what they do. I also know how activism works. Neither explains why it took them 10 years to decide it was time to protect the one guy who’d gotten the government to give him a break individually for that entire period, only to see his favoritism end unexpectedly. All of the other business owners were fucked sooner and harder, since they were forced to close shop before land values went up.

      This guy wasn’t targeted specifically. In fact, he managed to work the government for a decade while his neighbors were forced out.

      Anyway, I hope y’all see now that where there is gentrification, there is government meddling.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Neither explains why it took them 10 years to decide it was time to protect the one guy who’d gotten the government to give him a break individually for that entire period, only to see his favoritism end unexpectedly.

        I imagine they’ve been working on other cases for the last ten years. As for why they’re looking at this particular case now, I don’t think anyone here was at the meeting where they made that decision. Maybe if you ask them directly, they’ll tell you.

        Anyway, I hope y’all see now that where there is gentrification, there is government meddling.

        You’re right. This is exactly like when people decide to move because their rent increases due to increased demand, and it’s totally reasonable to generalize from this case to any other case to which anyone applies the term “gentrification.”Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Same point with less sarcasm: You may be correct that in practice gentrification usually involves government meddling, although it’s not clear how significant that is, because government meddles in everything all the time. But this case certainly doesn’t prove that, and doesn’t obviously bear all that much resemblance to what people usually mean when they say gentrification. For starters, he owns the land and the government is flat out telling him he can’t use it that way, which is very different from renters being priced out because their lease is up and someone else is offering more money than they’re willing to pay.

          It’s also clear that the pricing-out aspect of gentrification can theoretically happen without government meddling. You don’t have to use zoning or eminent domain to price renters out; you just have to raise their rent. Government meddling may accelerate this process (e.g., zoning out certain businesses or low-income homes), but it’s not essential. Again, government meddles in everything all the time, so the fact that government meddling is present in a process does not imply that it’s a necessary part of that process.

          The argument, as you’ve presented here, is basically “I call this gentrification, so it’s like other things that I also call gentrification.” You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to convince someone who isn’t already on your side.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        I can think of all sorts of perfectly rational reasons IJ seems to be late to the game, starting with, “this is the first person to agree to let them work the case”.

        IANAL, but I seem to recall that such cases require standing.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Oh, I’m sure they have good reasons, but again, this is pretty usual for gentrification. It almost always involves some combination of these things: rezoning (e.g., for different sorts of buildings/businesses, higher density, etc.), tax breaks/subsidies for developers/businesses that move in (as opposed to those who are already in the neighborhood), increased code enforcement, increased policing. In pretty much every way the government intervenes, existing businesses/residents get screwed in the way that this dude is getting screwed: their homes or businesses are not directly taken from them by the government, but their leaving them is not exactly voluntary either. To the extent that this is a property rights case, pretty much all gentrification has property rights cases.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Which is exactly my point. When government wants to force gentrification, these are the tactics they employ, everywhere. IJ is a single legal action group. Lots of potential targets, limited number of arrows to shoot at any given time, but they are taking those shots in places all over the country.

            You are critical of them taking this case, because you aren’t terribly happy with what? The optics? Perhaps, as I said, it could be the first plaintiff affected by this effort to agree to let them work the case, or there is something about this particular situation that makes it worth using it to try and establish a precedent (I don’t know enough about Dallas or Texas law to have anything approaching an informed opinion about this).

            In short, unless they put forth some really screwed up arguments in court, I’d be happy that they are taking the case & leave it at that. It may too late for other businesses, but a win could mean that city governments have to deal more openly and fairly when they want to force gentrification through.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              To be clear, I’m using IFJ as an example. Presumably there are lots of libertarians, many of them activists, many of them just talkin’ on the internet, none of whom have seen overly concerned about this sort of stuff before (and actually supported, fairly zealously, its results).Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Fair enough.

                But that works back the point others have made, that being there is a difference between government nudges to move gentrification along, and government forcing it along (especially if government is using force at the behest of private interests who have grown tired of waiting).

                The more overtly government is involved, the more likely it will attract libertarian attention. Likewise, the more subtlety the government exercises, the more likely libertarians will be OK with it to some degree or another.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                You’d be hard pressed to find a case in which government doesn’t force it along, especially through zoning. I was just reading about two examples this morning, one in my old neighborhood and one far out east, in which zoning changes displaced large numbers of people. It’s the way gentrification works pretty much anywhere that’s not San Francisco (because San Fran’s gentrification is as much a function of the lack of space as it is of anything anyone’s doing).Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                And libertarians have been pretty vocal over the years with regard to how cities use zoning to displace people & businesses.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Except in cases of gentrification. We’ve had lots of gentrification conversations on this here blog, for example, and I don’t recall the libertarians expressing any doubts about it whatsoever, much less that it might be one of those cases in which rent seeking and corporate influence on government behavior is rampant.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Were those conversations framed in terms of zoning/code enforcement/etc? Or in terms of being priced out by wealthy people jacking up prices?

                Certainly the two go hand in hand (government action and wealthy influx), but the conversations here I have in recent memory were all about the latter, and when the libertarians bring up the contributions of government action, the conversations get stressful.

                Perhaps if certain parties hereabout (not you, Chris) were more open to exploring how government actively contributes to the problem, the conversations would be more reflective of the whole picture.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                @chris I can’t speak to the history of conversation on the subject at this site but my suspicion is that Kelo changed the libertarian perspective on this issue in a big way. It brought national attention to how local governments collude with developers to push these efforts forward. Previously I think if you weren’t familiar with the local politics of a particular metropolitan area where gentrification has happened you might not understand the mechanics of it.

                Regardless I do think there’s a principled position that says we shouldn’t try to hold back development and movement of people but we also don’t want the government putting its finger on the scales in favor of the well connected.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I know that, for me, I have a different attitude towards the government taking the houses of people in service to building a highway.

                I’m opposed to it, mind, but I understand it. I can have a conversation about it. I’m still going to be against it but I’m going to ask why in the heck there aren’t other options that can be explored above and beyond taking people’s houses to build a highway *THERE*. There are a dozen potential routes we could take. Why take *THAT* one?

                When it comes to the taking the houses of people in order to give the land to a company who will then build a factory, I suddenly find myself wondering if I’ve been taking crazy pills. Why in the hell am I having this argument with someone? And this person claims to be liberal? What in the hell is going on???Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Land value.

      I know tax assessments don’t always align well with retail prices, but if this is any guide, in the ten years since the project began, the land value has gone up very little in total value (although percentage wise, it’s a 29% jump).

      However, it’s about a 5600 sq ft lot, and with Dallas retail land selling at about $172/sq ft, the lot is probably worth close to $1M*. If the guy hasn’t sold, either he’s a fool, or the price he can command is drastically lower thanks to local market conditions (and thus insufficient to allow him to afford to move), or the offers he’s gotten have been drastically lower than what he should get, because the only interested party (the developer) is being cheap.

      *A very WAG, if there ever was one. Local market conditions could paint a dramatically different picture.Report

  10. Avatar Francis says:

    Two days, 115 comments, and the words “vested rights” have yet to appear. grrr.

    While I know nothing about Texas law specifically, my understanding about land use is that the basic principles are the same from state to state.

    So here in sunny California, if you want to stay in business from year to year as city councils change, you go get a permit. They go by all kinds of names — Conditional Use Permits, Specific Use Permit and the like. If you can’t get that permit, then you might operate as a “grandfathered” business or pursuant to a variance. If you don’t even bother with the variance, then you’re just operating at the goodwill of the planning and code enforcement offices.

    The neat thing about CUPs and approved ‘grandfathered’ uses is that they can create vested rights. And once you have a vested right, the government has to pay you to take it away.

    So yes, I think that the City acted atrociously in shutting down the business without paying just compensation. But the blame does go the other way too. He’s been there for 30 years and he never got around to clarifying his legal right to run a business there?Report