it’s one of those corrupt little burgs, incorporated precisely so small-minded citizens with an eye to insider sweetheart deals for themselves can keep their dirty dealing out of the public purview arising in larger cities involving bigger competitors and more interest groups. maybe it’s not a haven for polluting industrialists like the city of industry, commerce and the city of vernon; maybe the pigs don’t go straight to the trough so famously like the city officials in bell, but look at alhambra compared to its neighbors. san marino, enclave of the rich, spent $40 million plus on its high school recently, revamping the main buildings—its business strip remains modest, its streets quiet. south pasadena, again an affluent enclave, physically walled off from bad-ass el sereno by traffic barriers except on huntington, also renovated its school campuses at the same time, investing tens of millions, including a 30 million dollar bond. neither el sereno to alhambra’s west, south pas to its north, nor san marino have turned their towns into vast parking lots for big box stores and car dealerships. according to some sources, the city of alhambra has exercised the right of eminent domain over more businesses and private property than other cities in california. according to this source,, “The city has declared at least 60 businesses “blighted,” including the Museum of Contemporary Arab Art, in order to pave the way for upscale condominiums and shops.” see also what does alhambra do with its money? it has built a big monumental arch at the corner of valley and fremont that says “alhambra” on it, and put planters and potted plants on its street corners. unlike san marino or south pas it does not spend its money on its schools. it takes mom and pop businesses in downtown alhambra in order to convert it into a cash cow modeled on ‘old town’ pasadena, while cutting corporations like costco, target, and starbucks a break on hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. owners of a puerto rican coffeeshop i used to patronize on main street told me that while starbucks was offered tens of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to locate a franchise in alhambra, the non-corporate puerto ricans were driven out of business without a hearing. likewise, the mom and pop vietnamese restaurant once located where the edwards cineplex is now was run out of town via eminent domain so it could be replaced with a movie theater. while the city of alhambra is content to declare mom and pop businesses a source of ‘blight,’ immediately adjacent to the downtown intersection of garfield and main streets is the dead mini-mall that used to house mervyn’s dept store and a half dozen other stores like payless shoes, but alhambra has left that large property sit empty for years. all along main street, however, it has razed mom and pop businesses, some, like d’arcy coach works going back to 1956, in order to build ugly instantly tenement-like condo complexes. what did phil spector call alhambra, “a hick town with nowhere to go you’re not supposed to go”? his vision of the place was a suburban nowhere’s-ville he could slide invisibly through behind his sunglasses and tinted windows—engaging in a reclusive lifestyle that made for 19 years to life at corcoran after he shot an actress in the face. the city fathers of alhambra seem to have a vision not too far off from that, creating a suburban nowhere’s-ville where they can operate behind tinted windows and line their own pockets with lucre from consumers at big box stores like staples and target, carl dealerships, fast food and fitness centers. it appears to be a fully owned company town.