Sometimes, though, a demolition can effect change.
In southern California, for example, someone demolished a 50-year-old Googie-style drive-in restaurant without a permit in January. Seems the owner wanted to build a mini-mall on the site of Johnie's Broiler, but the city of Downey, Calif., rejected his plan as incomplete in November. Somehow site-clearing began anyway. City officials were hopping mad, even suggesting jail time for the owner.
"It's easier to say you're sorry than ask permission," Scott Pomrehn, assistant city manager, told me. "It's the cost of doing business for some companies. The city council is not going to stand for that."
Downey, by the way, is the home of the oldest surviving McDonald's (1953). And Taco Bell (1962). The capital of fast-food history might make history itself by making an example of the guy who tore down an empty restaurant. At the very least, city officials want to rebuild Johnie's Broiler just to make a point.
Now I'm not saying I want to see anyone in an orange suit because he demolished a burger joint, but Downey's take-no-prisoners reaction might make the next guy think before he revs up the bulldozer.