Developer Responsible For Massive, Italian-Style DTLA Apartments Says Italians Settled L.A.


The man responsible for building those monstrous apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles has sort of a revisionist history when it comes to Los Angeles, or at least an odd way of explaining his affinity for Italian design.

Geoff Palmer, the developer behind the Visconti, the Medici, the Orsini and other luxury complexes, has been criticized in the past. Usually, it's for building fortress-like compounds that are shut off from the rest of downtown, have empty ground-floor retail spaces and include pedestrian skybridges that enable tenants to move about without having to leave.

In a recent article in Los Angeles Magazine, Palmer is quoted as saying that the Italians are the ones who settled Los Angeles, so really, his monstrous apartment buildings are historical in nature. As Curbed LA points out, that's not true. L.A. was originally founded by the Spanish in 1781. Los Angeles did once have a Little Italy, which is Chinatown in present day.

There are other face palm moments that Curbed highlights in its takedown, including this anecdote: There was once a Queen Anne house dating back to the 1880s called the Giese House. This was all that remained of Bunker Hill, a now gone downtown neighborhood. The plan was move the historical house to Angelino Heights, but—oops—Palmer's construction crew accidentally backed a bulldozer into it, and then tore it down. Palmer's punishment was a $200,000 fine and the command to provide some sort of "public mitigation." This came in the form of a public outdoor fountain at the Orsini—his buildings' only amenity accessible by the public.

Palmer's company, G.H. Palmer Associates, also got in trouble for some shady business in the late '80s and early '90s. The company illegally reimbursed employees it had give contributions to a campaign in 1987 that opposed cityhood for Santa Clarita Valley. The reason? They were afraid cityhood might result in more building regulations. At the time, G.H. Palmer Associates was doing tract housing in SCV and the San Fernando Valley. The company also got in hot water for illegal campaign contributions to a councilwoman from a district where it was building a housing complex, and in 1992, had to pay $30,000 in fines.

Palmer also has also won not one, but two lawsuits to prevent having to put affordable units in his buildings. This decision often comes back to haunt advocates of low-income housing as it impacts Los Angeles' ability to create zoning laws mandating affordable housing.

And we've got our own beef with one of Palmer's buildings, The Lorenzo. That's the apartment building that wouldn't let a student park her car in the lot because it happened to be a hearse, even though she paid for two parking spaces and has a handicapped decal in her window due to a spinal condition.