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L.A.'s Most-Hated Developer Says Affordable Housing Laws Are 'Not American'

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Geoff Palmer, the man behind Los Angeles' most hated and ugliest apartment complexes, says that his successful efforts to kill local affordable housing mandates was the right and patriotic thing to do.The Downtown News was recently present when Palmer spoke in a rare public appearance earlier this month for a tour and Q&A session at the Lorenzo, his student housing complex near USC. "We don't need social engineering. Why is it that these people think that real estate developers should give fifteen percent of their profits away?" Palmer told the crowd. "They're not asking from grocery stores, gas stations, haberdasheries. They only ask real estate developers. Why is that? Private individuals should be subsidizing these people?"

"It's not American."

Indeed, Palmer was the thrust behind killing ordinances from the city that would require developers to set aside housing for low-income residents in apartment complexes, including a case that made it all the way to California's Supreme Court. However, a recent ruling by the state's top court allows for such mandates to apply to for-sale developments. Palmer said if they were to apply to for-rent properties again, it would be illegal and "de facto" rent control.

Although a massive fire last year took down the second phase of his half-completed Da Vinci project, Palmer rebuilt on top of the ruins and expects to open it in May. He doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon, either. His next building, right across the 110 freeway from the Da Vinci, will be his "biggest project yet."

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When asked why he continued to build gigantic apartment complexes that nobody likes, Palmer responded like any red, white, and blue-blooded American would: "I don't like paying taxes." These colors don't run, baby!

Palmer's projects have become the embodiment of what critics (or "poverty advocates," as he calls them) say is the gentrification of the city's core. However, he maintains that he has rejuvenated parts of downtown and turned them "prosperous." Some charge that his buildings are often built like fortresses and don't do anything to engage with the street level—best encapsulated by their controversial "skybridges to keep the wealthy renters above the homeless on the streets. Curbed charges Palmer's complexes as "vacuums designed to suck the life out of a neighborhood that has worked so hard to become lively in the past decade." But Palmer says it's tough to find retailers who want to move in. "It's not easy to get small entrepreneurs to come and rent and take a risk to open up a coffee shop or whatever," he said.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, Palmer's inward-facing, towering buildings have few fans. Curbed has deemed them "very ugly" and lovingly dubbed his bland style "Fauxtalian." While he once claimed that his affection for Italiante architecture was a tribute to the Italians that supposedly settled Los Angeles (historically untrue), it turns out there's an even tackier explanation for it: he was inspired by the Barneys New York in Beverly Hills.