Last night a huge fire broke out in Downtown LA near the intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways. I was fast asleep at the time, but after being awoken by a handful of text messages checking to make sure I was out of harm’s way, I hopped on the computer to check out what had actually happened. After mapping the location of the fire, I knew exactly which construction site they were talking about.
The building affected was an under-construction apartment complex by developer Geoff Palmer. If you’ve ever driven in or around DTLA before, you’ve seen his buildings. They’re the unapologetically out of place, faux-Italian fortresses that decorate the freeways in the area, stretching from South Park along the 110 all the way to Chinatown on the north end. To be blunt, people hate them. Palmer has been accused time and again of having no respect for neighborhoods. His complexes destroy community, alienating neighbors with closed doors and barricaded facades in the name of exclusivity. A post on Curbed LA (from only 2 weeks ago!) fumed:
His squat, nearly-identical fortresses, with embarrassing names like the Visconti and the Medici, aren’t just ugly (although they are very ugly), they’re vacuums designed to suck the life out of a neighborhood that has worked so hard to become lively in the past decade.
Even the USC students who do succumb to the allure of cheesy amenities like swimming pools and gyms don’t stay convinced for long. Not a single one of Palmer’s downtown complexes breaks the 2.5 star mark on Yelp, and most of them are far below that.
Your maintenance will never get done. Requests are rarely attended to. Oh, and they’ve had both rats and fecal matter on my floor.
Geoff Palmer doesn’t care about people, and he doesn’t care about neighborhoods. His buildings are rotten cliches that pay more insult than homage to the Italian architecture they weakly attempt to emulate, and their foul presence in the neighborhood actively defies downtown’s authenticity. Palmer moved into the neighborhood because he saw the potential to make a lot of money on the growing demand for housing, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
When I realized that the building burning down last night was Geoff Palmer’s latest development–yet another culture-void fortress doomed to endless 1-star Yelp reviews–I caught myself feeling almost excited. For years, I’ve wished there was something I could do to voice my opinion about those awful buildings–it’s actually one of the reasons I decided to start CityGrows–, but Palmer is wisely unavailable via social media, as he knows he’d get torn to shreds by the array of people negatively affected by his projects. His absence on the internet blocks any possibility for discussion, and it keeps people from rallying against him by simply eliminating the forum. There’s no way to push back against him at all.
No one knows what started the fire that burned down Geoff’s building last night. Maybe some construction equipment at the site malfunctioned, or maybe a nearby car caught on fire, I don’t know. But what I do know, is that it rained quite a lot last week. And what I do know is that that building was surrounded by a rather large swath of un-burnable material. And what I do know, is that when you make a lot of enemies and piss a lot of people off and deny those people an outlet to vent their frustration, they’re likely to find other ways to do so.
I’m not saying I think someone burned down Geoff Palmer’s building on purpose. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t be surprised.