How the super-rich live: far above the rest of us

By sheer coincidence, this weekend both the L.A. Weekly and the New York Times ran stories on how representatives of the super-rich, are taking over the heights of the city.

Call it unaffordable housing — penthouses for the super-rich. Not the 1%, but the .01, the Thousandth Percent. Apartments that cost tens of millions of dollars. It's fascinating to see how these two publications put up the stories, and fascinating to see how far the world of the super-rich is from us.

For example, 64% of the Time Warner Center is owned by shell companies (LLCs) which use a loophole to pay a minimum of property taxes, for clients from around the world whose names are kept hidden — many of whom, it turns out, have been charged with environmental or financial crimes.


(The picture agove shows graphically how much of these newly constructed skyscrapers is owned by represented by LLCs and, credibly, the super-rich.)

Both stories break new ground, each in its own way. Attached with the L.A. Weekly piece by David Futch is footage taken by a drone that flew over a contested building site in West Hollywood, formerly occupied by Capitol Records, where a developer wants to build a skyscraper for the super-rich on top of a well-known earthquake fault.

Naturally, the developer has a different description of the fault: see the story here. The developer's geologists will challenge the state's earthquake maps and argue that a surface thrust fault — which breaks the surface — is not located below the site, and thus it's okay to build a skyscraper there. What's the motivation?

The profit potential is clear for Millennium owners Jeffries and Aarons: An owner recently listed a residential penthouse at their soaring New York City skyscraper, which is also dubbed Millennium Tower, for a headline-generating $34.5 million.

Meanwhile in New York, the Times finds that most of the multi-million dollar condos are being sold to foreigners, a fair number of whom have been accused of criminal activity in their home countries. And the prices they pay don't help New Yorkers so much as they help their fellow rich.

What is more, [economist] Mr. Parrott said, the skyrocketing prices of the pieds-à-terre are affecting the price of real estate in the city more broadly. “There’s a downside to having such pressure at the top. It pulls up the prices overall. When owners of $10 million condos see that there’s a big market for $95 million condos, they’re more likely to raise their prices,” he said. “Then the person at $2 million raises his prices, then the person at $1 million sees that and there aren’t any prices below $1 million.”

This was the complaint of the activists quoted in the Los Angeles story: that the city is selling out to the super-rich, leaving no place for ordinary people.

How the other Point Oh One Percent live: far far above the rest of us.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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