Rick Caruso, billionaire real estate developer, is eying a potential bid for mayor of L.A., per a new report from the New York Times.
The Beverly Hills native and builder of the Grove is no stranger to public life, having previously served as president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and as a commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
As the chairman of USC’s Board of Trustees, Caruso has also played crisis manager for the beleaguered university. Last summer, former aerospace executive and fellow trustee Wanda M. Austin became interim president after former president C.L. Max Nikias stepped down amid allegations that the school’s longtime campus gynecologist had abused generations of women. When Austin advocated for the dismissal of well-liked business school dean James Ellis, Caruso backed her up, a move that allegedly led the L.A. Country Club to block his application for membership.
Despite his leadership bona fides, some doubt that Caruso’s large-scale developments—aimed at well-heeled shoppers—represent a future that L.A. voters believe in.
Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition to Preserve L.A., told the Times Caruso’s heart isn’t in the zeitgeist of L.A. “It’s a small-business city filled with mom-and-pop places,” she said. “It’s really not his vision of gigantic things. And I think that will always push back against him.”
Caruso’s crown jewel remains the Grove, the outdoor shopping mecca that opened in 2002 and is known for its celebrity cookbook signings, mini Bellagio fountains, and Italianate architecture. More recently, the developer has set his sights on one-percenters looking for lodging near Santa Barbara: rooms at Caruso’s swank, newly opened Miramar hotel in Montecito start at $1,075 a night—around twenty percent of the median monthly take-home pay for households in L.A., according to census data from 2017.
In addition to charges of being out-of-touch, Caruso has also been criticized for his confrontational style. During his tenure at the police commission he “overhauled the LAPD’s disciplinary procedures, recruitment, and work schedules,” according to the Los Angeles Times, but also got into hot water over an altercation with representative Maxine Waters, who alleged that Caruso called her a “bitch” during a debate over who should replace then-chief Bernard C. Parks. Caruso previously hinted at running for mayor in 2012 but bowed out before the race.