Billionaire developer Rick Caruso said Monday that if elected mayor of Los Angeles, he would take power over homelessness policy away from the City Council and concentrate it in his office.
Caruso announced his candidacy late on Friday, just ahead of the filing deadline, and is beginning to outline his plans. In an interview with Variety, he said that he would claim emergency powers to address the city’s homelessness crisis.
“Day one, I’m going to declare a state of emergency, take the authority in the mayor’s office, and I’m going to be held accountable for it,” Caruso said. “What we can’t do any more is allow 15 council people to decide how homelessness is handled in each of their council districts.”
Caruso, 63, re-registered as a Democrat last month after a decade as an independent, and decades before that as a Republican. When he announced the latest change, he described himself as “pro-centrist” and argued for an approach to homelessness that emphasizes both “compassion and firmness.” In the interview, he argued that his plans are different from his rivals’ because they are too afraid of offending anyone politically.
“Their biggest fear in life is literally not getting reelected. Everything they do is tailored to making sure that it’s politically correct,” he said, adding that he would be uniquely able to make tough decisions.
“You have to start and say we’re not going to allow people to live on the street, in encampments,” he said. “We’re just not going to allow it. Right now we’re servicing people living on the streets. We’re encouraging it in many ways.”
He said his plan would rely heavily on temporary housing, moving 30,000 people into temporary shelter in his first year in office. He also said he would move to loosen regulations on the construction of permanent supportive housing, which the city has been building, slowly, at a cost of $500,000 to $700,000 per unit.
“That’s a massive failure, by gargantuan proportions,” Caruso said. “We’re not going to do that anymore. That’s not the path to success.”
Caruso is the developer and owner of the Grove, the Fairfax-area shopping center, and Palisades Village, as well as many other properties around Southern California. If elected, he said he would turn over the company to a new CEO, and the company “will go into a blind trust” to avoid conflicts of interest.
“The only thing I gotta focus on is being mayor,” Caruso said. “That’s my only interest.”
As a developer, Caruso also said he brings a unique perspective to dealing with the city’s planning bureaucracy. He said he wants to expand housing development “by right” — that is, without discretionary city approvals — across the city, and across all income levels.
“It all has to be built,” he said. “We’re sorely short of housing. But you’ve gotta take it away from a political process, which actually leads to corruption, and put it into a process that’s fair… Los Angeles is just so over-regulated now. It takes years to get a permit to build anything.”
Asked if he sympathized with the YIMBY movement — for “Yes in My Backyard” — he said he was unfamiliar with the term.
“I’m familiar with NIMBY, which is no,” he said. “Is there a yes coming out?”
He said he was not pushing for a blanket upzoning in single-family neighborhoods.
“I think we have to be respectful of communities,” he said. “If you’re in a more urban area, you definitely want to have more height and density. If you’re in a more suburban area that’s more single-family residential, you’re not going to be promoting unlimited height. I don’t think this is that complicated.”