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Local CRE Players Think Rick Caruso Would Bring A ‘Fresh Perspective’ As LA Mayor

The Americana at Brand mall in Glendale.

Billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso has officially thrown his hat in the ring to become the next Los Angeles mayor. That's welcome news for some local commercial real estate players. 

“Looking at some of the systemic challenges that we've had in the city, homelessness being one of them, I think he may bring some new and interesting ideas and a fresh perspective,” JLL Southwest Region Market Director Peter Belisle told Bisnow

While it remains to be seen whether Caruso’s career as a developer will be a detriment in a city where recent scandals have highlighted the influence developers have had over some city politicians, early opinions from the CRE sector are excited about Caruso's entry. 

His experience building and owning retail and mixed-use projects including The Grove in Fairfax and the Americana at Brand in Glendale give him a unique perspective on the problems that face the city, sources said, such as addressing homelessness. 

“He’s more than a successful real estate developer,” Elizabeth Peterson Group CEO Elizabeth Peterson-Gower said, pointing to Caruso’s history of service on the board of commissioners of the Department of Water and Power starting in the 1980s and his years on the Los Angeles Police Department Commission

At the same time, Peterson-Gower thinks that Caruso’s experience as a real estate developer — specifically, experience with the entitlement and permitting process — could be a huge asset to the city should he become mayor. That experience, she hopes, would lead him to streamline the development processes.

“LA needs to build a lot of housing,” she said. “The amount of housing we need to build, it just isn't going to happen the way we're doing it now.” 

Both Belisle and Peterson highlighted the need for effective approaches to the issues of homelessness and housing affordability, and they looked forward to Caruso’s approach to both. Homelessness, and the failure of local government to address it, has been a huge issue for LA residents, public surveys have found. 

Caruso this week said he would use emergency powers to provide homeless solutions if elected, such as providing low-cost shelter for 30,000 people, according to Bloomberg.

While operating a shopping center is not the same as running a city, Belisle acknowledged, Caruso’s placemaking skills could be useful in beating back some of the most pressing issues facing the city.  

“Being able to make retail is one thing; being able to create a sense of place is another," Belisle said. "There's a whole host of issues that go along with creating a sense of place — having an environment that feels secure, feels clean, feels vibrant, it appeals to different demographics.”

Critics of Caruso have questioned how well a real estate mogul worth $4.3B who specializes in mall developments can respond to the concerns and needs of all Angelenos.

“His heart isn’t in the zeitgeist of Los Angeles,” Coalition to Preserve LA Executive Director Jill Stewart told The New York Times in 2019. The coalition has often spoken out against the lack of transparency in city government and has been critical of developer donations to political candidates.

“And the zeitgeist of Los Angeles to me is, it’s a working-class city. It’s a small-business city filled with mom-and-pop places. It’s really not his vision of gigantic things. And I think that will always push back against him,” Stewart said.