Rick Carusos Power Point for Hollywood: The Future of L.A. Is Tied to the Future of the Entertainment Industry

Rick Caruso is confident that he’s going to be the next mayor of Los Angeles. 

“I’m getting the job,” he says with a grin before sitting down to detail his vision for the future of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles in an interview with Variety‘s “Strictly Business.” 

The real estate developer who is behind such retail destinations as the Grove and Glendale’s the Americana is vying against Congresswoman Karen Bass for the job of leading the nation’s second largest city at a time when L.A. is beset with crises — most acutely, the growing ranks of the unhoused.

Caruso spoke from his corporate offices overlooking the Grove in the Fairfax district. (Bass has an open invitation to appear on “Strictly Business.”) The L.A. native was eager to address his views on how the city can become more hospitable to not only the biggest players in content but also the creative community’s many freelance workers. 

“The future of L.A. is tied to the future of the entertainment industry. And I’m going to work hard to make sure we bring it back here, bring it home,” Caruso says. He added that he sees being a “cheerleader” for the industry outside of California as “one of the fun parts of the job” that he hopes to secure in the Nov. 8 election.

In an Oct. 2 Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies poll, Bass leads Caruso among registered voters with a slim margin of 34% to Caruso’s 31%, which marks a big shift from the wider lead that Bass enjoyed in August. However, among likely voters, Bass still leads by a strong margin, 46% to 31%.

In Caruso’s view, “a vibrant Hollywood is incredibly important to the vibrancy of the economy of Los Angeles. It’s also incredibly important to the branding of Los Angeles. This is a land where dreams come true,” he says. “We need to do a better job in the city. And I’m committed, as mayor, to keeping content creation in the city of Los Angeles. We’re losing way too much outside of the city. It’s also creating the jobs here in the city of Los Angeles and not losing that to neighboring cities or cities across the country.” 

Caruso cites former Disney CEO Bob Iger, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and former 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures chief Jim Gianopulos as among his longstanding friendships with Hollywood leaders. He also now has family ties to the industry, with two of his four children active in entertainment. Caruso’s son Gregory is a writer-director, and his son Justin is a musician and DJ.

“We do talk about this. It’s crazy to me what Los Angeles has done because we have over-regulated and overtaxed people to the point that they have moved out of Los Angeles,” he says. “And all they have to do is move next door to Culver City, or go to Glendale, they don’t have to go far away. The City of Los Angeles and any city is a competitive business. And we have to be competitive. We can’t be unduly taxed here and expect people to want to stay.” 

On the question of where to start to address L.A.’s homelessness problem, Caruso acknowledged that there are no easy solutions or pithy 10-point plans to quickly alleviate the humanitarian nightmare. But he has strong opinions on the policy decisions that led to the proliferation of encampments across the city. 

“This city alone is spending a billion a year and the (homeless) problem continues to get worse. You reallocate the dollars to programs that work. You do an audit. We are spending taxpayer dollars on average of $700,000 per unit to build a housing unit for the homeless. They can be built for $60,000,” he said, citing innovations in affordable housing done by design firms such as Boxabl in Las Vegas. 

Caruso points out that he is no stranger to the inner-workings of L.A. politics, having helped to overhaul the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the 1990s and the Los Angeles Police Department in the 2000s in the wake of the Rampart police brutality scandal.  

Bass has represented Los Angeles in Congress for 10 years, and before that she was on the L.A. City Council and served in the state Assembly. Caruso’s detractors say he does not have the depth of relationships or knowledge of public policy issues to be an effective mayor at such a fraught time. (Exhibit A: the mushrooming racism scandal around the L.A. City Council that spurred the resignation of council president Nury Martinez this week.) 

Caruso asserts that his experience as a business owner and local philanthropist gives him the perspective to force radical change. Without that, he says, “the system is broken, and the people within the system will continue to do the same old thing and the problems will continue to get worse.” 

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