Rick Caruso and the City He Once Wanted to Lead

The developer known for popular SoCal spots reflects on the state of jobs and neighborhoods in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Billionaire developer Rick Caruso, once considered a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, gives the man who ended up getting the job high marks for his first few months in office.

"I think he's doing great. Listen, he is a smart, talented guy," Caruso said of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

But the developer of "The Grove" in West LA and the "Americana at Brand" challenged Garcetti and the LA City Council to do more to create jobs in the city.

"Deregulate some of this stuff,” he said. “It is terribly expensive and complicated to start a business in the greater LA area, and you need to break down barriers."

Caruso made the comments on NBC4's "News Conference" program Sunday.

Caruso, once an active Republican but now a registered Independent, broke ranks with the state Chamber of Commerce by supporting the increase in the minimum wage law signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

"If you have a workforce, and $10 an hour minimum wage is going to kill your business, you probably have a bad business plan and need to rethink it,” Caruso said. “The disparity of wages in the United States has become too great, and we have to address it."

Caruso has lined up behind the business lobby in supporting reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act, which he says a local mall operator successfully used to derail his "Shops at Santa Anita" project.

"It should be a shield to protect the environment, and now it is being used as a sword to stop competition," he said.

A former head of the LA Police Commission and Department of Water and Power board, Caruso is considered a pioneer in commercial retail development, focusing on what he calls outdoor "lifestyle centers" that seek to create a retail center in a neighborhood environment.

Neighborhood development should be a priority for the city adding that the effort thus far is in part because of traffic gridlock.

"It is very difficult to navigate in this city, so people are working, socializing, engaging in neighborhoods close to home,” Caruso said. “That's a good thing."

Among the projects currently under way by Caruso's development company is "The Linq,” a major outdoor shopping and entertainment center in Las Vegas, as well as an effort to extend the double-decker trolley line from his highly popular "The Grove"at 3rd and Fairfax” to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Caruso also recently donated $5 million for a program dedicated to seeing 200 underprivileged children in Watts obtain a college degree.

The entire interview can be seen on News Conference.

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