Billionaire developer Rick Caruso sure likes to spread around the cash at L.A. City Hall, but that’s because the ultra-successful real estate tycoon knows big bucks can curry big favors among local politicians — and generate huge profits for him.
Recently, the L.A. Times reported that Mayor Eric Garcetti raised $14.6 million for his “Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles.” It’s a non-profit that allows Garcetti to directly fund his favorite pet projects.
“Donors have included charitable foundations and the philanthropic arms of major banks and other corporations,” wrote Times reporter Peter Jamison, “including a number of firms that would be barred from donating money directly to Garcetti under the city’s campaign-finance laws.”
Enter billionaire Rick Caruso, who’s currently seeking to plop a 20-story luxury housing complex at 333 La Cienega Boulevard, where traffic near the Beverly Center is regularly gridlocked. Caruso needs a General Plan amendment, a zone change and height district change because the neighborhood is not zoned for such a mega-project.
Caruso is already one of L.A.’s biggest campaign contributors. As we’ve noted before, between 2000 and 2016, he personally wrote checks to local politicians totaling $65,750. Now Caruso is one of the most generous contributors to Garcetti’s non-profit — shelling out $100,000. That largess came from the developer’s charitable organization, the Caruso Family Foundation.
However honorable Caruso’s intentions may be, such a huge donation is not forgotten by a politician when a contributor comes calling later for a favor. And Caruso will need big favors to get the City Hall approvals needed to build his mega-project.
Doling out major cash is exactly how L.A.’s rigged, broken and unfair development-approval process works. Developers contribute thousands to political campaigns and city slush funds seeking favors, grateful politicians are only too willing to oblige the developers and the public’s concerns about gridlock traffic, the destruction of their neighborhoods and the displacement of longtime residents due to gentrification are ignored and shoved to the side.
With the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, the Coalition to Preserve L.A. seeks to change that, and give all Angelenos greater input in how their communities are developed and shaped. No longer will Angelenos, who don’t have deep pockets to gain insider access to politicians, be treated as second-class citizens.