LA's Next Mayor: How Rick Caruso Would Tackle The Big Issues Facing The City
LAist sent all candidates actively campaigning for L.A. Mayor the following questionnaire. Their responses have been published in full, adjusted only to fit the formatting and style of the page.
We also highlighted 12 questions that we think give you a sense of where the candidates align with your own views on issues that are important to Angelenos. And we wrapped it all up in our interactive "matchmaking" quiz, Meet Your Mayor. Curious? Take the quiz!
About The Candidate
Rick Caruso is a businessman and real estate developer whose properties include The Grove and Americana at Brand. He has served as president of the L.A. Police Commission and as a commissioner for the L.A. Department of Water & Power.
He stepped down as Chairman of the USC Board of Trustees after announcing his candidacy. Caruso lists his occupation on the ballot as Businessman/Nonprofit Leader.
Q: California is in a chronic drought. Which of the following strategies most closely reflects what you think should be done at the city level to improve individual water conservation?
A: We need to better promote and enforce water conservation, but we also need to clean our polluted aquifers in the San Fernando Valley, increase stormwater capture, and we need to promote more native plants in yards.
Q: What should the next mayor prioritize to lower the costs of converting to more sustainable electric options for homeowners and businesses? (i.e. solar power, electric vehicles, etc.)
A: The majority of the people living in L.A. are renters — yet they have no access to electric vehicle charging. The fastest way to increase electric options is to incentivize apartment owners to drastically increase their EV spaces. We also need to work with great innovative organizations like Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to develop electrical charging companies that can eventually replace the gas station.
Q: As mayor, Eric Garcetti promised to get to 100% clean electricity for city operations by 2035 by electrifying city buildings, vehicles, and public transit. Will you continue working toward this goal? Why or why not?
A: As Mayor, I will continue working towards 100% clean electricity for city operations.
Q: Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles. Where do you see the biggest opportunity to lower those emissions?
A: The city’s fleet of cars, trucks, police cruisers and buses are all opportunities for electrification and hydrogen power. We must move as quickly as possible to convert and replace the city’s fleet to electric and hydrogen-powered fleets.
Q: What's the most important action the next mayor can take to help the city's most vulnerable residents deal with extreme heat?
A: Extreme heat will continue to be a major part of the Southern California living experience for decades to come. We must do more to provide our residents with air conditioning upgrades and replacements, in addition to promoting heat pump alternatives as opposed to traditional air conditioners, which are expensive, inefficient and a source of greenhouse gasses. As Mayor, I will work with the DWP to find ways to promote more heat pump replacements for broken AC units.
In addition, I will ensure that libraries, senior centers and other community resources can and will remain open during heat waves to ensure that all Angelenos are given access to cooling centers in their neighborhoods.
Q: What should the next mayor’s top priority be for addressing the city’s poor air quality, especially for those communities most impacted by pollution?
A: We must move quickly and with precision to remove ICE technologies off our roads, especially in regard to the Port of Los Angeles and the City’s own fleet of vehicles. In addition, we must go after polluting corporations and companies hard and with large fines and penalties that cannot be tolerated as the cost of doing business.
Q: Climate is also affecting fires in the city and its surroundings. How would you tackle this problem?
A: We need to be smart about building in fire-prone areas, either by not expanding our footprint there or ensuring safer building codes for developers who want to take that risk.
We should be increasing density along our major boulevards near transit hubs to reduce our fire exposure, but also increase our city’s walkability and mass transit options.
Q: Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18, better known as the “anti-camping law,” bans people who are unhoused from camping on public property close to locations such as schools, parks, libraries, and underpasses. Should 41.18 be kept as is, repealed, or amended?
A: I will build 30,000 shelter beds in 300 days with supported services to get people off our streets and provide them with the help they need to get back on their feet. I will also enforce 41.18 to keep people from turning our parks, sidewalks and bus shelters into encampments.
Q: Should the city be clearing encampments where people experiencing homelessness have taken up temporary residence? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely. No one should be sleeping on our streets, that is inhumane and cruel. As Mayor of Los Angeles, I will build 30,000 shelter beds in 300 days and we will work to coordinate supportive services to help our unhoused population receive the mental health, job training and permanent housing needed to get them back on their feet.
We will take back our parks and public spaces, we will clean up our streets with 500 new sanitation workers, and we will prevent people from becoming homeless through expanded rental assistance.
Q: I believe the primary cause of most homelessness in Los Angeles is…
A: Economic hardship is the #1 cause cited for the newly homeless, and the housing affordability crisis in L.A. and across the state continues to worsen.
Q: The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimates that 25% of people who are unhoused have a severe mental illness. What is your opinion on the current state of mental health support for unhoused people?
A: My opinion is our current state of mental health support for our unhoused is inhumane. We are failing them and we are failing our communities. As Mayor, I will move to immediately start the process of creating a City of Los Angeles Health and Human Services Department to focus on our unhoused mentally ill, and addicted population. I will also:
—Create a Department of Mental Health and Addiction Treatment. I won’t wait for the County or the failing bureaucratic process as we know it to deliver the services those suffering on the street need. As Mayor, I will create a city-run Department focused on mental health and addiction services, the primary mandate of which will be speed.
—Hire 500 Mental Health and Addiction Caseworkers. Hire and allocate the largest treatment workforce this state has seen to get people treatment quickly and efficiently. My goal will be to have 500 people on the streets working to intake those who need help the most.
—Compel People Suffering Mental Illness into Care. Amend laws to make conservatorships for the homeless population streamlined and accessible. It is truly a travesty that someone as cognizant and aware as Britney Spears can be in a conservatorship, but a homeless person slowly killing themselves with a brutal meth addiction can’t be compelled into treatment.
—Create a Mental Health Justice Center to ensure anyone who is compelled into treatment is treated fairly and evaluated in a timely manner to ensure that once their addiction treatment is complete, they can rejoin society with job training, continued free mental health services, and addiction treatment.
—Have Mental Health Workers Respond to 911 Calls. Hire mental health first responders to join our police and fire units on calls to ensure those with mental health issues are treated humanely and without unnecessary use-of-force incidents
—Fight Fentanyl and Opioid Abuse. Deploy a large-scale and properly-trained police effort to rid our streets of fentanyl and other highly addictive and dangerous drugs. For too long we have let dealers and criminals run rampant within homeless encampments and skid row, creating a largely unfettered and hospitable environment for drug dealing and manufacturing.
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Q: Do you agree with Angelenos who say that the large number of people living outside makes the streets less safe? Why or why not?
A: I think a significant percentage of our homeless crisis is driven by those who are mentally ill and suffer from substance abuse. Whether they directly make our city less safe is debatable, but they do make people feel less safe outside, at our parks, or walking down the street.
We need to get people housed, we need to get them services, and for those who can not make rational decisions for themselves due to mental illness, we need a Cares Court now.
Q: Should the next mayor commit to ensuring that people who are experiencing homelessness are at the table when decisions are made on the city’s homelessness policies?
A: This is a crisis and we need everyone with expertise at the table helping to solve our homeless and housing crisis. Though I will not tolerate advocates who argue that the homeless should remain in encampments. It is inhumane and cruel.
Q: Proposition HHH is a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016 which supports the development of 8,000-10,000 permanent supportive housing units within the city of Los Angeles over 10 years. Has its implementation been effective?
A: It has not worked as intended. As Mayor, I will declare a state of emergency, conduct a top-to-bottom audit of waste, cut wasteful projects, and appoint a real construction expert to help build permanent housing cheaper and faster.
Q: Who should build housing for the unhoused community: the city or private developers? Why?
A: Both. We are in a crisis, let's bring every resource to the table and get our unhoused off our streets and back on their feet.
Q: LAUSD is the largest school district in the country in which residents directly elect their school board and the mayor doesn’t have direct control over that board. This means the mayor has little to no influence over education in the city of Los Angeles. Should anything about this arrangement change?
A: While I would support increased accountability and leadership around LAUSD, this question around Mayoral control has come up before and been answered by the powers that be. Ultimately, my focus is on reducing homelessness and eliminating street homelessness, reducing crime, and eliminating corruption.
Q: What role does the city play in addressing a lack of affordable child care, which is particularly acute in low-income areas?
A: The City must do more to make affordable child care accessible. We can do this through increased programs at local parks and recreation centers, in addition to reducing fees and permitting costs for private childcare facilities.
Equitable Economics and Housing
Q: I believe the biggest barrier to building more affordable housing is…
A: Housing costs in Los Angeles are sky-high and growing exponentially. The reason for this is simple: building in Los Angeles isn’t just expensive, it’s designed to incentivize building high-cost luxury housing over affordable housing. Los Angeles has one of the longest entitlement processes in the country, with most projects taking upwards of 24 months. This timeline creates massive holding costs for builders and, when combined with fees, labor laws and environmental review challenges, typical projects get delayed for years.
This creates a perverse system where the only housing worth building is the most expensive kind, which in turn drives up rents across the board. The solution is obvious: we must build more housing, of all types, in all neighborhoods, in a smart and community-appropriate way. I won’t tolerate creating more density in places that can’t support it, but I will advocate for more density and height in corridors where it is appropriate.
Q: Due to the city's emergency decree, rent increases are currently not allowed for tenants living in most apartments built before 1978. But before the pandemic, Los Angeles generally capped annual rent increases at 3% for apartments covered by local rent control. Should the city keep its existing rent control ordinance, eliminate it, or modify it?
A: Modifying, eliminating or keeping the rent control ordinance is not the issue. As long as we are not building new units to keep pace with the demand, rents will continue to rise or owners will find a way to evict renters. This is a broken system.
We need to build more housing. As Mayor, I will:
—Leverage City’s Borrowing Power for Housing. Draft legislation to enable the use of the city’s borrowing power to purchase and carry land costs for affordable housing projects with unit counts over 100.
—Waive Fees on Affordable Projects. Immediately direct the creation of legislation to waive or eliminate all fees for projects that agree to 30% affordability ratios for unit counts and sign covenants that restrict rental rates for 30 years.
—Expand Housing with Services. Establish permanent supportive housing coupled with specific services offered, such as counseling PTSD, mental health and addiction services.
—Establish Rapid Re-housing Program. Establish a rapid re-housing program that is built to move fast to re-house those who need it.
—Cut Down on Frivolous Lawsuits Stopping Housing. Mandate the disclosure of California Environmental Quality Act challenge payments by labor unions, environmental groups and any other groups who regularly use CEQA challenges to unfairly and disingenuously leverage development projects. Mandate a $15,000 application fee to reduce frivolous CEQA challenges that impede sensible development.
—Expand Section 8. Reduce or eliminate all fees and regulations for Section 8 housing voucher projects where 75% of units or more are dedicated to Section 8 voucher recipients. Work with the federal government to triple the allocation of Section 8 housing vouchers in Los Angeles and simultaneously create more incentives for landlords to accept them.
Q: Landlords also say they’ve been struggling amid rising costs, inflation over 7%, and pandemic-era restrictions such as temporary bans on rent increases and evictions. What, if anything, should the city do to help landlords?
A: I am in favor of lifting the eviction moratorium to help owners remove troublesome renters who have taken advantage of the system and I would support more stringent documentation requirements on behalf of renters who seek relief. The current system of self-affirmation is ripe for abuse and is an extremely unfair burden to place on property owners.
Q: What statement best reflects your position on the minimum wage of $16.04 that goes into effect on July 1, 2022?
A: Quality wages have a direct relationship with homelessness and affordability. While the debate around what exactly the wage should be has been largely settled through state and local laws, I believe we need to do more to ensure small businesses can afford these increases, in addition to exploring ways to increase job creation [with] wages far above the minimum.
Q: Mayor Garcetti piloted a universal basic income program. Do you support the idea of a universal basic income in Los Angeles? Why or why not?
A: I am always interested in innovative solutions to solving inequality. I am open to seeing the results of the city’s and county’s programs and seeing if there are real tangible results.
Q: Street safety advocates say at the current pace of improvement, it will take 200 years to fulfill Vision Zero, which was supposed to be accomplished by 2035. What’s the first step to getting Vision Zero back on track?
A: I think we can all agree that Vision Zero has not accomplished its mission and that deaths have increased. There are myriad reasons for this and some are far out of the control of the City of Los Angeles. However, where the city’s role has played a part is in not having a cohesive strategy that all council members and communities have bought into and supported. Instead, we have recalls being done due to bike lanes, protests because of parking lane removal, and so on and so on. The conversations around Vision Zero are important and needed and we must do better building alliances and not creating divisions.
Q: Should the Los Angeles Police Department remain at its current size of 9,500 sworn officers, should it be downsized, or should it increase? Why?
A: The LAPD is the smallest big city police force per capita in the U.S. and that must change. I will add 1,500 officers to our force before the end of his first term. My administration will apply for every federal and state grant there is, and even demand more direct funding from the Biden administration and Governor Newsom to expand and strengthen our police force and ensure they are trained properly and engaged with the communities they serve.
Q: The current LAPD budget of $1.76 billion represents almost 16% of the overall city budget. Should LAPD funding stay the same, increase or decrease? Why?
A: I will restore the LAPD’s budget and expand the number of patrol officers with more hiring, civilianization of non-essential sworn positions, and a commitment to more training and diversified recruitment.
Q: Is it possible to reduce crime in the city without increasing the LAPD budget? If so, how?
Q: A rising number of Angelenos say that Los Angeles no longer feels safe. As mayor, how would you address their fears?
A: I would put 1,500 new officers on the street, return to community-based policing, and restore the LAPD’s budget.
Q: Media investigations have found that LAPD officers have disproportionately stopped Black drivers, and were much more likely to search Black and Latino drivers. Do you believe racial profiling is a problem, and if so, what should be done to address it?
A: Yes, racial profiling is a problem, which is why I want to re-invest in community-based policing so our senior leads and police officers know their community.
Q: Would you be willing to meet with groups that have been sharply critical of the police, such as Black Lives Matter and Reform LA Jails?
A: I am willing to meet with anyone and listen to their concerns and solutions.
Q: District Attorney George Gascón came to office on a progressive agenda that includes fewer prosecutions for low-level crimes. What statement best reflects your opinion of his agenda?
A: I think he should be recalled from office.
Q: Who should be sent when a call is made about a mental health crisis?
A: I think we need a joint response of mental health professionals and a police officer. That is why I will hire 500 mental health and addiction caseworkers.
Hire and allocate the largest mental health and addiction treatment workforce this state has seen to get people treatment quickly and efficiently. My goal will be to have 500 people on the streets working to intake those who need help the most.
Q: How would you want the police chief to address the frayed relationships between the LAPD and many of the communities it serves?
A: We need to return to community-based policing and invest in our senior leads and police officers to help develop trust within the community. Only through daily interactions will our police and community begin to develop trust.