Mall developer Rick Caruso and his affiliates have donated $470K to City Hall

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Retail impresario Rick Caruso has already made his mark on the Los Angeles landscape with shopping wonderlands like The Grove and The Americana, but now the developer is looking upward.

Caruso’s latest project is 333 La Cienega, a 20-story luxury residential tower that would alter the skyline in Beverly Grove (13 of the 145 residential units would be earmarked for tenants earning very low and moderate incomes). The 240-foot tower would soar well above the neighborhood’s height restriction of 45 feet, requiring a zoning change from the city planning department.

As the La Cienega tower moves to City Hall for final approval, theLos Angeles Times reports that, over the past five years, Caruso and his family members and employees have contributed about $470,000 to local politicians and their pet projects. Among them, a $125,000 donation to the Mayor’s Fund at the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti, a $200,000 contribution supporting the Measure M campaign, and $100,000 to Councilman Mike Bonin’s Los Angeles Forward project.

For Caruso, Donations have proven effective when dealing with disgruntled neighbors.

According to the Times, several residents of 333 La Cienega’s neighbor, the Westbury Terrace condo building, petitioned the neighborhood council about the La Cienega project, worried the Caruso tower would block their views and increase traffic in the surrounding area. But after Caruso agreed to make $500,000 in improvements to the Westbury Terrace building, many of those petitioners spoke out in favor of the La Cienega tower.

Caruso himself seems to view his financial actions as simply making the necessary concessions to his detractors in order to move forward. As he tells the Times, “The way I get the community to support the project is to give them what they want.”

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