Rick Caruso's interests may be hurdles in a run for L.A. mayor

Will the mayor of the Grove run for mayor of Los Angeles?

With the deadline for entering next year's contest to replace Antonio Villaraigosa only weeks away, billionaire mall developer Rick Caruso is closing in on a decision.

The shopping center mogul has flirted with the idea for years, but interest in his intentions has intensified after another potential front-runner from outside City Hall, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, announced he was staying out.

Caruso has been conferring with a team of political consultants and recently told a magazine that "the timing is very right." He previously signaled that he would decide by mid-September, but aides would only say an announcement was coming.

They are quick to note that Caruso's newly disclosed plan for a sprawling mall near San Diego should not be read as a sign he's lost interest in City Hall.

The entrance of Caruso, a former Republican who recently changed his party affiliation to "decline to state," would shake up a field of candidates dominated by three veteran Democratic elected leaders, particularly if he was willing to draw on his estimated $2-billion personal fortune to finance a campaign.

Caruso declined to be interviewed for this article. But he appeared to be testing a theme when he told Women's Wear Daily last month that the contest's front-runners — City Controller Wendy Greuel and council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti — were "part of the problem, not part of the solution." In other venues, he has accused officials of doing too little to lower the city's high unemployment rate and reduce the taxes he says are driving business away.

Should Caruso enter and win, he would stand out among modern L.A. mayors, controlling a high-profile portfolio of real estate holdings in the same city he would be trying to govern.