Essential California: Keeping tabs on the L.A. mayoral race

People play soccer grass in front of Los Angeles City Hall.
The mayor’s office at L.A. City Hall will soon have a new occupant for the first time in nearly a decade.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Feb. 10, and I’m Julia Wick, your once and former newsletter writer, filling in for Justin Ray. (Hello, I’ve missed all of you!)

The question dominating Los Angeles politics this week is a familiar one: Is Rick Caruso running for mayor?

The billionaire real estate developer has toyed with the idea for decades, but those close to him say this time is different and more serious. Whatever decision he makes, the clock is ticking fast.


Caruso has not yet filed initial candidate papers, but he has made a Friday afternoon appointment to do so — just ahead of the Saturday deadline.

Rick Caruso has considered running for L.A. mayor before but has never jumped in. For this year’s race, he promises a “final decision shortly.”

Jan. 23, 2022

With the city’s first open mayoral primary in nearly a decade just months away, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) has already emerged as the apparent front-runner amid a field of candidates that includes City Councilmen Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino and City Atty. Mike Feuer.

Should Caruso enter, the former Republican’s candidacy would dramatically alter the landscape of the race.

But the mayoral race is far from the only high-stakes matter on the ballot. Competing visions for the city’s future will also take center stage in contested races across the city and county.

It’s a lot. Which is why The Times’ City Hall team is launching a new weekly newsletter to help you make sense of the crowded local election season ahead.


As the city confronts a homelessness crisis and fundamental questions around public safety, the people of Los Angeles are paying attention. But the machinery around City Hall often feels opaque, and bureaucratic intricacies abound. We want to help readers understand the too-often-unexplained underworld of L.A. politics.

Beginning Feb. 19, our new Saturday morning dispatch will offer a detailed look at each week’s developments, along with occasional deep dives and a healthy dose of palace intrigue. We’ll help you track what’s happening, and what it actually means.

The newsletter will be helmed by a rotating cast of reporters steeped in City Hall and local elections. We also want to incorporate your questions about local elections and how City Hall works (or doesn’t). If there’s anything you’ve been wondering, please let us know. In the meantime, sign up for the newsletter here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday to reinstate supplemental sick leave benefits for most California workers, providing up to two weeks of paid time off for COVID-19-related illnesses and absences. The sick leave policy allows all workers at businesses of 26 or more employees to take paid time off to recover from COVID-19, care for a sick family member, attend a vaccination appointment, recover from immunization or take care of a child who cannot attend school because of virus-related closures or quarantines. Los Angeles Times

Most of the San Francisco Bay Area will lift local indoor mask rules next week, with officials saying that the COVID-19 danger has fallen enough to safely take the crucial step. Only Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, is keeping indoor mask rules in the region for now. (L.A. County is still probably weeks away from lifting its mask mandate, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.) Los Angeles Times


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“A crisis for renters.” The arrival of professional football sent Inglewood home prices and rents skyrocketing. Los Angeles Times

A housing community with a stadium in the background.
The Renaissance housing community in Inglewood, with SoFi Stadium in the background. The stadium and other developments have driven up home prices in the city.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of Bengals fans will soon descend on Southern California. Ahead of the Super Bowl, your regular newsletter writer Justin Ray reflects on his hometown of Cincinnati. Los Angeles Times

Anticipating that thousands of LAUSD students may not be vaccinated when the district mandate kicks in this fall, educators are preparing a significant expansion of online learning options. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles power lunch is alive and well: At L.A.’s old guard restaurants, the maître d’s say business is back — and booming. Town & Country


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California Republicans have a new leader in the state Assembly. James Gallagher of Yuba City — an outspoken critic of Gov. Newsom — will replace Marie Waldron of Valley Center as Assembly minority leader. Associated Press

Huntington Beach oil spill inspires legislation to ban California offshore drilling. Alarmed by damage caused by a major oil spill off the Huntington Beach coast in October, an Orange County legislator on Wednesday introduced a bill to end offshore oil production from rigs in California-controlled waters by 2024, a proposal sure to face fierce opposition and potential legal challenges from the petroleum industry. Los Angeles Times

Oakland school board officials voted early Wednesday to close or merge 11 schools across the district over the next two years, with two schools set to close this year and five more next year. The vote followed hours of emotional debate. San Francisco Chronicle

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An IT worker from San Jose helped crack a 163-year-old literary mystery. A cryptic shorthand used by Charles Dickens has long bedeviled researchers, but California’s own Shane Baggs helped decode a one-page letter written by the author in symbols, dots and scribbles. “After getting mostly C grades in literature, I never dreamed anything I’d ever do would be of interest to Dickens scholars!” Baggs said in a statement. New York Times


Are your co-workers vaccinated? If you’re a California state worker, you can find out. A database allows anyone to search state worker vaccination rates by department. Sacramento Bee

The floral supply chain is a mess: Among other factors, “droughts in California have continued to pose a challenge to flower farms in the state, which has the largest number of such businesses in the country.” New York Times

Poem of the day: “Vows” by Jim Harrison. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: pervasive sunshine with potentially transformative Santa Ana winds, 88. San Diego: beach weather, 82. San Francisco: memorably nice, 71. San Jose: unremarkably nice, 77. Fresno: an early chill will give way to unseasonable warmth, 75. Sacramento: similar swings in temperature — a good reminder that who you were this morning isn’t who you have to be this afternoon, 73.


Today’s California memory is from David Ollier Weber:


My mother-in-law sublet an apartment in San Francisco one summer in a tony residential building atop Nob Hill called the Stanford Court (now a tony hotel). Whenever my wife and I went to visit, my favorite pre-dinner pastime was to perch at a window looking down on the tourists getting off the cable car at the corner of Powell and California. Fog would be rolling in, the afternoon’s brilliant sky replaced by a chill gray overcast…. And there they’d shiver, blue-lipped, goose-bumped in their Midwestern shorts and souvenir T-shirts. The scene amused me. Does that make me a bad person?

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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