Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan dies at 92


Richard J. Riordan, the take-charge enterprise capitalist who as mayor shepherded Los Angeles’ rebound from the 1992 riots, expanded its Police Division and masterminded its restoration from the Northridge earthquake, has died at his Brentwood house.

The final Republican mayor of what grew to become a liberal metropolis, Riordan was 92. Kinfolk mentioned he died shortly after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with household, mates, caregivers and his beloved canines round him.

“Mayor Richard Riordan beloved Los Angeles, and devoted a lot of himself to bettering our metropolis,” mentioned Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. “Although born in New York, Mayor Riordan might be remembered as an L.A. unique.”

Metropolis Council President Paul Krerkorian praised Riordan as a tireless champion of town.

“Richard Riordan beloved Los Angeles, and his contributions to town are extraordinary and lasting,” Krekorian mentioned in a press release. “When town was devastated by the Northridge earthquake he threw each ounce of his vitality and managerial ability into town’s restoration, and important infrastructure was rebuilt in document time.”

A average, pro-abortion-rights Republican, Riordan made a fortune as an funding dealer and have become a civic and political donor earlier than rising as a first-time, outsider candidate on the age of 62.

He promised voters a greater enterprise local weather, extra cops and enhancements in primary companies when he took workplace in July 1993. By the point he departed eight years later, pressured out by voter-imposed time period limits that he himself had advocated, a lot of his imaginative and prescient for a cleaner, safer, better-functioning metropolis had been realized. Crime was down, the native economic system had rebounded, and though the Los Angeles Police Division remained in need of his objectives, it had grown to a document variety of officers.

He additionally performed a key position in revamping the Metropolis Constitution to require extra accountability from division heads and provides residents extra voice in metropolis authorities by way of a brand new system of neighborhood councils, serving to defuse efforts by San Fernando Valley activists to separate from town.

But in addition on Riordan’s watch, the Rampart police corruption scandal surfaced in late 1999. Critics accused him of failing to behave shortly sufficient on reform, and Riordan later reluctantly ceded management of the LAPD to the U.S. Justice Division within the type of a federal consent decree.

A self-proclaimed “downside solver,” Riordan appreciated to collect individuals exterior authorities to provide you with options. Early in his first time period, he tapped longtime good friend and philanthropist Eli Broad to lift cash to get the stalled Walt Disney Live performance Corridor challenge again on monitor. Comparable efforts raised hundreds of thousands to computerize police stations and patrol vehicles and helped finance the profitable 1999 marketing campaign for constitution reform towards Metropolis Council opposition.

However the affable, impatient Riordan by no means fairly discovered find out how to work inside the paperwork’s channels, and his frequent clashes with council members, who mentioned he excluded and disrespected them, left each side annoyed.

“When he needed to work inside metropolis authorities, he wasn’t very efficient, however when he may work exterior metropolis authorities, he did very effectively,” mentioned Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Regulation, who hung out with Riordan throughout the often-strained efforts to trend a brand new constitution to place earlier than voters.

After James Ok. Hahn succeeded him as mayor in 2001, Riordan tried to interrupt into state politics however misplaced the 2002 Republican gubernatorial main to conservative Invoice Simon Jr. He thought of working once more within the 2003 particular election to recall and substitute Gov. Grey Davis however demurred when his good friend and Brentwood neighbor Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped into the race.

But Riordan remained a participant in civic life lengthy after leaving Metropolis Corridor, elevating cash for youngsters’s applications, backing candidates in native races and persevering with to push for varsity reform, a favourite trigger.

“He was a enterprise man who thought he may run L.A. higher than the politicians,” mentioned Raphael Sonenshein, head of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. “There have been moments when that was true and moments when that was not true.”

When Riordan, coaxed by his longtime good friend and Democratic operative Invoice Wardlaw, entered the crowded, nonpartisan municipal main as Mayor Tom Bradley was making ready to finish his unprecedented 20-year tenure, many noticed Riordan as an extended shot. He was, in any case, a rich white Republican in an more and more poor, minority, Democratic metropolis.

Nevertheless it additionally was a metropolis that felt down on its luck. Violent protests had erupted the earlier spring after the acquittal of 4 cops charged within the beating of Black motorist Rodney G. King, and unemployment was climbing. Crime was at a peak. Riordan’s portrayal of himself as a Metropolis Corridor outsider “robust sufficient to show L.A. round” resonated, particularly with white Valley voters.

His efforts to go a metropolis term-limits poll measure and a promise to simply accept solely $1 a 12 months as pay cemented his picture as a citizen politician tired of an extended profession on the general public payroll.

It additionally helped that he was rich sufficient to bankroll a lot of what then was the most costly marketing campaign in metropolis historical past. Riordan contributed $6 million of his personal cash to compete in a big main area and defeat then-Councilman Mike Woo in a bitter runoff. The Riordan marketing campaign spent a part of its treasury on a extensively distributed booklet, “Turning L.A. Round,” that detailed his concepts.

As soon as elected, he streamlined town’s allowing course of, took steps to chop purple tape for movie and tv shoots and convened a committee to overtake the difficult and, in keeping with many, unfair enterprise tax system.

“We’ve gotten a brand new perspective at Metropolis Corridor,” Riordan instructed a gaggle of San Fernando Valley residents in 1997, throughout his profitable marketing campaign for a second time period. “Individuals now not consider the particular person on the opposite aspect of the counter as an enemy, however as somebody who pays their wage.”

A few of Riordan’s plans hit roadblocks, together with a proposal to promote the Central Library to a personal company and lease it again. (The library has since been renamed for him.) Regulatory issues and airways’ objections stymied his efforts to lease Los Angeles Worldwide Airport to pay for a police buildup. His makes an attempt to denationalise some metropolis companies put him on a collision course with town’s worker unions and a majority of the Metropolis Council, and he by no means was capable of absolutely revamp the enterprise tax code.

Even a few of his supporters on the council complained that the mayor and his employees of principally authorities outsiders, of their rush to get issues shifting, typically undermined the council’s reputable position. For his half, Riordan solid himself as battling a recalcitrant paperwork and a dithering, wrongheaded Metropolis Council. He as soon as referred to metropolis staff as “brain-dead bureaucrats.”

With philanthropist Broad, Riordan additionally teamed as much as spearhead the election of a brand new board majority for the Los Angeles Unified College District in 1999. The brand new majority lasted solely 4 years, however that was lengthy sufficient to herald a high-profile superintendent — former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer — to enhance check scores and jump-start an bold college building program.

Tellingly, as he was about to depart workplace in 2001, Riordan highlighted this effort to enhance faculties — over which Metropolis Corridor has no formal jurisdiction — as “the factor I’m most pleased with having accomplished in my life.”

His time as mayor additionally was marked by rocky relations with some Black leaders. It didn’t assist that he had succeeded Bradley, town’s first Black mayor, nor that he helped drive out Metro chief Franklin E. White, certainly one of L.A.’s highest-ranking Black officers.

He clashed publicly and repeatedly with two of the Metropolis Council’s Black members, Rita Walters and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who two years into Riordan’s tenure instructed The Instances that the mayor’s relations with Black residents had been “restricted and strained.” A majority of Black voters supported his opponents within the 1993 election.

The identical was true in 1997, though his displaying amongst Black voters improved considerably because of some endorsements from Black neighborhood leaders. For that marketing campaign, he was armed with a prodigious marketing campaign treasury largely made up this time of donations as an alternative of his personal cash, and soundly defeated his solely substantive challenger, then-state Sen. Tom Hayden, within the April main.

A Catholic who for years had given generously to archdiocese tasks and causes, Riordan did effectively amongst Latinos, a lot of whose leaders knew him by way of his longtime schooling initiatives on the Eastside and elsewhere. One in all his few allies on the Metropolis Council was the influential Richard Alatorre, a liberal Democrat.

One other was council President John Ferraro, who tried, typically in useless, to maintain peace between the council and a mayor whose type was free and unpredictable. Riordan challenged workplace guests to chess. He typically padded about his Metropolis Corridor suite in socks. He had a self-deprecating humorousness and a penchant for off-the-cuff remarks. He as soon as greeted starvation strikers whereas consuming a hamburger.

He appeared to relish mingling with town’s residents. He cheerfully joined clowns on the launch of an environmental cleanup program in Hollywood and, after a speech at Wilson Excessive on the Eastside, he twirled the scholar physique president in a spontaneous dance because the band performed.

However the mayor was at his finest on Jan. 17, 1994, when the Northridge earthquake struck, killing at the least 57 individuals and buckling freeways and buildings. Inside an hour of the 6.7-magnitude quake, Riordan was in an underground command heart, issuing orders and putting calls.

Shortly after, 250 steaming takeout containers of scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits materialized within the bunker for hungry emergency staff — donated from the mayor’s Authentic Pantry restaurant downtown, which he had purchased to spare it from the wrecking ball.

Riordan labored to exhaustion within the ensuing days, slicing purple tape and convening officers throughout native, state and federal governments to coordinate help, restore companies and shortly rebuild the Santa Monica Freeway, sections of which had collapsed. His management was extensively considered as pivotal in getting town again on its toes.

Born Might 1, 1930, Richard Joseph Riordan grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., the youngest of eight youngsters in an prosperous Irish Catholic household. He mentioned certainly one of his most vivid Melancholy childhood recollections was seeing unemployed males coming to the household’s again door looking for meals or work. He attended an all-male Jesuit prep college the place each neckties and Latin had been obligatory.

Subsequent got here Santa Clara College, the place he performed on the soccer workforce. He transferred to Princeton after two years, then served within the Military in Korea and graduated first in his class on the College of Michigan Regulation College.

Alongside the way in which, Riordan met Eugenia “Genie” Warady at a resort in New York. They married and moved to Southern California. The couple had 5 youngsters as he constructed a legislation follow — beginning out with O’Melveny & Myers earlier than co-founding Riordan & McKinzie — and commenced making his fortune in investments.

In his first enterprise with Riordan Freeman & Spogli, he employed Wardlaw to deal with the authorized work. Thus started a deep friendship that finally steered Riordan to the mayor’s workplace and briefly faltered when the 2 backed opposing candidates to succeed Riordan.

Riordan left the enterprise after 5 years to launch his second funding agency, with Christopher Lewis. Quickly, former Rams quarterback and USC athletic director Pat Haden joined, and the agency grew to become referred to as Riordan, Lewis & Haden.

In the course of the Eighties, as his wealth grew and he contributed generously to church, schooling and civic causes, Riordan emerged as a political participant. He lent $300,000 to Bradley’s marketing campaign for governor and served on town’s Coliseum and Recreation and Parks commissions. And, with the assistance of Wardlaw, he led the profitable marketing campaign to oust state Supreme Courtroom Justice Rose Elizabeth Chicken in 1986.

Just a few years later, Wardlaw and his spouse, Kim, persuaded Riordan to run for mayor and oversaw his marketing campaign. Wardlaw grew to become the brand new mayor’s most trusted, although unofficial, advisor. It was largely by way of Wardlaw that Riordan cast an alliance with then-President Clinton and helped town safe hundreds of thousands of federal {dollars} for cops and metropolis applications.

Riordan endured private tragedies whilst he discovered enterprise and political success. He misplaced two of his youngsters — Billy, his solely son, in a scuba diving accident off the East Coast simply days earlier than his twenty second birthday; and daughter Carol, from problems of an consuming dysfunction when she was 19. Their deaths affected him deeply, and, as mayor, he typically reached out to different grieving dad and mom by recounting his personal ache on the loss of a kid.

Riordan was married 4 instances. He had his 23-year union with Genie Riordan annulled by the Catholic Church. The 2 remained shut till her loss of life in 2022. He married Jill Noel in 1980, and filed for divorce in 1996 after a four-year authorized separation. On Valentine’s Day in 1998 he married youngsters’s activist Nancy Daly, who had been at his aspect throughout the 1993 inaugural festivities. Daly died in 2009. Riordan married Elizabeth Gregory, then the pinnacle of admissions at Harvard-Westlake College, in 2017.

After giving up his gubernatorial hopes, Riordan served for about two years as state secretary of schooling beneath Schwarzenegger. As a personal citizen, Riordan continued his civic and philanthropic actions, partly by way of the Riordan Basis. He grew to become chairman of Alliance School-Prepared Public Colleges, a nonprofit constitution college administration group. And he remained proprietor or shareholder in 4 eating places, together with the Authentic Pantry.

A bout with prostate most cancers whereas he was mayor and coronary heart bypass surgical procedure in 2006 didn’t sluggish him down for lengthy. Match and vigorous, he continued to ski and take lengthy bicycle rides. In 2016, he bought a 60-acre property in Ojai, full with horse stables and income-producing orchards.

“He left town a greater place,” Chemerinsky mentioned. “And I say that as somebody who disagreed with him, typically.”

Riordan is survived by his spouse; three youngsters, Mary Elizabeth Riordan, Kathleen Ann Riordan and Patricia Riordan Torrey; three grandchildren, Luca, Jessica and Elizabeth; and a sister, Mary Elizabeth Riordan Hearty.

Merl is a former Instances employees author.

Instances employees author Steve Marble contributed to this story.


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