The Los Angeles City Council voted against a proposed ordinance on Friday to force LA hotels to give vacant rooms to the homeless, allowing residents to vote on the ordinance instead on the March 2024 ballot.
According to the proposed ordinance, which was initiated by the UNITE HERE union of hospitality workers, every hotel in Los Angeles would have to tell the city each day how many vacant hotel rooms there are available. Vouchers from the city would then be given to those to stay in the rooms. Because of the cost to the city, the cheapest available hotel rooms would be used, not rooms at more expensive hotels. However, hotels chosen would have little choice but to accept the vouchers regardless.
The ordinance, also known as the “Responsible Hotel Ordinance”, also set parameters for new hotels. Hotel developments of 100 or more rooms would need to obtain permits based on market demand for the hotel as well as what impact it would have on social factors such as social services, affordable housing, local businesses, and transit. Any new hotel development with 15 or more rooms would also be required to replace any demolished affordable housing caused by the development being placed there as well as new law enforcement and employment standards to get required permits.
Hotel owners and employees, as well as many on the City Council, have been up in arms over the proposed ordinance for quite some time, with fervor against it hitting new highs this week before the vote.
“What the measure does is hurts our tourism industry, which we heavily rely on, in a time when we are getting ready for the Olympics,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino on Thursday. “This is the dumbest measure I’ve seen in my 10 year tenure as a City Council member. It’s the worst of all options as it relates to solving homelessness in the city of LA. It puts hotel workers in a position where they will become social workers.”
Proposed ordinance to go to LA voters in 2024
The heavy opposition helped sway the City Council’s hand on Friday, voting 11-1 to not adopt the ordinance and instead let the voters decide in one and a half years.
Hotel Association of Los Angeles President Heather Rozman approved of the Council’s decision, noting “It baffles me that Unite Here, which claims to protect its members, is leading this measure that would very likely jeopardize worker safety. We’re relieved that the council saw this for the political stunt that it is and call on them to instead pursue long-term solutions to homelessness that actually work.”
Hotel owners who would have been directly affected, such as LA motel owner Charles Chung, also praised the decision.
“This would have ruined us,” explained Chung. “Project Roomkey really did a number on a lot of us, especially with all the damages we had left. And now being forced into it by the city? The City Council proved they still had a backbone at least some of the time today. We just need to vote this down in 2024 now.”
UNITE HERE, however, was disappointed with the decision, pointing out that it pushed affordable housing and housing for the homeless ahead of luxury developments.
“LA needs more affordable homes, not more luxury hotels,” said UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen on Friday. “Like all Angelenos, the number one concern of professional hospitality workers is the cost of housing. Every day room attendants at DTLA hotels have no choice but to move out of LA because luxury developers are demolishing the affordable housing stock. Our ordinance would force decision makers to prioritize housing over luxury developments. The Responsible Hotel Ordinance provides a common sense solution.”
The proposed ordinance is to be voted on by Los Angeles residents on March 5, 2024.
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