L.A. City Council rejects proposal to house homeless in hotels

In the face of strong opposition from small, family-owned businesses that make up the hotel industry, the Los Angeles City Council voted to reject a proposal that would have required hotels to make vacant rooms available to unhoused individuals. The measure now heads to the voters in November to decide whether this proposal becomes law.

Proposed by Unite Here Local 11, the labor union representing hospitality workers, the measure would establish a program to place unhoused individuals or families in vacant hotel guestrooms. Hotels would be required to report to the Department of Housing the daily number of vacancies they have and to accept vouchers from the unhoused to stay in a vacant room.

The measure was widely criticized by small business owners, who expressed serious concerns about being required to provide homeless individuals housing alongside guests. At the meeting, many hoteliers remarked their staff is simply not equipped to provide the social services that are required to make such temporary placements successful. With no funding for these services proposed in the ordinance, hoteliers fear that the lack of case management expertise could lead to unsafe conditions for workers.

“It baffles me that Unite Here, which claims to protect its members, is leading this measure that would very likely jeopardize worker safety,” said Heather Rozman, president/CEO, Hotel Association of Los Angeles. “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.”

The hotel industry has long been partners with the city in addressing homelessness. Most recently, multiple hotels have voluntarily participated in Project Roomkey, which converted hotels into homeless shelters during the pandemic. It viewed this recent measure as vast overreach that would harm these small businesses most as they still struggle to fully recover from drastic losses from the pandemic.

AAHOA said in a statement that it commends the city council’s vote on the controversial ordinance.

The organization said that placing unsheltered individuals next to paying guests will not solve the city’s rampant homeless issue but rather place the immense burden of this devastating, pervasive crisis on the doorstep of the hotel industry. This creates serious safety concerns for guests, housekeepers and all hotel staff.

Additionally, the ordinance institutes damaging development requirements and other fees for new hotel developments. The ordinance would greatly impact the extended-stay market and hotels— including the mom-and-pop lodging establishments that prop up the city’s hospitality market.

AAHOA will remain active and engaged on this issue to protect the safety of hotel staff and the betterment of the Los Angeles travel and tourism industry.

“The safety of our members, hotel guests and hotel staff is our No. 1 priority,” said Laura Lee Blake, president/CEO, AAHOA. “AAHOA applauds the Los Angeles City Council for the resounding vote on the mandate that would require hotels to house unsheltered individuals next to paying guests, as it would have created serious, immediate safety concerns.”

AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel said, “The impact of a unified AAHOA voice is a force to be reckoned with. There was an overwhelming response of AAHOA members—approximately 125 hotel owners and staff—who showed up to the hearing to make their voices heard. Many members were required to stand outside because there was no space left in the hearing room.”