Los Angeles Removes Proposal to House Homeless in Vacant Hotel Rooms From March Ballot

Los Angeles Removes Proposal to House Homeless in Vacant Hotel Rooms From March Ballot

Hotel workers march in the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

12/7/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Dec. 5 to remove a ballot initiative from the March 2024 ballot that would have had voters decide if hotels should be required to house homeless persons in vacant rooms, replacing it with a compromise ordinance that will require hotels to replace any lost housing from hotel construction, and for them to join a volunteer registry of their vacant rooms for temporary housing for the homeless.
The ballot initiative, pushed by the union Unite Here Local 11, which represents over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona, would have required hotels to accept government vouchers to house the homeless in their vacant rooms.
Chip Rogers, the President and CEO of the American Hotel Lodging Association released a statement after the city council’s vote bashing the union, responsible for the now-dead ballot initiative.
“For nearly two years, Unite Here created an atmosphere of dangerous uncertainty for hotel employees, hoteliers, and the city of Los Angeles by clinging to a proposal virtually everyone thinks is outrageous—forcing hotels to house homeless people next to paying guests,'' he said.
The new ordinance, which will take effect July 1, 2024,  was introduced in November by Council President Paul Krekorian, who co-authored it with the hospitality workers union.
Once in effect, hotel developers will go through a lengthier approval process for their projects and must replace housing lost because of new hotel construction. They can choose to build new residential units or purchase and revive existing ones, with the additional housing giving Los Angeles workers a chance to live closer to work. The ordinance requires priority given to hospitality workers for the replaced housing.
“With this ordinance, we have done more to protect housing than any single contract demand would have done. The fight for a living wage continues,” union Co-President Kurt Peterson said after the replacement ordinance was first announced.
The new ordinance, which was approved on a 14–0 vote with Councilwoman Nithya Raman absent, additionally calls for more oversight of short-term rentals, hotels, or “party houses,” considered nuisances.
Mr. Krekorian said in a press release last month that while hotels are a vital and necessary component of the local economy, they cannot take away needed housing.
“We need hotels to welcome the thousands of visitors we receive, but new hotel construction cannot come at the cost of our current housing stock,” he said.
The ordinance also requires hotel developers to obtain a conditional use permit that would only be approved after an analysis of the potential loss of housing for a hotel’s construction.
Also, all owners and operators of hotels, current and new, and those who offer short-term rentals will now be required to undergo a background check and obtain a police permit, specifically to see if they have a prior history of creating a public nuisance. However, the council has asked the city to report back on an alternative process for short-term rental owners, after some in a committee meeting in November on the issue, voiced concerns such were onerous for small operators, like those renting a unit or single home on Airbnb.
“Irresponsible hotel and short-term rental operators cannot be allowed to endanger the public safety or impair the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Mr. Krekorian said in the same statement.
According to a Los Angeles Police Department representative, the department is expected to process over 9,000 permits under the new ordinance, which requires collecting general descriptions of properties. They would likely need more staff to cover the work, a representative said.
Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez suggested during a Nov. 28 council meeting where the draft ordinance was first approved, that the city’s Housing Department instead take over the permitting, which is still yet to be decided.
Mr. Roger’s, of the American Hotel Lodging Association, told city leaders to be careful when dealing with the union in the future.
“With its actions in L.A., Unite Here showed that even the safety and security of its own members is up for negotiation. We urge leaders in L.A. and other cities to use this episode to inform their future interactions with Unite Here and to put hotel employee and guest safety first, even when Unite Here refuses to do so,” he said.
President and CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association Laura Lee Blake also supported the compromise ordinance in a statement last month following its proposal.
“[We applaud] the decision to transition the mandatory homeless voucher program into a voluntary initiative,” she said. “This shift significantly empowers our hoteliers to pursue long-term solutions to a homelessness crisis that must be addressed.”
City News Service contributed to this report.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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