The Mayfair Hotel in Los Angeles in an undated photo. (Glenn Marzano)
Escrow was expected to close Aug. 31 on the city of Los Angeles’s $83 million purchase of the Mayfair Hotel in downtown that will provide temporary housing for homeless people.
The 294-room hotel is to become part of the city’s Inside Safe
program to create interim lodging—leading to more permanent housing—and to bring more people inside, according to Mayor Karen Bass.
“We need to do all that we can to get Angelenos off the streets and into temporary housing as fast as possible while permanent housing is still being built,” Bass said in a statement
that noted the City Council’s decision. “The proposed purchase of the Mayfair is an important step toward that goal.”
The Los Angeles City Council voted 11–2 last month to move forward with the Westlake district hotel purchase. Councilors Tim McOsker and Monica Rodriquez voted against the proposal, and Councilwoman Nithya Raman was absent.
Mr. McOsker explained his “no” vote, saying it was a “dramatic change of policy,” according to City News Service while Ms. Rodriguez said she was unhappy with the process.
“What was most frustrating is the lack of clarity, the financials associated with the acquisition, the speed with which we’re trying to accelerate and get this through, not availing any time for the community to actually be heard,” Ms. Rodriguez said.
Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez, who represents the 1st District—where the hotel is located—said she remains concerned about the project, especially after receiving feedback from residents that there hadn’t been adequate opportunity for community input.
But, she said, the district has allowed several similar projects in the past.
“I have said repeatedly ... this is not a community that rejects housing or density,” Ms. Hernandez said at the meeting, according to City News Service. “This debate is not about rejecting the housing that we desperately need. It’s about providing our communities with the resources to truly make a project like this one successful and digestible.”
The city has housed homeless people at the hotel, at 1256 W. 7th St., in the recent past with its COVID-19-era “Project Roomkey
” initiative. The program was created by the state in March 2020 to provide temporary shelter to the homeless in response to the pandemic.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (L) speaks as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra looks on at a news conference following a tour and roundtable discussion at an Asian American Drug Abuse Program facility in Los Angeles on May 31, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The hotel—now that it is part of the mayor’s “Inside Safe” program—will offer medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and help for those staying there to find permanent housing.
It will also have around-the-clock security, according to the city.
“Programming plans for the Mayfair are still in the early stages of development,” according to the city’s Aug. 18 statement
. “The Mayor’s Office will actively engage the surrounding community, partners, and the selected service provider as the facility prepares to begin operations in the coming months.”
More Than $11 Million in Damage
The city was required to pay $11.5 million, according to media reports
, to the current owners of the hotel, the Los Angeles-based ICO Group, for repairs after homeless residents damaged the building and furniture when it was used for Project Roomkey.
The hotel’s participation in the program resulted in a staff of security guards, nurses, hotel managers, and others dealing with drug overdoses, property damage, and aggressive or violent behavior, according to City News Service.
Amy Benson, director of the city’s Real Estate Services Division of the Department of General Services, said the city estimates it will spend $60 million to buy the hotel in its “as-is” condition and another $23 million to renovate it.
The city is planning to pay for the hotel and renovations, in part, using federal Community Development Block Grants, which are for projects aimed at improving the quality of life for low- and moderate-income populations.
Additional funding will come from the voter-approved Proposition HHH—a bond measure passed by Los Angeles voters in 2016 to fund housing and facilities for homeless people in crisis—as well as various city sources, including its general fund.
As a condition of some of the funding, only homeless people from downtown’s Skid Row will be residents of the hotel for the first two years.
The Mayfair Hotel in Los Angeles, in an undated photo. (Glenn Marzano)
In December 2022, Ms. Bass signed an executive order launching Inside Safe to find permanent solutions to homelessness. The county has since joined the effort by providing support and outreach workers to connect the city’s homeless with temporary accommodation in hotels.
The hotel, along with other Inside Safe locations, will abide by what’s known as a “housing first” model, adopted by the state in 2016, requiring
any state-funded homeless program to allow tenants to stay regardless of substance use.
For this year’s point-in-time count, which measured three nights in January, nearly 70,000 people
were homeless in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
The city’s decision to purchase the hotel has generated frustration within the community.
Westlake residents who live in the neighborhood near the building rallied against the purchase, expressing concern that it would be a repeat of Project Roomkey.
Elaine Alaniz, a health care recruiter and president of the Westlake North Neighborhood Council, said business owners in the district also oppose the city’s decision.
“They don’t support this,” Ms. Alaniz told The Epoch Times. “It’s going to affect their business and their livelihoods. It’s pushing their customers away.”
When the hotel was used for Project Roomkey, the temporary residents lit fires inside, furniture was thrown from windows, graffiti was painted on local businesses, and windows were shattered, Ms. Alaniz said.
The neighborhood surrounding the hotel is mostly made up of Spanish-speaking immigrants who have children, with an elementary and middle school, and a Catholic school nearby.
But many homeless have moved in and put up tents near the Mayfair, which has increased crime and drug use, and resulted in feces on the sidewalks, according to Ms. Alaniz.
“We have a lot of homeless with tents right now,” she said. “A lot of these kids are seeing them shoot up heroin.”
Skid Row in Los Angeles on June 9, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Mike Netter, vice chair of Rebuild California, a nonpartisan movement “to take action where government officials fail,” according to its website, said the hotel purchase could lead to more problems.
“The Mayfair Hotel will become another money pit that we have to sink more of our government funds into,” Mr. Netter told The Epoch Times. “I think it’s a horrible idea. First off, the government historically should not be buying businesses and competing with private industry, especially, or a group like the homeless. Who is going to maintain it?”
The application process for those who will stay there is complicated, and the county already spends millions every year serving the population on the streets, he said.
Some of the hotels have sustained damage in the past, he said.
“Homelessness is a human tragedy that we have come to kind of almost accept in California,” Mr. Netter said. “How do we let this happen in California and especially in Los Angeles County?”
Others, however, said the city’s purchase is a step in the right direction.
Rory Robinson, a client service manager with Rebuild California Alliance’s Bridge House Sober Living and Re-entry program, which owns four homes in Los Angeles that can house up to 120 male clients struggling with addiction or homelessness, hailed the good timing of the decision.
“We’re going into winter, and we don’t really have locations open,” Mr. Robinson told The Epoch Times.
He said he thinks the Mayfair Hotel purchase and the mayor’s Inside Safe program will help the problem in the same way Project Roomkey moved people inside during COVID.
“There’s a huge concern for homelessness,” Robinson said.
Pastor Troy Vaughn, president of the Los Angeles Mission, said the organization also supports the mayor’s initiative and the purchase of the Mayfair.
“As co-laborers in the fight against poverty and homelessness, we support Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe initiative and thank the City Council for supporting this effort,” Mr. Vaughn said in a statement
. “We agree that the first step on the journey of restoration and rehabilitation begins with housing.”