Los Angeles’ city council appeared this week to have reached a political compromise with the local hotel workers’s union about a controversial plan to mandate that hotels temporarily house the homeless.
At issue is a long-running dispute. Earlier this year, LA’s powerful hotel union, Unite Here Local 11, successfully pushed the city’s council to put an initiative on the ballot for voters in March 2024. One of the initiative’s most controversial proposals was to mandate that hotel operators take part in a city program to place the homeless in otherwise vacant hotel rooms temporarily.
Hotel operators would have to report daily on their vacancy rate and had to accept temporary housing vouchers to cover the cost of temporarily housing the homeless.
The idea sparked outraged LinkedIn commentary. But more importantly, the hotel industry’s array of lobbying organizations, including the American Hotel & Lobbying Association, led a campaign against the idea with a mix of editorials in publications like The Hill and appearances in news programs tied to a survey of locals opposing the effort that AHLA sponsored.
The Center For Union Facts ran a TV ad called “Hotel Hell.”
Hoteliers argued that the mandate was unfair.
Others were nervous about reports of hotels receiving damage when participating in the voluntary effort. LA’s boutique 294-room Mayfair Hotel claimed to suffer significant acts of vandalism and damage during six months of participation in a different effort, called Project Roomkey, which transformed whole properties into temporary shelters, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
As of Friday, a proposal that removed the homeless mandate was still two votes short of passage in the L.A. City Council, reported the Los Angeles Times, but political insiders said they were optimistic. The California Hotel & Lodging Association and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles supported the compromise, which they helped facilitate along with council member Traci Park, Council President Paul Krekorian, and others.
Unite Here Local 11 said it considered the deal a victory. The pact includes the City Council promising to okay a set of fresh regulations on hotel development that would tighten the standards for the approval process to link hotel creation with the parallel creation of residential housing construction. Other criteria include vetting whether there is enough demand to support the hotels and what side effects development may have on the local demand for childcare and other city services.
“We have said all along that our contract campaign has been about two things: housing for our members where they work and a living wage,” said Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president, in a statement.