Measure Would Force Hotels to Give Vacant Rooms to the Unhoused

Voters in Los Angeles will weigh in on a proposal that would require hotels to make vacant rooms available to homeless people.

The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to place the measure on the March 2024 ballot. In doing so, city leaders rejected the only other option they had – to adopt the proposed ordinance outright.

UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents some 32,000 people in the state’s hospitality industry, gathered enough signatures to compel a vote by the City Council. It’s a strange priority for an organization that represents hotel workers, hospitality industry leaders and opponents of the measure said.

“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. “It puts hotel workers in a position where they will become social workers.”

The measure would require hotels to identify vacancies to city authorities. The Housing Department would pay market rate for the rooms used to shelter the unhoused.

In addition to forcing hotels to shelter unhoused guests, the measure would limit future hospitality development projects. The city’s planning commission would have to consider the impact on affordable housing, transit, and social services before approving permits for hotels with 100 or more rooms.

“Hotels did not cause the homeless problem. Hotels are not the solution for the homeless problem,” said Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. President Stuart Waldman to rounds of applause at the city's meeting. 

Aside from obvious safety and security concerns, insurance carriers could pull coverage from local hotels, one insurance representative warned.

UNITE HERE Communications Director Maria Hernandez believes the proposal is fair and reasonable, given the city’s intractable housing crisis.

"We think this is a common sense issue, and housing is an issue that affects so many of our members every day," Hernandez told City News Service. "Unfortunately, that's not talked about enough, especially folks who are either on the brink of homelessness or having to live in homes with multiple people at a time."