Los Angeles hospitality workers react to proposal that would require hotels to offer up vacant rooms to homeless people

Los Angeles, Hollywood Blvd at night.
"Hotels did not cause the homeless problem. Hotels are not the solution for the homeless problem," Stuart Waldman, the president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, told LA council members on Friday.Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
  • A recently proposed ordinance in Los Angeles would require hotels to open up vacant rooms to homeless people.

  • Hotel workers spoke both for and against the proposal at a city council meeting on Friday.

  • The ordinance will appear on Los Angeles voters' ballots in 2024, the council decided.

Hotel workers, some of whom have experienced homelessness themselves in recent years, shared their input Friday on a controversial ordinance that would require Los Angeles hotels to rent vacant rooms to homeless people through a voucher program.

The proposed initiative, titled the "Responsible Hotel Ordinance," is backed by the hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 11 and will appear on Los Angeles' voters ballots in 2024, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

At a city council meeting on Friday, hotel workers and industry players voiced opinions for and against the proposal, with several noting that staff members are not properly trained to provide the mental health and social services required to adequately address unsheltered individuals' needs.

Thomas Franklin, a night auditor at the Beverly Hills Marriott in West Los Angeles, said he himself was homeless ten years ago and described a "chaotic" experience living in a transitional housing program that had 24-hour security and staff on hand.

"With all the drugs, all the fighting ... we did not have the support in order to make it a successful program there," he told council members on Friday. "Without having a clearly defined support from policing and mental services, there's no way that I think that this is something that we should be able to do."

An owner of the Hampton Inn Suites in Los Angeles reiterated these concerns, saying his employees are "absolutely scared and fear not just for their lives and their safety, but also for how we are treating the homeless and unsheltered."

"There has to be a more humane way to take care of this problem," he continued. "My staff is here with me today ... this is no joke to them. If this passes, they will look for other opportunities."

Dixie Moore (R) talks with representatives from St Joseph Center Homeless Services who will help her move from her tent encampment along the Venice Beach Boardwalk, to short-term housing in a nearby hotel July 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Dixie Moore (right) talks with representatives from St Joseph Center Homeless Services who will help her move from her tent encampment along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to short-term housing in a nearby hotel on July 2, 2021.Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Carly Kirchen, an organizer for the worker's union backing the ordinance, said hotel owners are perpetuating the "myth" that "every person experiencing homelessness is so sick that they are a danger to the people around them," adding that thousands of Local 11 members are currently facing eviction.

"Even as a union member with a good-paying job, I was recently homeless due to the housing crisis in our city,"  Bambian Taft, a hotel minibar attendant and former housekeeper, said.

Other speakers noted the proposed ordinance's lack of economic data and funding information. Richard Earle, an executive at the hotel insurance provider Petra RiskSolutions, said the proposal would cause carriers to "legitimately pull coverage."

"It will not be available because it changes the entire scope of the business," he said, adding that coverage for hotels adhering to the initiative would be four to five times more expensive than their current rates. "It will be a direct destructive punitive impact on their business."

The ordinance would also require hotels that demolish housing in order to build new developments to replace the destroyed units with affordable housing. Ronald Bermudez, who said he works as a bellman at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, voiced support for this initiative at the meeting Friday.

"I'm a renter at near the downtown area," he told council members. "It will become so difficult to stay in Los Angeles due to the high cost of rent. We need to do everything we can to protect housing in our city."

Are you a hotel worker struggling to afford housing? Reach out to this reporter from a non-work address at htowey@insider.com

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