Los Angeles withdraws controversial ‘homeless in hotels’ ballot measure



(The Center Square) – Los Angeles city council decided to remove a controversial March 2024 ballot measure to require hotels to host homeless individuals in unsold rooms after a wave of controversy and pushback from business leaders. Under a compromise measure passed with zero opposing votes, the city will require new hotels to build new affordable housing at a one-to-one basis for units displaced by the new hotel’s construction, and will create a voluntary program to house homeless in hotels at negotiated rates.

“We thank the LA City Council for brokering a compromise to get the homeless-in-hotels measure off the ballot,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Housing and Lodging Association, which ran a significant public campaign against the measure, in a public statement.

The measure was put forth by Unite Here Local 11, a regional hospitality union with 32,000 members becoming a major political powerhouse in Southern California and Arizona. Unite Here, which previously employed Los Angeles City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez as an organizer and paid him $$68,618 in 2021, easily collected the necessary signatures to bring the measure to the ballot. Unite Here Local 11 is currently on strike in Los Angeles as it negotiates new contracts with over 100 businesses across the city. While Los Angeles City Council could have voted to adopt the measure outright, it instead unanimously voted to punt the decision to voters.

“With its actions in LA, Unite Here showed that even the safety and security of its own members is up for negotiation. We urge leaders in LA 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,” continued Rogers.

Experts warned that if adopted, the measure would induce significant liability costs and insurance losses that could drive hotels out of business, and that both potential guests and organizers of events and conferences would be deterred from making use of hotels in Los Angeles.

Under the adopted compromise measure, hotels can choose to opt-in to a homeless housing program that would pay hotels at the “fair market rate” as determined by the price made available to the public. Hotels that opt-in to the program would report their available rooms to the city but would not require them to hold or reserve rooms for program beneficiaries.

The compromise measure also requires that all new hotels built replace any housing units displaced by the hotel’s construction with housing that is affordable to “moderate income households” making between 81% and 120% of area median income.

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