Los Angeles will decide whether hotels should house homeless people in 2024 election

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More than 66,400 people were homeless in Los Angeles County at the beginning of 2020.

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A measure that would require hotels in The Angels rent vacant rooms to homeless will appear before the voters in the 2024 electionsdecided the Los Angeles Council on Friday.

The council rejected an option that would have skipped the public vote and enact the ordinance directly, voting 12-0 to send the measure to the ballot in 2024.

The initiative is backed by the Unite Here Local 11 hospitality workers union, which collected enough signatures to present it to voters.

Friday’s council vote sets the stage for a protracted public battle over the measure that Los Angeles voters will decide on in 19 months. It is very likely that the hotel industry will strongly oppose to measure. Several progressive housing and community groups have endorsed her along with Unite Here.

The proposal comes as city officials are gradually closing down one of the exclusive programs that were set up to addressing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic: Project Roomkey, that turned multi-story hotels into makeshift shelters. Several Project Roomkey sites have already closed, according to Los Angeles Times.

Under the proposal, hotels would be required to periodically report the number of vacant rooms they have to the city’s housing department.

A program run through the department would then make referrals and pay the “fair market rate” for the lodging using prepaid vouchers. Hotels would be prohibited from discriminating against homeless Angelenos “because of their participation in this program, or because of the fact or perception that they are homeless.”

That proposed voucher program does not have a designated funding source and would be dependent on funds being secured by July 1, 2023, according to a report from the city attorney’s office.

The measure also provides that for hotel development projects with 100 or more rooms to receive a permit, the city’s planning commission, or the council on appeal, would have to consider the “impact of the project on affordable housing, traffic , social services, employees and local businesses”. That would include whether the proposed hotel would “unduly burden the demand for affordable housing and social services” in Los Angeles.

Hotel developments with 15 or more rooms that demolish or convert homes for the project would have to replace them with the same number of affordable homes near the site, according to the proposal.

The council’s vote places the ballot measure at the city’s next regularly scheduled election, which according to the election calendar rules would be the primary election on March 5, 2024.

Meanwhile, more than 60,000 people in Los Angeles County remain homeless.

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