If Los Angeles voters approve a measure on the March 2024 ballot to force hotels to house homeless people next to paying guests, it would put hotel employees in grave danger and eliminate thousands of jobs as hotel reservations in Los Angeles and tourism stop.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see that.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city experimented with housing homeless people in hotels. Thousands of homeless people checked into hotels on the taxpayers’ dime, and hotel staff were forced to deal with the drugs and violence these guests brought with them.
In addition to putting hotel staff at risk, the program caused extensive property damage—$11.5 million in damage to the Mayfair Hotel alone. The emails that went back and forth in Mayfair tell the whole story.
“Participant in 1516 Endangered personnel, security, destroyed property. I screamed. I screamed damn it. Everything went wrong with her,” read one message that was later featured in the Los Angeles Times.
“Around 10am, a male in 1526 assaulted another resident in room 726,” a security guard wrote in another message. “The situation was quickly resolved and 1526 was escorted by police.”
Would you like to be at the hotel with your children the next time this happens? Most Americans wouldn’t. A Morning Consult poll commissioned by the American Hotel and Hotel Association shows how a majority of Americans would likely move away from L.A. and its hotels if the hotel homeless ballot measure passes.
The survey found that 72 percent of US adults would be deterred from booking a room in Los Angeles if the policy went into effect. About 70 percent of both business and leisure travelers would be deterred from even visiting the city if it became policy.
The adverse reaction is even stronger among people who have visited Los Angeles before. More than 80 percent of that group said the hotel’s homeless policy would deter them from booking a hotel room in the city.
This could not be clearer. If the ballot measure passes and Los Angeles’ hotel and tourism industry dies, no one will be able to say they couldn’t have seen it coming.
We empathize with the plight of Los Angeles’ homeless population who need professional help from medical and social workers. But housing homeless people in expensive luxury hotels without providing support services does nothing to solve the city’s homelessness problem.
Los Angeles needs a serious solution to homelessness, and the majority of people agree. The Morning Consult survey found that a whopping 75 percent of Americans said they are concerned that forcing hotels to accommodate homeless people next to paying guests ignores the root causes of homelessness. And 74 percent said they were worried the policy was failing to address the long-term housing needs of homeless people.
It’s easy to see what the future of Los Angeles would look like if the hotel homeless measure passes. But one thing we can’t predict is what the leaders of the hoteliers’ union supporting the measure are thinking. The leaders of Unite Here, a union representing hotel workers in the Los Angeles area, are the ones who put this dangerous voting policy first.
Why would Unite Here fight to put its own members at risk? Union members are already raising safety concerns about the hotel serving homeless guests, so why is the union fighting to force all Los Angeles hotel employees to do so? How does Unite Here respond to criticism that if its plan passes, there will eventually be no hotels — and no hotel workers — left in L.A.?
Union bosses have so far refused to respond.
Unite Here has until Dec. 8 to withdraw the measure, according to the City of Los Angeles initiative’s Referendum and Repeal Petition Handbook. So perhaps the most important question facing the union is whether to withdraw this hotel homeless policy from the ballot.
This will save the city from repeating the same failed experiment with homelessness, ensure the safety of hotel workers and guests, and protect Los Angeles’ critical tourism industry.
However, Unite Here bosses have so far refused to take this sensible step. If they don’t, safety concerns will drive hotel workers to other industries and tourists to other cities.
The future will be without hotels and hotel workers – in LA or any other city where Unite Here tries to force hotels to house homeless people.
Chip Rogers (@ChipAHLA)) is president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and president of Angelenos Protecting Hospitality.
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