Politics & Policy

LA City Council Votes to Identify Hotels Refusing to Take in Homeless, Proposes ‘Commandeering’ Them

A homeless man takes shelter under a freeway in San Francisco, Calif., January 6, 2016. (Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to publicly identify hotels in the city that have refused to take in homeless people temporarily amid the coronavirus pandemic, and also raised the possibility of “commandeering” them.

Some hotels, including the palatial Ritz Carlton downtown, have objected to Project Roomkey, a joint effort by the state of California, Los Angeles County, and the city to temporarily house the county’s homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. The project aimed to house 15,000 homeless, but as of Wednesday only 1,582 had been given a place to stay, according to local reports. Hotels who participate will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for three fourths of the costs incurred.

“If hotels are making a distinction among people classifying housed and unhoused differently in terms of accommodations that they’re going to be repaid for, that the city and county will pay for with reimbursements, then I think there’s a potential civil rights violation,” said Councilman Mike Bonin from the Pacific-touching 11th district.

“If the problems are on the hotel end, the public should know why, and then we should consider commandeering as they’ve talked about in other cities,” the Democratic councilman added.

Bonin authored a motion requesting that hotels bucking the plan to disclose any “public subsidy, tax breaks, or economic development incentives” they have received in the past. The Ritz-Carlton and adjoining J.W. Marriott have received hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding over the last 25 years.

“The biggest issue is safety — safety of our residences at the Ritz- Carlton,” said realtor Art Avaness, who manages six of the hotel’s units. “It’s very, very alarming and concerning because, health-wise, it jeopardizes everything for everybody.”

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