Q – This came up in conversation last night with friends: They are saying that they read that the best hotels in Los Angeles, a city I often visit on business, will now be forced to allocate available rooms for assignment to the homeless currently living on LA streets. Can this be true and is it being discussed in the travel industry? I can’t imagine what hotel owners are thinking and could this spread to other states? How do I book a room for April and know for sure that the homeless will not be sharing my floor? Nothing against the homeless – I hope they get the support they need. But come on, I usually stay at the Beverly Wilshire. I can’t believe this isn’t all over the news.
A – Well it is not as big a story as Taylor Swift’s sudden interest in the NFL but the story is gaining traction in the LA region. It is a tad early to see where this is all headed but here is what we know at this time (10.4.23).
First, don’t assume that LA or any other major city is going to try intentionally to destroy the reputation and the service levels provided guests at First Class hotels. That would have such a negative impact on the upscale tourism and meeting sectors that it is hard to imagine it happening. But we are less sure that the proposed policy changes will not affect hotels geared toward budget-conscious locals who cannot afford LA’s increasing rent structure.
You are referring to something known as The Responsible Hotel Ordinance. It was created by a union representing about 11,000 hospitality workers throughout southern California and Arizona. It is scheduled to be voted on in an election to be held in LA next March. The union has already secured the required 100,000 signatures.
It appears that the proposed new legislation would force LA hotels top fill vacant rooms with people who lack any other housing options. There are an estimated 46,000 homeless resident sin Los Angeles, with Oakland and San Francisco not too far behind.
As presently worded, and please understand this can change at any time, LA Hotels would be required to notify the city of their available room inventory. A city agency would then direct/assign homeless individuals to specific properties and provide payment in the form of vouchers representing what is being referred to as “fair market Rate”.
You can imagine the controversay this plan is already generating. Hotel executives are saying that the implementation could spell the end of the city’s business meeting economy. Other critics talk about the potential for crime and the obvious lowering of room rates to attract regular guests. Proponents argue that many of the homeless being accommodated would, ironically, be hotel employees who can no longer work downtown while finding affordable housing.
It is hard to imagine that this will come to pass without major modifications. Most in the travel industry see it as a radical proposal that would have a massive negative impact on domestic tourism. But for now, the proposal has the signatures and it will be on the ballot. Our take on it is that, for the most part, we are talking about motels and older hotels in areas where homelessness is a real issue. We don’t see homeless guests in the hallways of the better properties in Beverly Hills – just yet. But this is fast becoming a “cause” and celebrities can and do embrace causes quickly enough to make a real difference in the outcome.