The state, county, and the city of Los Angeles have initiated a program called “Project Roomkey” to house at least 15,000 homeless people during the pandemic. KABC News reports that as of Monday, they had secured over 3,000 rooms of which 1,517 are occupied. Hotels will receive 75% of the daily rate per room from FEMA. There are currently approximately 60,000 homeless people in L.A. County.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the city has already reached out to 800 area hotels and motels told KABC, “Each hotel brings new hope, each room could save a life. Hotel and motel operators are ambassadors of the Angeleno spirit.”
According to KABC, the Los Angeles City Council has voted to identify the names of area hotels that refuse to participate. Councilman Mike Bonin told KABC that if necessary, they will “commandeer” them. He said:
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. 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.
Bonin spoke to “Eyewitness News” and said that some area hotels have been “unwilling to participate, reneged on initial interest, citing security concerns, liability issues, objections from corporate management or fear of lost revenue from being branded a ‘homeless hotel.'”
He is also investigating if any of the hotels who refuse to be a part of Project Roomkey “have received tax breaks from the city recently.”
Bonin added, “I don’t think fancy hotels should be exempt from Project Roomkey. As we look to hotels to step up, those that have benefited from public investment and public largess – those are the first that we should be looking towards.”
The Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott are part of a residential complex called L.A. LIVE and according to a “2018 report by the Los Angeles city controller, the city of L.A. agreed to pay the owners of the L.A. LIVE complex, which includes $270 million in financial incentives over a 25 year period.”
The residences are privately owned and are valued anywhere from $1 million to $40 million. Predictably, the owners are unenthusiastic about participating in Project Roomkey.
In a statement provided to Eyewitness News, the Homeowner’s Association for the Ritz-Carlton Residences wrote, “We have resisted this here on our L.A. LIVE campus” from the start.
Bonin cannot understand their lack of interest. “The hotels are losing money and hotel workers aren’t getting paid. This, literally, can be a win, win, win – a triple bottom line of improving public health, helping the hotels stay solvent, which helps [t]he city treasury and putting people back to work.”.
John Satterfield, who owns two of the residential units, explained to Eyewitness News, “Aside from the logistical concerns, safety concerns, there are families that live down there with children. I don’t actually trust how they’re going to control it.”
I completely understand their hesitation.
The residences are private property, and if a city council can “commandeer” our private property, then America is further gone than any of us thought.