L.A. Business Council Calls For Significant Expansion of Project Roomkey

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Business Council, which represents 500 L.A. businesses and civic leaders, called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council today to pursue obtaining 15,000 hotel rooms to house unsheltered people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LABC, which is hosting its annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit Thursday, said that the city should take advantage of the federal government's commitment to reimburse 100% of the costs of hotel and motel rooms to house homeless people through September.

“Opportunities like this don't come along often. We must take full advantage of it,'' the LABC said in a letter to Garcetti. “Thus, we urge you to act fast to explore options for renting vastly more hotel and motel rooms and bringing our unhoused Angelenos safely indoors.''

City Attorney Mike Feuer expressed his support for LABC's call for 15,000 hotel rooms for unsheltered people, as well as expanding other city services.

“I'm a strong supporter of the LABC's proposal today that there be 15,000 new beds under Project Roomkey ... and as we do these things, we also need to be reimagining our engagement on the street. And how does that look, it looks like reinventing the structure of (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority). Its goals and its mission have to align with the city's. It means rethinking how we deal with mental illness on the street, which means speeding up experiments ... and it means expanding our multidisciplinary teams on the street,'' he said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti authorized up-front funding to extend Los Angeles' leases for Project Roomkey hotels through Sept. 30, but the city only leases three hotels with a total of about 1,200 rooms.

Project Roomkey was started in March 2020 as state and county officials sought to find short-term shelters for homeless residents over 65 or with serious health conditions -- hoping to keep them safe from the spread of the coronavirus.

The Los Angeles Business Council said in a statement that its leaders support Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman's calls to increase the program by thousands of rooms.

Over 40,000 Angelenos are living on the city's streets, and their deaths are up 74% in 2021 compared to the same time the previous year, according to the LABC.

Meanwhile, the city's 100,000 hotel and motel rooms are at about 50% capacity amid the pandemic, LABC noted. “And if we can't hit the 15,000-room goal, let's know that our mayor and other city leaders did everything in their power to reach it,'' said LABC president Mary Leslie. “Five years from now, we can either look back and say we missed a golden opportunity, or be grateful that Los Angeles answered the magnitude of the moment and housed a majority of its homeless population.''

The city is under mounting pressure from Federal Judge David O. Carter to shelter 6,500 people who live under freeway passes by April 1.

“We know other cities . . . are making moves to act quickly. We do not want to be left behind,'' LABC leaders said. LABC represents 150 businesses across all industries. According to their website, they focus on issues related to housing, transportation, renewable energy, economic development, international investment and homelessness.

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