Hundreds Rally Outside Invitation-Only Forum at Five-Star Santa Monica Beachfront Hotel
Santa Monica, Calif. Yesterday, a group of corporate airport executives convened an invitation-only forum at a five-star beachfront hotel while hundreds of airport industry cashiers, cooks, servers and bartenders marched outside, calling on hospitality industry leaders to help solve the city’s escalating housing crisis by supporting an increase to the minimum wage to allow workers to afford rent where they work.
Inspired by the more than 1,000 hotel workers and allies who rallied outside the American Lodging Investment Summit’s annual gathering held downtown two weeks ago, the rallying Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) employees, accompanied by many hotel workers, addressed attendees of the Airports Council International-North America’s 2023 CEO Forum. The event offered “an opportunity to help set the airport industry agenda for 2023” and featured “executive-level discussions on the North American and global state of the industry,” according to its Web site.
Carrying signs that read “Affordable Housing Now!,” “Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Raise the Minimum Wage,” the airport and hospitality workers pointed to LAX’s current minimum wage of $18.04 an hour as a contributing factor in their—and in other working Angelenos’—inability to afford housing in Los Angeles.
“Although I welcome guests into our beautiful city every day, I can’t afford to live in LA,” said Eleanor Ramos, who’s worked as a bartender at LAX for the last 26 years. “After my apartment building was bought up, my rent went from $925 a month to $1,395 a month overnight. I am barely hanging on to my housing. I’ve seen how many senior citizens have been left homeless and I worry that that will be me someday.”
The current airport minimum wage of $18.04 an hour would require an airport worker to labor 17 hours a day to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles.
“Today, it’s clear that there are two perspectives in the tourism industry,” UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said. “One of them is in that gathering of airport CEOs inside that hotel, where the bosses are celebrating their historic profits since the start of the pandemic, because airports and hotels are full once again. The other perspective is here, among us. We are not paid enough, and we can’t afford rent. More and more of us are forced to move to cities and towns like California City, Apple Valley and Lancaster because we can’t afford rent here in Los Angeles. That’s an insult and we must change this situation.”
Closing out the evening, and as a nod to the hotel hosting the CEO forum, hotel seamstress and Gardena resident Carmen de Castro spoke of not being able to afford rent in Santa Monica, where her employer is located; of long commute times to and from work; and of an uncertain future.
“It’s not fair that after 18 years of working for this hotel, we can’t count on a secure and adequate retirement,” de Castro said. “It’s not fair that we can’t count on a fair wage to be able to afford rent in the city where we work. That’s why I’m here today, to tell those airport bosses gathered inside that luxury hotel that we demand an increase to the minimum wage, but above all we demand to be treated with dignity and respect!”
Over a thousand room attendants, cooks and servers with tools of their trade–beds, bell carts, mops–marched in downtown LA today asking the hotel executives attending the American Lodging Investment Summit, “the largest hotel investment conference in the world,” to step up and help solve the region’s housing crisis.
- Ensuring hotel developments do not displace affordable housing
- Establishing a program similar to the successful Project Roomkey to provide temporary lodging for unhoused families and individuals.
- Read the full text of the Responsible Hotel Ordinance.
Demand Endorsement of Responsible Hotel Ordinance & Higher Wages to Afford Rent
Los Angeles: Over a thousand room attendants, cooks and servers with tools of their trade–beds, bell carts, mops–marched in downtown LA today asking the hotel executives attending the American Lodging Investment Summit, “the largest hotel investment conference in the world,” to step up and help solve the region’s housing crisis.
“I live in Apple Valley with my husband, our two sons, and my mother. Los Angeles is in the middle of a housing crisis and the hotel industry is perpetuating the decrease in affordable housing. Even with 5 people in one household, I cannot afford to live closer to the JW Marriott L.A Live where I work. I sometimes only sleep 2-3 hours a night. This is no way to live.” said Brenda Mendoza, uniform attendant of 15 years.
“Although I welcome guests arriving into LAX every day, I cannot afford to live in Los Angeles. After my apartment building was brought up, my rent went from $925 to $1325 overnight. I have seen how so many senior citizens became homeless because they could not keep up with the rising cost of rent. I am barely hanging on.” said Eleanor Ramos, bartender at LAX for 26 years.
“I have to work two full time jobs and the only place I could afford a home in was California City. I sleep in my car in between jobs. How can anyone achieve the American dream if this is what it costs?” said Leticia, a housekeeper at the Glendale Hilton for 22 years.
UNITE HERE Local 11 contended that the hotel industry’s historically poverty wage jobs and its irresponsible hotel development, which does not prioritize housing concerns, contribute to working Angelenos’ inability to afford to live in Los Angeles.
“At the investment conference thousands of hotel executives are celebrating record profits because they are making more money than they were before the pandemic. Meanwhile the workers who make the industry prosperous have to live two hours away because they cannot afford to live where they work. The industry needs to help solve the housing crisis by paying a living wage and endorsing the Responsible Hotel ordinance.” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The workers also demanded that these hotel executives endorse the Responsible Hotel Ordinance and commit to increase hospitality worker wages. UNITE HERE Local 11 members collected a record 126,000 signatures from LA residents to place the Responsible Hotel Ordinance on the March 2024 ballot. The ordinance would require that housing concerns must be addressed in hotel development and creates a program similar to Project Roomkey to place unhoused families in vacant hotel rooms.
The protesters also called on the hotel industry to raise wages so that working families can reside in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Hotel Minimum Wage is $18.86 an hour which means that a hotel worker would have to work 17 hours a day to afford a 2 bedroom apartment.
“Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Los Angeles, and it’s one of the most profitable. Yet the workers who make that industry thrive face housing insecurity and rapidly increasing rents. For too many, the dream of affording a home in the city where they work is completely out of reach. Some of these workers are even unhoused. This must change — and the hospitality industry can join us to be a part of the solution.” said Hugo Soto-Martinez, Los Angeles City Councilmember District 13.
Hotels rooms under construction per “Hospitality Market Report – Los Angeles” prepared by Elyse Kirby for STR, accessed January 4, 2023 [login required]. See also affordable housing units approved by the City of Los Angeles.
Six councilmembers commit to vote NO on vacation rental loophole
Los Angeles, CA: In a show of unity and commitment, five Los Angeles city councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, Nithya Raman, and Monica Rodriguez held a press conference to unveil steps to protect housing for thousands of Angelenos by stronger enforcement of the city’s Home-sharing ordinance.
In an effort to further enforce the city’s strong home-sharing ordinance, Councilmembers Blumenfield, Koretz, and Raman, all filed separate motions with City Planning and Land Use Management recently.
“The City’s home sharing program has pulled thousands of much-needed housing units off the market, adding to our already disastrous homeless problem and has been beset by non-compliance, criminal activity and the destruction of once quiet single-family neighborhoods” said Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz of the Fifth District. “If we’re going to take home sharing and its many challenges seriously, we need to provide the Planning Department with the resources necessary to effectively enforce the ordinance, and this needs to be done before we start digging a deeper hole with a vacation rentals program. We currently require primary residency for a reason. What possible excuse is there for this change?”
Elected officials pledged to vote “NO” on a Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered, warning that the passage of it would take 14,000 homes off the market and convert them into short-term rental units and profoundly complicate the enforcement of short-term rental regulations in place. It would also create dire consequences for LA’s housing market with poor communities of color being the most affected. The loophole is expected to come to a vote in the coming weeks.
“If the City is struggling to enforce the home-sharing ordinance we already have on the books, what makes us think we’re ready to put in place a new vacation rental ordinance that, even when properly enforced, would allow almost 15,000 additional units to be taken off the rental market and turned into Airbnbs,” said Councilmember Raman. “I pledge to vote NO on the Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered.”
“The adopted short term rental ordinance was explicitly written to limit participation to primary residences in order to protect our critical housing stock. We cannot reopen that loophole in the midst of a housing crisis. Housing needs to be protected for those who live and work in Los Angeles,” said Councilwoman Rodriguez
“We need to protect our housing stock and ensure that we’re maximizing the amount of units available for Angelenos; it’s imperative that we don’t allow ‘vacation rentals’ to become a loophole that decimates the protections in the short term rental legalization policy we adopted a few short years ago.” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. “Right now, there are thousands of illegal short-term rentals available on various platforms throughout the city. We must strengthen enforcement and reject adding loopholes that will lead to more expensive housing.”
Councilmember Bonin was one of the main sponsors of the original home-sharing ordinance passed in 2018 to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing and the negative effects of short-term rentals on long-term housing markets. The Ordinance strictly limits home sharing to primary residences and requires “hosts” of short-term rentals to register for a permit. It also prohibits “host platforms” from processing bookings for listings without a valid City Home-Sharing registration number.
“We need to put a stake in the heart of this harmful vacation rental proposal, which would take thousands of units off the rental market in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “The proposed vacation rental ordinance would shred any hope of enforcing existing short-term rental rules and would do real harm.”
The event came as housing advocates, working Angelinos and UNITE HERE Local 11 increased their calls for stricter enforcement of the HSO and demand that council reject the proposed VRO.
“When COVID hit I lost my job and my way of life. As a single mother I could not afford to pay the rent of a one-bedroom apartment and was forced to move farther and farther away from my job. I currently live in a small garage where I am barely getting by and live-in fear of becoming homeless every day,” said Clara Meza, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who has worked as a food prep cook at Sky Chef’s for 36 years.
Although unable to attend in person, Councilmember De Leon said in a statement, “The fact that an eviction moratorium is the only thing preventing many Angelenos from living on the street is a clarion call for all of us to focus on increasing the number of permanently available units at any given time. In a moment like this, anything that detracts from that, like the vacation rental ordinance, should be off the table,” said Councilmember De Leon.