Note: This article first appeared on Los Angeleno and is shared with their permission in partnership with UncoverLA. You can subscribe for news and features from Los Angeleno here.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in California, state and county officials launched Project Roomkey to place at-risk, unhoused individuals in vacant hotel rooms. But in L.A., just over 4,100 rooms have been filled out of a promised 15,000. According to a memo, part of the problem is that several hotels, including those subsidized by city funds, chose not to participate for reasons including protecting their "brand."
Project Roomkey is a partnership between the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rent hotel rooms and provide a safe place for unhoused individuals 65 or older or with underlying health conditions to shelter and avoid infection, self-isolate or, if necessary, quarantine.
According to a report from the chief legislative analyst dated Sept. 4, a total of 4,177 rooms in 38 hotels had been secured as of Aug. 27, 2020 — less than a third of the project's goal. The city has used part of its $19.3 million in state funding on this project but may end up not using it all.
One problem seems to be a lack of hotels willing to participate in the program. It's not as though the rooms are otherwise full. Travel is way down due to COVID-19. The CLA's report shows that in late June, room demand year-over-year had dropped by 60%. Hotels have instead cited other reasons for their reluctance, many of which display brazen classism.
In response, the City Council requested a list of hotels that have received financial assistance or sit on land previously owned by the city or the CRA/LA. They found 16 hotels, including the Loews Hollywood Hotel and the W Hotel in Hollywood, as well as downtown hotels, including the Intercontinental, Omni, Miyako, DoubleTree, Bonaventure and Biltmore. The City does not share the names of participating hotels for the privacy of their tenants, but we do know that these 16 hotels did not participate in Project Roomkey. This document lists each of the 16 hotels' reasons for not participating.