California government in a nutshell: It destroys your business and wants to be thanked for it.

The business of running a hotel or motel has certainly become complicated.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, California began a secretive program of leasing entire hotel properties and converting them, temporarily, to housing for people experiencing homelessness. It was something that might have been inconceivable at one time, but when the government declares an emergency and essentially forces people to stay home and not travel, and hotels see revenue drop to zero with no known end date, what is inconceivable quickly becomes inevitable.

And apparently permanent. The hotel industry now functions as back-up housing during the emergency du jour, currently accommodating the surge of migrants entering the United States at the southern border. In San Diego, the state health department has booked out two hotels for migrants, contracting with local nonprofits to run them and provide services.

Big, white buses operated by the federal government’s Customs and Border Protection agency are delivering migrants to a Four Points Sheraton and a Ramada hotel that are costing state taxpayers $46,000 per day and $25,000 per day, respectively, plus the cost of meals, medical care, transportation and related expenses. The contracts run through October 31.

And there are more than two. A local TV station reported that migrants are being sheltered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors has just approved a payment of $3.4 million to the owner of the Hotel Vertigo in Lower Nob Hill to cover damage to the property during COVID emergency, when it was housing homeless people. In December the city approved a $5.3 million payment for damage to the Hotel Union Square, and another $2.9 million was approved in March to cover damage to the Hotel Tilden. In February, a budget report estimated that damage settlement costs could reach $26 million. That’s just in San Francisco, where a total of 29 hotels were leased by the city to house the homeless during the pandemic.

The San Francisco Standard reported that Supervisor Ahsha Safai complained about the hotels suing the city for damages. “These hotels most likely would have gone under,” during the pandemic, he said, if not for what he called “the opportunity to generate revenue.”

There’s California government in a nutshell. It destroys your business and wants to be thanked for it.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass is building her “Inside Safe” homelessness policy around a $1.3 billion plan to house homeless people in hotels and motels. Her budget proposal asks for $250 million to buy hotel and motel properties and hire staff to run them as interim housing, which will theoretically reduce the cost of the program in the future by eliminating costly leases.

Now that the pandemic emergency has officially ended, it’s not always easy for the mayor to persuade hotel owners to accept the homeless guests at city expense. For months, a tent encampment on San Vicente Blvd. in the Beverly Grove area was allowed to grow week-by-week as city officials insisted they were searching for affordable housing in the area.

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But last week, after several months of trying to find hotels that were affordable and would accept homeless residents, Mayor Bass and City Council member Katy Yaroslavsky threw in the towel on trying to house the San Vicente encampment residents near their current location across the street from Beverly Hills. Buses pulled up and residents were persuaded to accept motel rooms at another location. One resident told a reporter he would be going to a motel at 108th Street and Broadway, in a neighborhood just west of Watts.

Hotels in Los Angeles may lose the ability to say no to the mayor. In March, a local initiative that will be on the city ballot would require hotel and motel owners to call in to the city every afternoon and report how many vacant rooms they have that evening. Then the city will pay for vouchers for homeless individuals to take to the hotels for housing that night. The hotels would be prohibited from refusing to accommodate the guests or refusing the vouchers as payment.

The initiative is sponsored by a union that represents hotel workers. Maybe they’re planning to negotiate for the workers to fill up the rooms by living in the hotels.

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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