L.A. City Council weighs incentives for hotel upgrades


The Los Angeles City Council is considering granting economic incentives to the local hotel industry to encourage modernization projects and better pay for workers.

In a motion introduced on Tuesday, the council agreed to ask several city departments for reports on how “public benefits” and other incentives could be used to help strengthen the local tourism industry, which the motion said is “lagging behind where it can be.”

Hotels, the measure said, are aging and falling behind in energy efficiency, and hotel workers are largely “underpaid and overworked.” Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who helped write the proposal, said he wants to know what the city can do to create better wages for workers.

The action came minutes after a raucous City Hall rally in which labor union members called for city support for eight public policy campaigns initiated by Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a union-backed think tank that has its own plan for better pay in the hotel industry.

The alliance’s Maria Loya said her group wants an ordinance that would require hotels with more than 100 rooms to pay workers a living wage of $10.30 an hour with health benefits, or $14.80 an hour with no benefits. California’s current hourly minimum wage is $8.

The proposal is modeled after a measure passed in 2007 that extended living wage protections to employees at about a dozen hotels near LAX. Supporters said public investments in street improvements in the area merited the living wage mandate for the hotels, which did not have contracts with the city. Business groups sued to block the ordinance, but it was upheld in court.

A citywide ordinance would affect about 83 hotels, Loya said.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and several members of the City Council attended Tuesday’s rally. Two 2013 mayoral candidates, City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti, were there.

Absent was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose spokesman said he was in North Carolina, planning for the Democratic National Convention.

Last week, Villaraigosa, who is hosting the convention, said “a large number” of layoffs of city employees would be needed in Los Angeles to address the city’s budget crisis. But the threat of layoffs was not the topic of the labor rally, where Maria Elena Durazo, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, spoke.

At the rally, Durazo voiced her support for the alliance’s hotel industry proposals, as well as the group’s other campaigns, which include efforts to raise wages for workers at LAX and a proposal to create a franchise system for the commercial waste-hauling industry.