The City of Los Angeles plans to study the feasibility of a city ordinance requiring hotels along the Century Boulevard Corridor near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to pay the city’s “living wage” to hotel service workers.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee recommendation Wednesday, May 3rd, to draft an ordinance proposal that extends the city’s living wage to LAX-area hotel workers and requires retention of the workers for a transitional period after the changing of hotel owners.

According to the city Bureau of Contract Administration, the current city living wage, effective through Friday, June 30th, is $9.08 per hour if health benefits are provided, or an additional $1.25 per hour — a total of $10.33 — if workers’ health benefits are not provided. All businesses that have service contracts with the city are required to pay at least the city living wage.

City attorneys will study the feasibility of adopting such an ordinance and report the findings to the City Council within 60 days.

The City Council requested the study after the Century Corridor Commission on Jobs, Tourism and Communities recommended last month that city officials extend the living wage and retention laws to airport-area hotel workers as part of the effort to revitalize the Century Corridor.

The Century Commission, headed by former City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, based its recommendations on how to improve the Century Corridor area, upgrade jobs and ensure a “thriving” tourism market.

“The message to hotels here is that the City Council is watching the situation,” Galanter said.

According to the Century Commission report, the Century Corridor is home to the largest concentration of hotel rooms in Los Angeles County.

Hotel occupancy rates at the 13 hotels along the Century Corridor are the highest in the county but hotel room rates are among the lowest, the commission report states.

Hotel wages in the Century Corridor are below the industry standard, as average wages are 20 percent lower than at downtown Los Angeles hotels and nearly 30 percent lower than hotels in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, according to the Century Commission report.

“If the hotel workers are making a decent living and getting the health care they need, they become a more stable labor force,” Galanter said.

The Century Commission also recommended that the city require Century Corridor hotels to pass all “service charges or gratuities” charged to patrons on to hotel workers.

The City Council, which reviewed similar recommendations by the chief legislative analyst, also requested city staff May 3rd to explore ways to expand basic healthcare coverage to LAX area hotel workers.

City attorneys will also draft a proposal requiring hotel and restaurant owners to define the purposes for which a “service charge” is to be collected for service to large groups.

Mike Pfeiffer, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, said that while association officials are “very supportive” of improving the Century Corridor area, they are waiting to see what the city attorney report recommends.

“We look forward to seeing what the city attorney report shows,” Pfeiffer said. “We’ll follow the study and be as helpful as we can in the information gathering process.”

The Century Commission was formed at the request of the Coalition for a New Century, a group which has launched an effort to improve conditions for workers, communities and the tourism industry near LAX and the Century Corridor.

“The coalition is looking at ways to give people a living wage but we also want to really be able to put a better face on the Corridor,” said coalition member Eric Davidson, a Westchester resident and Westchester High School assistant principal.

“It’s encouraging that the City Council is looking at solving the problem in a proactive way,” he said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has said that the Century Boulevard Corridor — “the gateway to our city” — suffers from a “lack of city investment,” with many streets in disrepair.

The area needs to be improved to help advance the economic situation for businesses, but at the same time, “workers need a living wage,” Rosendahl said.

If the Century Corridor area can be improved with street repairs and the construction of a new LAX-area Conference Center, hotels may be able to charge more for rooms, which will allow the opportunity for better wages for workers, Rosendahl said.

Rosendahl presented a motion in February for the city to explore ways to improve the overall environment of the Century Corridor, including how to improve hotel room rates and revenues in the area, thus advancing the economy and employment opportunities in the area.

As part of the City Council proposal approved May 3rd, Convention and Visitors Bureau officials will study the feasibility of establishing a conference center on or near the Century Corridor and airport officials will explore the use of aviation funds to repair streets leading in and out of LAX.

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