Day: December 1, 2020

La Quinta council to consider changes to its vacation rental ordinance on Tuesday

The La Quinta City Council will be considering some changes to its short-term vacation rental ordinance when it meets today at City Hall.

a sign on a pole: La Quinta is a city in the eastern Coachella Valley.

© Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun
La Quinta is a city in the eastern Coachella Valley.

Staff is recommending some code amendments to streamline the permit process while also toughening the city’s enforcement efforts, Code Compliance Supervisor Kevin Meredith wrote in the report to the council.

Proposed changes to the current ordinance include:

  • Hosting platforms, such as Airbnb, must verify property listings have an active short-term vacation rental permit with city before booking rental transactions through their sites.
  • Short-term vacation rental permit renewal applications must be submitted no more than 60 and no later than 30 days before the permit expires; this would remove the current allowance for permits to be renewed up to 30 days after they expire.
  • The person(s) listed as the local contact person for the rental property must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the ability to respond to the location within 45 minutes to address complaints.
  • Bedroom additions or conversions must be verified and approved by the by the city to ensure compliance with city codes; the short-term vacation rental permit will be reissued to reflect the approved number of bedrooms allowed; a permit will not be renewed if a short-term vacation rental host advertises the number of bedrooms inaccurately.
  • Short-term vacation rental permit applications for properties within homeowners associations must submit a letter from the HOA stating that STVRs are allowed in the community; permits will not be issued for communities that do not allow the short-term rentals.
  • The city must be notified immediately upon a short-term vacation rental property ownership change, which will terminate the existing permit. The new owner will have to apply for a new short-term vacation rental permit, if that will be the continued use for the property.

La Quinta, like other cities in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere, is seeing an increase in short-term rentals — which brought a 267% rise in complaints from neighboring residents from May through July —  prompting the City Council to approve a moratorium on any new permits.

The moratorium is in place until Feb. 2 to allow an ad-hoc committee of residents and property owners and managers on both sides of the issue to study the problems and draft some recommended solutions. The committee is continuing to work on those solutions, but in October presented suggestions during a study session with the council that include stiffer penalties and fines, a two-strike rule and required workshop for potential short-term vacation owners.

The committee is expected to present a full report with recommendations to the council on Dec. 15.

La Quinta currently has 1,295 permitted short-term vacation rentals. While the moratorium is in place, current short-term property owners can renew their permits, if their properties are in good standing.

Council members have said they would like to find a balance between the short-term vacation rentals, which last year

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Mirae Asset wins U.S. lawsuit against China’s Anbang on scrapped $5.8 billion hotel deal

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean investment bank Mirae Asset Daewoo Co Ltd said on Tuesday it won a U.S. court case against Anbang Insurance Group, after Mirae Asset affiliates scrapped a $5.8 billion deal to buy 15 U.S. hotels from Anbang.

a sign on the side of a building: A general view shows the headquarters of Anbang Insurance Group in Beijing

A general view shows the headquarters of Anbang Insurance Group in Beijing

A consortium led by Mirae agreed last year to buy the hotels from Anbang, which had been selling some of its overseas assets after the Chinese government took control of the troubled insurer in 2018.

But the coronavirus pandemic put several deals at risk this year, as the tourism industry was one of the hardest hit by global travel restrictions.

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Anbang had filed a suit saying Mirae Asset affiliates must fulfill their promised payment for the hotels, while Mirae affiliates filed a counterclaim that Anbang return the deposit, pay transaction costs, and related litigation costs, Mirae said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

A Delaware court on Monday rejected Anbang’s claims for payment and ruled Anbang should return the deposit and pay expenses of $3.685 million, according to the court document reviewed by Reuters.

Anbang has been liquidated and some of its assets have been revamped into a new entity called Dajia Insurance Group. A Dajia official could not be reached immediately.

Shares in Mirae Asset rose 6% in Seoul on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Cheng Leng in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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National Park Service nixes entrance fee for Delaware River recreation areas

The National Park Service has rejected charging an entrance fee to simply set foot inside its Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River.

The announcement came Tuesday as the federal agency released its new Visitor Use Management (VUM) Plan for the park, capping a five-year planning effort that began in September 2015.

Public comments on the proposed entrance fee raised a host of concerns, including effects on traffic flow, creating a financial burden on local residents and businesses, and calls for some groups to be singled out for discounts.

Instead of a parkwide fee, the park service says it will continue with its current expanded amenity fee structure and consider amenity fees for additional park sites in the future.

“We thank the public for sharing their feedback with us and for their continued involvement throughout the planning process,” Delaware Water Gap park Superintendent Sula Jacobs said in a statement. “The VUM Plan was revised with our visitors and stakeholders and not just for them. We asked and we listened.”

The park service says the revised plan provides a guide for the protection of the significant natural and cultural resources of park, while also increasing access to high-quality recreational experiences for the public.

Some of the plan’s strategies are already being piloted in the park, including the use of a mobile or pop-up visitor center that brings park staff out of the visitor centers and into the park where they can reach more people; the closure of unofficial visitor-created trails at Raymondskill Falls to limit crowd sizes and protect park resources; and establishing new traffic patterns to increase parking capacity at Kittatinny Point on busy weekends. The park has also begun assessing the feasibility of a permit program for hunters with disabilities, including access to administrative roads and accessible hunting blinds.

Sierra Club Pennsylvania praised the plan.

“We’re heartened to see a plan from the Park Service that responds to community needs,” the chapter’s director, Tom Torres, said in a statement. “This plan not only helps ensure that the park will be open to everyone, not just those that can afford it, but that visitors will be able to enjoy a more inclusive range of activities.

“Everyone should be able to access the benefits of spending time in nature, whether on a family picnic or a hike, and we’re committed to continuing to work with the Park Service to make the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area truly a place for all.”

Implementation of individual plan components will be based on the availability of funds, and some will require additional public review and input, the National Park Service says. Park staff will monitor changes and impacts to park resources and visitor experiences at locations throughout the recreation area using the indicators, thresholds, and site capacities identified in the VUM Plan.

Additional highlights of the VUM Plan include the following, according to a news release from the park service:

Trails: Improvements to the park’s trails

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Labor board says Yotel Boston illegally helped United Here coerce hotel workers into joining the union

The Yotel Boston hotel in the Seaport helped Unite Here Local 26 coerce employees into joining the union, according to a complaint issued Monday by the National Labor Relations Board. A virtual hearing on the matter is scheduled for March.

a car parked on a city street: The Yotel Boston.

© Michael Dwyer
The Yotel Boston.

During the union drive, the hotel signed an agreement with Local 26, giving it access to nonpublic parts of the property and providing contact information for employees, among other actions, the complaint states. Management also publicly expressed support for the union to employees, the complaint said.

In doing so, the hotel illegally assisted the union in pressuring employees to sign cards voting to join the union, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which filed unfair labor practice charges against the hotel on behalf of four housekeepers last December.

The NLRB has long ruled against employers’ efforts to help workers get rid of unions, the foundation said in a press release, and this action is “finally applying the standard equally” to employers that aid workers in forming unions.

In July, the NLRB issued a similar complaint against Unite Here and Embassy Suites in Seattle.

“The NLRB is finally addressing the double standard that for too long has favored union bosses in their coercive card check unionization drives,” the National Right to Work foundation’s president, Mark Mix, said in a statement. “Union bosses pressure workers and get illegal assistance from employers to impose their so-called representation on workers, but they cry foul when that same assistance is given to workers attempting to remove unwanted forced representation.”

Local 26′s president, Carlos Aramayo, called the complaint “off the wall.”

“This is another last-gasp Trump administration move, similar to ending protections for birds, drilling in Alaska, and gutting the civil service,” he said. “As he’s walking out the door there’s these attempts to throw as many bombs as he possibly can.”

The Yotel workers are in the midst of negotiating their first contract, Aramayo said, but talks have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Yotel Boston did not respond to a request for comment.

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The 18 Hap-Hap-Happiest Secrets About Christmas Vacation Revealed

It’s hard to make a sequel as good as the first movie. And it’s even harder to make the third installment the best in a franchise.

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But National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation managed to do just that, with the movie becoming an instant holiday favorite and one of the highest grossing films in the franchise after its release in 1989.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprised their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold from the first two Vacation movies, while then-unknown actors Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki made their film debuts as their kids.

Made for $25 million, Christmas Vacation, which was penned by the legendary John Hughes and directed by Jeremiah Chechik, went on to gross over $72 million. While its box office performance wasn’t going to win Clark a bonus, the movie has gone on to become a modern Christmas classic in the 31 years since its debut.

Still, that doesn’t mean everything was holly and jolly while making the movie. One director exited the project after clashing with Chase, while Chechik later revealed he fought on set with another star. Plus, the studio was this close to cutting one of the most iconic scenes.

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a person that is standing in the snow: 1. John Hughes's script is based on a short story he wrote for Lampoon called "Christmas '59." It is the last screenplay the late filmmaker wrote for the franchise, which was based on his original "Vacation '58" article. There's a small nod to the movie's origin: The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled "Xmas '59." 2. The house used as the Griswold family's neighbors Todd and Margo's home on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank is the same one used for the Murdoch home in Lethal Weapon .

© Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock
1. John Hughes’s script is based on a short story he wrote for Lampoon called “Christmas ’59.” It is the last screenplay the late filmmaker wrote for the franchise, which was based on his original “Vacation ’58” article. There’s a small nod to the movie’s origin: The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled “Xmas ’59.” 2. The house used as the Griswold family’s neighbors Todd and Margo’s home on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank is the same one used for the Murdoch home in Lethal Weapon .

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: 3. Chris Columbus was originally set to direct, but he ultimately decided to pass on the project after meeting with Chevy Chase. "It was fraught with pain and tension with Chevy Chase, but I needed the job desperately," Columbus told Insider . "At the time I was living with my wife's parents. It took everything in my power to convince myself to resign from Christmas Vacation because I couldn't make the movie with Chevy Chase." Fortunately for Columbus, he was sent the script for Home Alone two weeks later. "The rest is history," he said. 4. Jeremiah Chechik would go on to land the job, making his feature directorial debut despite having never watched the first two films in the franchise. "I was nervous about accepting it, because I didn't know about Chevy and I wasn't sure if it was too commercial," he told Den of Geek. "But I agreed to do it and I had just a fantastic time doing it." 5. Chechik is actually the man featured on the cover of the People magazine issue that Clark is reading in bed.

© Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock
3. Chris Columbus was originally set to direct, but he ultimately decided to pass on the project after meeting with Chevy Chase. “It was fraught with pain and tension with Chevy Chase, but I needed the job desperately,” Columbus told Insider . “At the time I was living with my wife’s parents. It took everything in my power to convince myself to resign from Christmas Vacation because I couldn’t make the movie with Chevy Chase.” Fortunately for Columbus, he was sent the script for Home Alone two weeks later. “The rest is history,” he said. 4. Jeremiah Chechik would go on to land the job, making his feature directorial debut despite having never watched the first two films in the franchise. “I was nervous about accepting it, because I didn’t know about Chevy and I wasn’t sure if it was too commercial,” he told Den of Geek. “But I agreed to do it and I had just a fantastic time doing it.”

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Could a travel bubble between New York and London be on the horizon?

Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, very few travel bubbles have successfully allowed passengers to fly internationally without quarantining. Many international destinations still do not allow Americans to visit for nonessential reasons, or they require Americans to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

© iStock/Washington Post illustration

But in recent months, trial programs for pre-flight coronavirus tests have emerged for Americans traveling abroad — most notably for flights to London via Newark on United and American Airlines routes shared with British Airways. British Airways and American Airlines aim to use the testing data from such programs to aid the British government’s decision-making on covid-19 measures, the Guardian has reported.

And now, emerging from a nationwide lockdown on Dec. 2, England has announced it will shorten its required 14-day quarantine for travelers from high-risk countries to five days if they acquire a negative covid-19 test. (Americans can enter the United Kingdom without a coronavirus test in hand but must quarantine on arrival or face penalties, according to the U.S. Embassy in London.)

The testing programs might signal a travel bubble to come, as officials say they are in talks about a New York-London travel bubble. But doctors say rigorous testing and some degree of quarantine would still be required for opening up work travel between New York and London, especially if a projected rise in coronavirus cases this winter doesn’t ultimately derail the effort.

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“Conversations are ongoing between the Federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters,” a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said of the New York-London travel bubble in an email. “The Department stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights to and from the U.S.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland security also told The Washington Post that it is “in close collaboration with our interagency and international partners and industry to safely reopen and encourage transatlantic travel while mitigating public health risks.”

Officials in the United Kingdom and United States have been in discussions about a London-New York travel corridor since October, at one point with hopes of an opening in time for Christmas, according to the Wall Street Journal. While quarantine-free travel between the United States and London has not materialized with one month left in the year, shortened quarantines will begin for U.K. arrivals on Dec. 15. Visitors who acquire a negative coronavirus test five days after their arrival will not be required to carry out the two-week quarantine.

“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said of the policy, according to the Associated Press. “By giving people the choice to test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials recently said they are working to similarly shorten quarantine time in their guidance. Former Food and

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The Ultimate Adventurous Martin County Florida Family Vacation

This post was written in partnership with Martin County.

Many a vacationing family has spent their time in Florida going back and forth between the hotel and the theme parks. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for families who are seeking a bit more adventure than parks can offer, there are plenty of under-the-radar destinations to be found in the Sunshine State.

Many of these relatively hidden treasures can be found in Martin County, a highly accessible Atlantic coast destination that’s long been overshadowed by the theme parks of Orlando to the north and the glamourous beaches of Miami to the south. Its relative anonymity is a plus, however, for families seeking out a less hectic getaway, a chance to explore a new destination without navigating large crowds and long lines.

In the COVID-19 era, the open spaces and relatively low number of tourists in Martin County make it an even more attractive destination. Its outdoor sights, from over 22 miles of beaches to more than 100,000 acres of wetlands, parks, and forests, are perfectly suited for social distancing. And its indoor attractions have implemented measures, including but not limited to mask and social distancing mandates, designed to make them safe for visitors.

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    What, exactly, is there to do in Martin County? Read on to find out, and make sure you make it there the next time you’re in Florida.

    1. Do more at the beach.

    Beaches are about natural beauty, sure, but beach days are good or bad depending in large part on human factors. There are plenty of hidden beaches tucked away along the shore, but four different Martin County beaches have ocean lifeguarding seven days a week. They’re also less developed than many other beaches, and the dearth of towering condos and hotels beachside means there are fewer people soaking up the sun, making it easier to safely space. Martin County’s beaches are also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And alcohol is permitted! From surfers and snorkelers to aspiring sand-castle architects, there’s a Martin County beach for every type of traveler. If you were to build a perfect beach, it would likely check all of these boxes.

    2. Explore epic trails.

    There are plenty of natural wonders in Martin County. Chief among them is Halpatiokee Regional Park, 65 acres of active parkland surrounded by 470 acres of wetland preserve area. Hiking and mountain bike trails abound, and you can also rent a kayak to explore the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the largest state park in Southeast Florida, is another popular option. It comprises 16 distinct natural communities and covers close to 11,500 acres, offering everything from fishing and swimming to horseback riding and boat tours.

    For a more structured experience,

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    Opinion | Cancel your winter holiday travel plans now

    So there’s no reason to wait to issue a warning. Before Thanksgiving, covid-19 infections were already spreading explosively. One in five hospitals reported that they were facing a critical shortage of workers. The coronavirus surged after Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, and after an estimated 50 million people traveled for the holiday, the same will certainly be true of Thanksgiving. With most of the country engulfed in coronavirus infections, chances are high that many of those who participated in indoor get-togethers will contract covid-19 and return home to seed it in their communities.

    Health-care systems are stretched to their limits, with beds becoming scarce and some hospitals beginning to ration care. Deaths nationally could reach more than 4,000 a day. We have no option but to take drastic steps to “flatten the curve” once again.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention waited until one week before Thanksgiving to warn against travel. By then, however, many people had already booked flights. Now is the time for a clear directive: No one should travel for nonessential reasons. People should not gather indoors over the winter holidays. If we want to see extended family or friends, we must see them outdoors only, with households spaced at least six feet apart.

    Since Christmas and Hanukkah are religious holidays, pastors and rabbis are key messengers. I spoke with two Baltimore leaders who are both holding virtual-only services this winter. “We in the faith community have to tell the story in the biblical language so that people don’t see a conflict between science and religion,” said the Rev. Al Hathaway of Union Baptist Church. He talks about how the Egyptians used physical distancing to hold off the plague as he urges his congregants not to gather with anyone outside their households.

    Rabbi Daniel Burg of Beth Am Synagogue explained to me that Hanukkah is about human ingenuity, grit and the divine-human partnership. A central practice of Hanukkah is to “publicize the miracle” by placing menorahs in windows for all to see. “This year, we can invite one another into our computer windows by posting photos of households lighting the menorah on social media,” Burg said. “We can invite families from other homes to join us each night on Zoom.”

    And, of course, President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have major roles to play. Trump can help make up for his poor messaging to date by keeping quiet and not contradicting public health experts. Biden delivered an inspiring Thanksgiving message that emphasized how Americans must unite to get through this difficult period; now, he can ask Americans to commit to the same shared sacrifice for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. He can guide families through difficult conversations by sharing the hope of vaccines and reiterating why we must hold off seeing one another for a few more months.

    Many governors are already imposing restrictions on high-risk activities to avoid overwhelming hospitals. They can go further by implementing mandatory quarantines for out-of-state visitors and

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    Is train travel a safer option this holiday? This is what experts say.

    Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Transportation Security Administration reported a record number of travelers passing through airports, and AAA predicted nearly 50 million people would be traveling by car. Those numbers suggest there could be another travel bump in the next few weeks around Christmas.

    a close up of a sign

    © iStock/Washington Post illustration

    While driving and flying are the most popular travel options, where does taking a train fit into pandemic travel? During the 2019 fiscal year, Amtrak carried a record 32.5 million passengers; however, an Amtrak internal analysis in April showed a 95 percent drop in ridership because of coronavirus. (Air travel was also down by 96 percent).

    Gina Suh, head of the Mayo Clinic’s travel clinic, says train travel isn’t too dissimilar from air travel. There’s not enough data on either to say which is safer, but the same risk factors are at play. It’s all about how many people you come in contact with during your journey.

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    “That could mean if you are in a crowded train station, if the train itself has it has a density of people around you — whether that’s passengers or crew members — that could still pose a risk,” Suh says. “That [risk] could be mitigated and reduced with mask use, but it’s still possible [to become infected].”

    According to Amtrak’s website, it is limiting bookings on reserved trains to allow for more social distancing (family members may still sit next to each other) in addition to carrying out extensive deep cleaning and sanitizing of trains before service. They have installed signs to encourage social distancing in high traffic areas, such as the stations and cafe cars, where they have also put up plastic barriers at the customer counters.

    Additionally, Amtrak now shows the capacity of its trains online as people shop for tickets, which may help customers choose emptier options.

    The company also requires customers over 2 years old and employees to wear face coverings while onboard and in stations unless they are actively eating or drinking, or in their own private room with the door closed. Those with medical conditions who cannot wear masks must wear a face shield as a substitute.

    But those measures don’t guarantee risk-free travel on board.

    Joseph Khabbaza, a critical care medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic, says travelers can be meticulous about their plans and still “the wild card is you don’t know who’s going to be close to you and how close they’re going to be, what are their personal views, and how they have been approaching these last seven or eight months.”

    A traveler tested negative for covid-19 before a flight. He had the virus and infected 4 passengers.

    Khabbaza recommends train travelers book a private roomette or bedroom if they can afford to and if they are available.

    “You can isolate from really everyone, so that, of course, becomes essentially just as safe as driving in your car,” Khabbaza says, although you may

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    Braintree Recreation Offering Ski, Snowboard Lessons

    BRAINTREE, MA — Has your child ever wanted to learn how to ski or snow board?

    The recreation department is giving Braintree kids an opportunity to learn with its annual program out of the Blue Hills. The annual program begins Jan. 5 and teaches kids age 8-15 how to snowboard or ski under the direction of professional instructors.

    This year’s program includes five sessions on Tuesday afternoon from Jan. 5 to Feb. 2. Round trip bus transportation will be provided and depart Braintree at 3:30 p.m., returning at 6:30 p.m.

    Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of safety precautions were put in place to lessen the spread. They include

    • Use of two buses with a maximum of twenty-five participants on each bus with social distancing measures in place.
    • Rental equipment will be collected outside the rental building with no participants allowed inside the facility.
    • An extremely low instructor-to-student ratio.

    Registration for this program begins Monday online at

    begin on Monday, December 7th online at Those who register will receive an email with equipment rental and release forms to be filled out. Forms must be returned to the Braintree Recreation office at 74 Pond Street no later than Friday, Dec. 18th.

    Program fees for this year (including round-trip bus transportation):
    – $259 for lesson and lift ticket
    – $339 for lesson, lift ticket and rental
    – $30 for helmet rental (recommended)

    Anyone with questions should email Assistant Recreation Coordinator Christopher Griffin at [email protected]

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