Tag: City

City teams up with Airbnb, Vrbo to crack down on illegal vacation rentals

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The city is teaming up with Airbnb and Expedia, the parent company of Vrbo, to crack down on illegal vacation rentals on Oahu.

a house with a city in the background: HNN File

© Provided by Honolulu KHNL
HNN File

A new memorandum of agreement is aimed at tracking and regulating Oahu vacation rentals, including by ensuring legal rentals are properly taxed and illegal rentals are shut down.

“We know there are bad actors out there, and this will help us crack down on them. While this is not a panacea, it’s a step forward,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“For our residents who depend on this income, we want to provide an avenue for people to list their rentals in a legal, and transparent manner.”

Under the MOU, the two platforms will provide detailed information on listings so the city can ensure they’re legal. There will also be changes made to listings to make sure they’re properly taxed.

The changes come as Oahu is slowly beginning to see tourism ramp up with the state’s pre-travel testing program, which allows incoming travelers who test negative for COVID-19 to skip quarantine.

Vacation rentals were not allowed to operate on Oahu until the island moved into Tier 2 of its reopening strategy. In October, Oahu vacation rentals had an occupancy rate of 27%.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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New York City mayor urges people to avoid travel this Thanksgiving

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people to avoid traveling this Thanksgiving and celebrate with loved ones virtually — as the city and surrounding areas battle a continued rise in COVID-19 cases. 

He told people who are traveling to do so safely and follow the rules, and warned of financial penalties for violations.

De Blasio spoke as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo similarly urged caution. “This holiday season, we have to be smarter and different than we’ve handled past holiday seasons, because it’s not a normal holiday season,” Cuomo said Tuesday at a press conference.

The governor announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are up 128% in three weeks. He said Monday an emergency facility will open on Staten Island for COVID-19 patients at the request of hospitals in the area seeing rising admissions.

“Staten Island has such an issue that it has triggered a hospital capacity issue. And the hospitals have contacted us and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island,” Cuomo said, according to CBS New York. “Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that’s what we have to do on Staten Island.”

The governor also announced updated COVID-19 micro-cluster zones across the state that establish some areas, including Upper Manhattan, as yellow zones, and move others from yellow to orange. 

Yellow means restaurants must close at 10 p.m. An orange zone means high risk, so non-essential businesses close. Dining moves to outdoor only and mass gatherings are limited to 10 people. 

It’s possible some areas on Staten Island could even move into a red zone, which means essential businesses only. 

New York City schools shut down last week after the city reached a 3% positivity rate. 

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Renton City Council moves to shut down hotel housing homeless people, restrict future shelters

The battle over a Renton hotel housing homeless people during COVID-19 has escalated between county government and the city.

This week, local officials rushed forward legislation that would set a six-month move-out date at the Red Lion Hotel in Renton, where more than 200 homeless people have been staying since April.

At a tense and emotional Renton City Council meeting Monday night, the mayor and council members heard almost an hour of testimony from the community about an emergency ordinance to rewrite Renton zoning code to restrict homeless shelters’ placement and operations.

The council did not discuss the proposed measure after the public comment. It could vote the legislation into law as early as next week, when it comes up for a first reading.

“This ordinance is once again using zoning as a tool to exclude people in ways that are fundamentally inequitable,” said Lindsey Grad, legislative director for the union that represents the shelter’s employees. “It was really low, after yet another hard day of work in the middle of a pandemic, to tell (staff at the shelter) that the work they do is essentially being banned.”

Many people who spoke had only learned about the 41-page ordinance that day. The debate was so passionate that at one point, a commenter was apparently muted mid-speech.

It’s the latest chapter in a protracted fight over homelessness between Renton and King County. In April, the county moved almost the entire population of the downtown Seattle Morrison Hotel shelter, many of whom have disabilities, serious mental illness or substance use disorders, to the Red Lion close to downtown Renton.

It wasn’t long before Renton businesses, officials, and the mayor began to complain about a precipitous increase in 911 calls in the immediate area, which — though lower than what the shelter generated in Seattle — was much higher than local police said they’d ever seen, according to a Seattle Times story in May.

In June, Renton leaders told the county, the shelter operator and the investors’ group that owns the hotel that they were in violation of the city’s zoning codes. The county appealed that decision to the Renton hearing examiner, who ruled that the county needed to apply to the city for a permit or leave — but also that the city’s zoning code was vague when it came to homeless shelters.

As a smaller suburb, Renton has never had to deal with a situation like this, according to Chip Vincent, the city’s administrator of community and economic development, who helped write the legislation. Almost all of the city’s shelters are in churches or facilities like City Hall, where they are not the building’s primary use. Currently, being a homeless shelter would be considered the Red Lion’s primary use.

“Too much of the focus of this has been on the Red Lion, when the reality is the Red Lion forced us to reevaluate,” Vincent said. “The code could be clearer.”

But the requirements proposed would be hard for a nonprofit service

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BOI approves hotel project worth P45M in Cebu City

THE Board of Investments (BOI) has a P45-million hotel investment project in Cebu City for its Covid-19 proofing initiative.

The 63-room project is the Cebu Quad Management Corp.’s second premium economy hotel with SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western. The first hotel was in Angeles, Pampanga.

SureStay Plus Hotel will be adopting information technology (IT) systems for contact tracing, online booking and contactless payment. The hotel will also install cameras equipped with thermal sensors or no-contact thermal scanners and disinfecting kiosks with sensors as part of measures to reduce Covid-19 infections.

SureStay Plus Hotel is projected to generate some 32 direct and indirect jobs in its first five years of operation.

The project is expected to provide additional income to food and beverage suppliers and furniture designers and makers of high-quality handicrafts in Cebu.

In a press statement, BOI said the project supports the government’s “Buy Local” campaign, which aims to promote patronage of products and services of domestic enterprises to help them recover from losses during the lockdown.

Tourism has been among the hardest-hit sectors amid the global pandemic. As part of the government’s efforts to help them, BOI has launched a campaign to support businesses during the pandemic. The campaign aims to provide Philippine businesses with the information and the help they need in view of the Covid-19 crisis.

The campaign also promotes government help in a range of areas, from the movement of goods to schemes for manufacturers.

BOI also collaborated closely with the Department of Tourism to introduce a policy providing investment incentives for tourism and tourism-related industries that are upgrading and modernizing their facilities to operate under the new normal.

“The tourism sector has been one of the worst affected of all the major sectors of the economy due to the current health crisis. By providing investment incentives, we hope that the sector, which was a major driver of the economy’s growth pre-Covid-19, will stay afloat, continue business operations and recover the soonest while ensuring the health, safety and wellness of tourists,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat was quoted as saying in the statement.

“Tourist accommodation facilities that would like to undertake improvements to make their facilities Covid-proof may consider applying for registration of such with the BOI as modernization projects,” she said.

“Even tourism facilities in Boracay, which currently do not qualify for incentives for new and expansion projects because of locational restrictions, may qualify for this special type of incentives for Covid modernization/upgrade projects. These incentives are meant to help the tourism industry recover faster and provide comfort/safety in our tourism facilities,” Puyat said.

Tourism remains a key development pillar that generates high economic gains for the country and livelihood for the Filipinos. Further, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has identified tourism as among the driving forces to promote sustained and inclusive growth.

As a labor-intensive sector, the accommodation segment employs about 1.91 million Filipinos, or s 33.6 percent share in the total employment in 2019.

Accommodation is an important tourism value

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‘Famously the most Spanish city’: The Crown mocked for lacklustre recreation of Australia | Television & radio

The blockbuster premiere of the Crown’s fourth season has delighted a world deeply in need of distraction – but one episode is causing mirth among Australian audiences for all the wrong reasons.

The season, which landed on Netflix on 15 November, focuses on the Windsors in the 1980s, featuring Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Princess Diana.

In episode six, Terra Nullius, viewers are treated to Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Diana’s 1983 six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand – but there is a catch: the entire episode was shot, quite glaringly, in Spain.

Peter Taggart

Oh my god this is meant to be Brisbane in The Crown. pic.twitter.com/WkXbrmOIZk

November 21, 2020

Peter Taggart

BRISBANE: Famously the most Spanish city you’ve ever seen in your life.

November 21, 2020

The south coast city of Malaga doubled as the setting for Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

One holiday-goer stumbled on the shoot while visiting the town last year. A replication of Albert Street, they wrote on Reddit, included “Queensland Police uniforms, Aussie flags and period correct posters”.

Australia Syndrome

Points awarded for approximating an XD Falcon cop car by using a Ford Granada. Looked passable. pic.twitter.com/Hw7ORGkeY4

November 21, 2020

One viewer correctly identified a balcony scene as being shot from the AC Hotel Malaga Palacio.

George Kaplan

It’s Malaga.
The AC Hotel Malaga Palacio. pic.twitter.com/TH9Xtw8DSf

November 22, 2020

Others had hopes for a recreation of the royal couple’s trip to the Big Pineapple, and their infamous ride in a giant nut.

Paul Williams

Never knock the Nut Mobile pic.twitter.com/cOjy99KeYu

November 22, 2020

As Netflix admitted earlier this month, much of the episode came down to “a little cinematic magic”, with no scenes actually shot in Australia.

The Opera House was cut and pasted on top of scenes shot in Malaga. Almería, also in Spain, was used as the setting for the Australian desert, with Uluru superimposed.

Netflix ANZ

The episode features some iconic Aussie locations, but not without a little cinematic magic. We’ll admit it — the episode was filmed entirely outside of Australia, but it still manages to capture the iconic status of the original tour with reverence. pic.twitter.com/4k2QYIzTXd

November 16, 2020

Speaking to the Nine papers, Richard Roxburgh – who plays Bob Hawke in the new season – said Almería, where spaghetti westerns are often shot, has “a desert kind of light, so it worked in that way”.

On the royal tour of 1983 Charles and Diana climbed Uluru – a sacred Indigenous site which was finally closed to the public in 2019, after decades of protest.

A still from the Crown’s fourth season.

The Crown used green screen to recreate Charles and Diana’s 1983 visit to Uluru, and their now-illegal climb of the sacred site was shot on location in the desert of Almería. Photograph: Netflix

The producers still wanted to show the climb, which Netflix called “a scene … with pivotal importance in royal history” – so followed guidelines provided by Parks Australia in recreating it.

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Hamilton proposes halving fees for sports groups using city recreation facilities

Hamilton is proposing to give users of its gyms and arenas a financial break as the city is forced to limit the number of people who can use its recreation facilities because of provincial health measures.

The city’s emergency and community services committee approved Mountain Coun. Tom Jackson’s Nov. 19 motion to cut user fees by half for the public, retroactive to Nov. 16, as long as Hamilton remains in the red or “control” category, which is scheduled to end on Dec. 15.

“The health of our community is absolutely paramount,” said Jackson.

Chris Herstek, director of recreation, said that an hour of ice time is $178.63 while one hour of gym time is $55.55. He said user groups would only pay half those amounts.

It is unknown what the total cost will be for cutting the fees and how the loss revenue will impact the 2021 recreation budget. But Jackson said the city could use a portion of the $45 million the city is expected to receive from the province in coronavirus-related relief to help cover any deficit.

Councillors will vote on the recommendation at their Nov. 25 meeting.

Jackson’s motion came after staff reopened additional arenas beyond the twin-pads buildings, which were opened at the end of August, to include single-pad facilities to accommodate ice user groups’ needs.

The arenas now open include Bill Friday (Lawfield) Arena, Carlisle Arena, Glanbrook Arena, Inch Park Arena, Mountain Skating Centre, Pat Quinn Arena, Rosedale Arena, Spring Valley Arena and Westoby (Olympic) Arena.

In addition, the city is opening Beverly Arena for volleyball and Coronation Arena and Saltfleet Arena for basketball groups from Nov. 30 until May 2021.

Eastwood Arena and Stoney Creek Arena are unavailable for any activity until May 2021.

“We have been working with user groups and as the demand for ice increases, we are opening up additional arenas,” said Herstek.

He said volleyball and basketball organizations have been requesting that the city open other facilities so they can accommodate their players.

But under the red or “control” provincial health measures, there is a limit of 10 people per facility, including coaches and players, and only practicing and training are allowed. Herstek said the 10-person limit applies to all recreation facilities whether it is a single-pad arena such as Lawfield Arena or the larger Mohawk 4 Ice Centre.

“With 10 people, for some user groups it will be a hardship,” said Herstek.

Prior to the staff report being written, Herstek said, the limit for a facility was 25 people. The province moved Hamilton into the red category on Nov. 16 because of the rising number of coronavirus cases.

“Oh my goodness,” said Jackson. “Something seems wrong with that picture.”

The city’s recreation staff has also been juggling extra requests from user groups after both the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board informed the city in September that their gyms would not be available to the city or other community groups.



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City clarifies 10-person limit inside Hamilton arenas, recreation centres – Hamilton

The City of Hamilton has issued an update regarding capacity limits within recreation facilities.

As a result of entering the red control category of the province’s framework, designed to control the spread of COVID-19, it now says a maximum of 10 patrons can be inside of a facility at one time, regardless of size.

Read more:
Hamilton’s COVID-19 death toll rises to 72, as city seeks to clarify ‘red’ zone rules

The restriction, which the city says was confirmed late Wednesday by the province under the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, applies to Hamilton’s recreation centres, arenas and community halls.

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The city stresses that there are no special capacity limits for on-rink activity, adding that the arena limits apply to coaches and players; no spectators are permitted.

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Hockey teams may train with drills only, as no games or scrimmages are permitted, and there is no access to arena change room facilities.

Read more:
Hamilton’s public school board cancels final exams, changes some graduation requirements

The city had previously announced the cancellation of all fall registered recreation programs, including swimming lessons, fitness programs, sports programs and general interest programs.

All gym, sport, and fitness drop-in programs, including pickleball, badminton, basketball, table tennis, open gym, and water fit, are all cancelled with Hamilton in the red control category.

Some drop-in recreation programs will continue, including open swim, length swim and seniors general interest, but reservations are required for entry and there is a 90-minute limit of length of stay.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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San Francisco asks residents to not use city testing for travel

LATEST Nov. 18, 12:13 p.m. San Francisco health officials are asking residents to not use the government-operated COVID-19 testing sites in preparation for Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. This includes the CityTest SF locations at Embarcadero and the Alemany Farmers’ Market that offer quick, easy appointments.

“City resources cannot support testing for behaviors, such as travel and visits with extended family, that are currently not recommended during this surge,” a statement from the city read. “San Francisco CityTestSF and other testing sites are intended to provide quick, low barrier testing for essential workers or residents who have been exposed or are exhibiting symptoms. The site offers testing access to prevent the spread of the infection due to exposure or the display of symptoms.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, discouraged against testing for travel at a Monday press conference and pointed out that it’s not foolproof.

“Please do not use testing to determine whether you can travel or not,” said Dr. Grant Colfax at a Monday press conference. “We have seen the repeated failure of this type of testing strategy across the country, including in Washington, D.C. A negative test can not be an excuse to put yourself or others at risk. Remember people who test negative can still harbor the virus if they are early in their infection.”

San Francisco implements nearly 6,000 tests per day, the highest number of any other jurisdiction in the country, according to the Public Health Department. Turn around times for results are 24-48 hours.

The city asks insured residents to go to their healthcare providers for testing, but many opt for the free city service because it’s convenient.

San Francisco is “experiencing high demand for testing” and the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Embarcadero testing site has been overwhelmed by people seeking testing ahead of Thanksgiving travel.

Caroline Savello, a spokesperson for Color that helps run the S.F. testing sites, said there’s no evidence that Thanksgiving travelers are flooding local sites, but she emphasized the resource is geared to essential workers.

“Most of our testing in the city, more than half of it, is essential workers,” Savello said. “We continue to see that across the board.”

Nov. 18, 11 a.m. San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery is now taking November reservations for those who want to shop in a less crowded environment.

The half-hour time slots are available after-hours (9:15 p.m. and later) and limited to 35 customers.

Find more information here.

Nov. 18, 7:45 a.m. San Francisco opened a new city-run, free testing operation Tuesday at the site of the Alemany Farmers’ Market, replacing the former SoMa location.

Like the SoMa location at 600 Seventh St., the new site at 100 Alemany Boulevard is run by CityTest SF and Color, a health technology company partnering with several Bay Area cities to expand COVID-19 testing across the region.

The Alemany site is implementing about 500 tests a day and is open Monday 12:30-4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 8:30 a.m.-4:30

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Ann Arbor closing city hall, indoor recreation facilities amid surge in COVID-19 cases

ANN ARBOR, MI — In response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and the state’s new emergency order temporarily shuttering certain workplaces, Ann Arbor is closing city hall again and making changes to city operations.

“We are planning to close city hall to the public starting Wednesday for the duration of the three-week period or pause,” City Administrator Tom Crawford said. “During that time, we will continue our services online, by mail and by phone.”

Residents will be able to access pretty much all the city services they need in those ways, Crawford said Monday night, Nov. 16, announcing the changes to City Council.

“We’re also closing all of our indoor recreation facilities,” he said.

Essential city services will continue, Crawford said.

“You know, the police, fire, water, storm, refuse collection — all of that will continue,” he said.

All the latest on the coronavirus in Michigan: Tuesday, Nov. 17

With COVID-19 cases surging, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued the new emergency order Sunday. It’s described as a three-week pause to save lives, targeting indoor gatherings.

“Right now, there are thousands of cases a day and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan, and the number is growing,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”

Workplaces, when work can be done from home, are not to be open while the order is in effect.

Michigan lists 260 new coronavirus outbreaks and 723 ongoing clusters in Nov. 16 report

“Our employees are moving to mandated telecommuting service if they’re able to for their job,” Crawford said. “Obviously we have a number of employees who that doesn’t apply to, but if they can, they will be.”

City staff will continue to support the city’s boards and commissions, which have been meeting virtually, but some of the work they request “may be delayed a bit as we go through this time of stretched capabilities,” Crawford said.

City hall was closed to the public for nearly three months after the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. It reopened in June with new mask requirements and other safety protocols.

Officials issue open letter after significant rise of COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County

As of 11 a.m. Monday, there were 140 more confirmed COVID-19 cases among county residents in the last 24 hours, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported.

There also were 1,237 cases locally, including three deaths, during a two-week period from Oct. 29 to Nov. 11, according to the department. The number of confirmed and probable cases among county residents is now up to 7,859, including 560 hospitalizations and 128 deaths.

COVID-19 case trends in Washtenaw County

COVID-19 case trends in Washtenaw County.Washtenaw County Health Department


University of Michigan, Michigan State accelerate plans for online learning due

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