Letters/Opinion: May, June, July, October 2019, January, February, March 2020
May 23 issue:
Consider improvement assessment for roundabouts
On Feb. 7, the RSF Association sent a letter to the Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC) to ensure the CDRC enforces the Covenant, noting excessive grading with unrestrained mass and scale along with homes inconsistent with Latin-style design. Supposedly, the intent was to correct what was occurring here.
Rather than dwell on what happened next, we have an opportunity to vote for a new Association board.
So let’s consider what the Covenant has meant to our community as we choose to be a part of this place. We certainly need to have the Covenant as set forth in 1928, followed and enforced for development.
We have a special maintenance and improvement district established with the County of San Diego.
As RSF Association members, we might consider expanding the district assessments to cover the cost of six roundabouts. Three along Paseo Delicias, two on Linea del Cielo at Calzada del Bosque/Rambla de los Flores and Linea del Cielo at El Camino Real, and one on La Bajada at La Noria. Consider this improvement assessment for roundabouts as you did for fiber optic for internet.
Martin D. Wilson
Rancho Santa Fe
May 30 issue:
How do you want your RSFA dollars spent?
There is no doubt the RSF Golf Club (GC) is a tremendous asset for our community. However…
The Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) is the governing entity and owns all the land and buildings of the GC, the RSF Tennis Club (“TC”), and Osuna. These other entities are merely divisions of the RSFA. The GC operates according to an Operating Agreement that gives it the RSFA land rent-free in return for assuming responsibility for operation.
Thirteen years ago, the GC had over 600 members, and launched a plan to spend approximately $12 million to renovate the existing building and construct a “Players’ Clubhouse.”
We now know that the GC Players’ Clubhouse has not been a success. The GC ignored all suggestions about the project, including warnings about the economic in-feasibility and the danger of building on top of an underground river, as it spent the majority of the $12 million building the “Players’ Clubhouse.” The debt was to be repaid in six years, but 13 years later about half of the debt is still unpaid. Who were the leading proponents of this plan?
Should members be concerned about the new GC plan? The GC’s president’s March message, in the “Divot,” asks: “How can we more equitably share the costs and responsibilities of a facility that is really an asset to the entire community – GC and Social members alike?” However worthwhile making the restaurant more of a social hub for the Covenant community, the GC is clearly saying they want more money from the RSFA.
The GC should be honest about its current financial situation. The “Players’ Clubhouse” is under-utilized. The GC is under financial pressure due to rising costs and declining membership. Presently, there are about 430 GC members, which includes 26 former residents and 43 Jr. Executive players who pay the initiation fees pro-rata until age 50. Having fewer members and rising costs will require either higher GC dues, or getting more money from the RSFA, or exploring allowing non-resident memberships. The new GC manager is taking steps to improve the operation of the restaurant, but the plea for a “more equitable” sharing of the costs is on the table.
If the majority of the RSFA board is filled by past and current GC leadership, will the cost sharing be equitable to all RSFA members?
Lisa M. Bartlett
42-Year Association with Covenant
20+ Year RSFA member
Correction to previous letter
With my apologies, I made a small error on the previous definition of the proposed bylaws amendment up for vote in your recently received ballots.
The error was simple: In my prior letter, which ran May 23 in this newspaper, I stated the bylaws amendment required the signature of 100 members to put the matter to a vote of all members – when developers apply for an increase density from Class A to B (as was the case in the Quantum developer’s proposal), or from B to C.
The fact is the bylaws amendment makes a vote of all Covenant members mandatory and automatic, without the need of neighbors spending precious time to gather signatures to oppose these densification projects.
Simply put, if the currently in place, and so far successful density increase protection mechanisms fail (500’ neighbors, and the Covenant Design Review Committee and the RSF Association board all approve this kind of density increases) then a Covenant-wide member vote is automatic, without any action required by members to force such a vote.
This error was brought to my attention by the RSF Association board, who have unanimously supported this amendment to put the ultimate say on densification projects in the hands of all community members via this automatic and binding vote.
Although we believe this is an incremental and powerful statement to developers who would destroy the rural ambiance of the community for a few dollars in profit, there is more work to be done to further protect us against densification, and we hope to work with the new incoming RSF Association Board of Directors to further strengthen our ability to preserve the Ranch as a rural environment for the next 100 years.
Rancho Santa Fe
June 6 issue:
RSF Golf Club a tremendous community asset
I read the letter titled “How do you want your RSFA dollars spent?” with interest.
I agree with Lisa Bartlett on three points. One, the RSF Golf Club is a tremendous asset for our community. Two, making the restaurant more of a social hub for the community is worthwhile. And, three, the new GC manager is taking steps to improve the restaurant operation. All of those are good things.
But, on her other points I don’t agree.
She says that the GC Players’ Clubhouse is not a success. That is untrue. The Golf Club has opened the space up, and enhanced some of the decorating, providing a current energy and vitality that is enjoyed by the Golf Club members. Members are enjoying drinks and appetizers almost daily. With the added game tables, and outdoor gathering spots, including a new fire pit, it has become a “go-to” space for team lunches, parties and golf member events like the successful Trivia night that was held weekly during the month of May.
She says that the Golf Club is under financial pressure. That is clearly not true if you read the financial statements. The club produces a small operating profit each year and, when one adds in enrollment fees, the cash flow is very solid.
Where the financial pressure she mentions comes from is the desire to invest in the future and make the Main Clubhouse more of a social hub for the community, which, as Lisa herself says, is worthwhile. Many residents feel that a great neighborhood casual restaurant, available only to Covenant homeowners, with indoor/outdoor spaces that overlook the golf course, would be a “lifestyle-changer,” and a very worthwhile community asset.
I know that a design team has been hired to investigate the possibility of rebranding and remodeling the Main Clubhouse, making it more inviting to the whole community.
Why throw cold water on such a worthwhile effort at this point?
Rancho Santa Fe
June 13 issue:
Suggestions to increase RSF Golf Club membership
In response to Lisa Bartlett’s thoughtful letter on May 30, I would like to suggest that the membership of the RSF Golf Club be returned to 600 members by letting members bring in their friends from outside of the Covenant, as the tennis players do. These non-Covenant members could pay extra as they do not own a part interest in the golf course. The golf course is certainly not crowded.
In addition, the Golf Club members could rent out their Golf Club “Players’ Clubhouse” for special occasions and use the money to pay off their debt.
Member of the RSF Association for 51 years
In support of the horses I love
Horse racing in California has been getting the worst press possible. I have been involved and loved horse racing since I was 15 years old and while the industry has changed since then, there are major changes being made to improve the sport and safety of horses. California can’t afford to lose an industry. The people calling for horse racing to stop in California have other agendas and don’t really care about the animals. They want your vote and your money. Nobody cares more for the horses than the people who work with them. Having owned horses all my life, race horses too, they get hurt just being in their stalls.
While the number of deaths were high at Santa Anita it has been determined part of the cause was the rain and sealing of the race track. Do you really think the world is better without the thoroughbreds? I couldn’t even imagine how awful that would be. Thoroughbreds are magnificent intelligent horses. Stop harassing the racing industry. All you politicians please start paying attention to homelessness, drug addicts, PTSD sufferers, our economy and jobs, more important issues in the world. Don’t throw away an entire industry of which you know nothing about.
June 20 issue:
Reinstate limited RSF Golf Club membership for Covenant residents
In response to several letters regarding the dwindling membership and revenues of the golf club, consider the following: Reinstate limited membership for Covenant residents. Covenant residents desiring some minimal use of the course (which they currently underwrite through Association fees that support the Golf Club’s second loan note) be permitted to purchase annually a 12-play card for $1,200 allowing them to make 12 tee-times for up to a foursome for each tee time. Each player pays greens fees of $100 plus a $20 cart fee. Total greens fee is $220, cart included, which is fair, equitable and comparable to all but U.S. Open courses nationally. It is actually comparable to non-San Diego residents for Torrey Pines, a U.S. Open site.
All club facilities would be available throughout the year for these “limited” members. This concept will generate an additional $6,480 in golf revenue plus any sundry expenses for range balls, clothing, food and beverage. Limited memberships could be restricted to 20-50 members depending on course play.
This has the potential to provide between $130,0000 and $320,000 new revenue annually not including sundries with minimal impact on our golf course wear and tear while maintaining the exclusivity of the RSF Golf Club to Association members. This concept has been rejected by previous Association boards, majority controlled by golf club members. “But the times, like the economics of golf, they are a changin’.”
RSF Association member for 30 years
July 4 issue:
Gallagher leads by example
So many opinion pieces are written about an issue or some sort of grievance, I thought it would nice to give a shout-out to someone caught doing the right thing for the right reason: Mike Gallagher, an Association board member who doesn’t believe in entitlements or giving special privileges. He doesn’t lead from above, but by walking beside you and listening to you.
Mike Gallagher and his wife Linda moved to Rancho Santa Fe in 2005. Gallagher was originally appointed to the Association board of directors on Oct. 5, 2017, replacing board member Mike Licasati. Six candidates were vying for the appointment and it took 6 secret ballots votes before a consensus was achieved and Gallagher won the appointment. Gallagher went on to be elected for the next term in July 2018 and is serving a 3-year term.
One of the first committees Gallagher served on was the Osuna Ranch committee as board liaison. Gallagher wanted to get all the committees along with Golf and Tennis Clubs to strategically think about the next 5-10 years. We all embarked on a 5-year strategic plan that was well thought-out with detailed objectives, goals and financials. We now have the What, When, Who and status of How to achieve these goals for the next 5 years. Can’t wait to see the accumulation of all the committees/club’s work on the 5- year strategic plan with detailed objectives rolled up to a published Covenant version for the whole community to review and discuss. (think road map to our community’s future)
At the last board meeting, Gallagher was the only board member to speak out publicly about changing the Shared Cost Agreement for the Golf Club Restaurant to include 2 non-Club members on the oversight. This was a grand move to include representation of the 72% of Association members that don’t have ties to golf /tennis and secure 2 spots on the 6 -person oversight committee on the restaurant’s operations. The goal is to get more Covenant members to eat at the Club Restaurant, so it makes sense to include community members who aren’t Golf or Tennis members. Why? Because the Golf Club’s restaurant had been losing over ½ million dollars annually even thou the existing 442 golf members ate and drank at the Restaurant regularly (approx. ½ of the total use). The Restaurant clearly needed more patrons to thrive. I’m still not sure why the Association didn’t take over the whole restaurant operation, since it had been losing money for years and would have alleviated even more of the Golf members debt. (something about a duplicate job ? or could it be loss of control?) Either way, Gallagher listened to the input from the community and took immediate action and should be thanked for stepping up and thinking big picture. Now, we wait and see if losses decrease with new oversight, new management, a total Restaurant remodel and new branding. Can’t wait to dine at the new improved restaurant!
(24-year covenant member)
July 11 issue:
Clubhouse red ink
The irony about golf’s perennial quest to get the RSF Association to pick up their clubhouse restaurant red ink tab caused me to laugh from the distant bleachers today, not being a member since 1992.
My first RSF Association meeting was in 1975, 44 years ago. I had read the proposed annual budget and wondered why the board of this wealthy community was proposing red ink at the clubhouse restaurant. The clubhouse was then a quaint rustic wooden shack where a few people ate lunch, and “the boys” played gin rummy in the back room. The restaurant’s gross annual sales, as I vaguely recall, was about $300,000, but their cost of food was also about $300,000, and they made no effort to propose to cover the cost of labor, rent, overhead, G&A, etc. Not a word about having a goal of “profit” or even “breaking even.” It seemed rather absurd.
I asked the board or perhaps budget committee about the clubhouse budget. Why plan on losing money? Apparently, I was considered to be a Martian, based on the looks they gave me. I was 35 at the time, 79 today.
In another board meeting in that era one of the board members complained that the $2.75 cost of the hot dog was just too high, as he only wanted to buy and eat half of a hot dog. He was serious.
In the mid 1980s I had a regular editorial column on the inside cover of RSF Review. Clubhouse Red Ink was the topic of one of my editorials.
Albert B. Frowiss, Sr.
Rancho Santa Fe
Oh, Say Can You See?
Every year prior to Independence Day, we put one 8 X 12” American flag at every driveway on our street. Many of those flags, a little faded and dirty, remain in place all year.
This year, we put a new flag on either side of each driveway (approximately 64 flags). Such great feeling of pride in our country and gratitude to our military past and present when driving up and down the street!
Is it acceptable to fly the flag only on certain days? Or, is it a beautiful sight to see and appreciate every day? When kept in good condition, any day is okay to fly the U.S. flag.
Show our love for the USA: Residents on every street in town should fly the American flag— along the driveways or on the houses. We have much to be grateful! Still my (real) favorite horse: “Arewehavingfunyet?”
Brett Dieterich and Nick Dieterich
Rancho Santa Fe
July 25 issue:
Call to action on 5G ordinance
On August 7 the Board of Supervisors will be voting on the Small Cell (5G) Wireless Ordinance and unless you want to have your property values and your health compromised, you need to pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email, or knock on Jim Desmond’s door today. If you know any other supervisors, please get in touch with them. Dianne Jacob is the Chairwoman, and her position on this proposed ordinance is critical.
A new and truly Draconian directive from the FCC is intended to make the 5G rollout faster, easier, and less expensive for the telecom industry. It does so by stripping almost every facet of local control the County had been able to retain. This FCC directive impacts the entire country and has triggered lawsuits from cities throughout the U.S. Many of those cases are consolidated in the 9th and 10th Circuit Courts. The County is showing its support through an amicus brief.
5G is the next generation of wireless, but it is a big, uncertain, and frightening leap forward. 5G uses a millimeter wave instead of a microwave. It is higher frequency, so each wave carries a great deal of data and it does so very quickly which is the beauty of 5G, but it heats tissue and does not travel very far so cell towers must be placed every 3rd to 5th home so these millimeter waves can penetrate the walls of our homes, service the Internet of Things, give us faster downloads of movies and provide surveillance capabilities for the government.
5G small cells will be placed in the County right-of-way, including streetlights. We desperately need some minimum setbacks from the home to protect our residential values and to protect our health.
The zoning staff ordinance gives the 1000’ setback from schools, but zero setback from people’s homes. On July 19 the Planning Commissioners, in spite of threats of litigation from Verizon and AT&T, gave 100’ setbacks from most structures including homes and schools, and told telecom to bring it on with their threats of litigation.
To have cell towers on streetlights outside our homes is a health and property nightmare. There is not a single study suggesting 5G is safe for the long-term or even short-term. It heats tissue, particularly the skin, eyeballs, and testes. The FCC “safety limit” was never intended to protect us against cancer, Alzheimer’s, and birth defects. It focuses solely on shocks, burns, and heatstroke. But the 5G cannot work within the present “safety” guidelines and so the FCC plans to loosen the safety limits. In other words, the allowable radiation will be increased to fit the needs of the technology – all before a single study showing proof of safety. Call Jim Desmond now. We need at least 100’ setbacks from every home, and 1000’from every school, hospital, and fire station. If protecting our community is going to get us sued, I have three words for telecom. Bring it on.
Contact information for Supervisor Jim Desmond: Email: Jim.Desmond@sdcounty.ca.gov; Phone: (619) 531-5555
U.S. Adviser, Radiation Research Trust (UK)
Honorary Firefighter, San Diego Fire Department
Rancho Santa Fe
Oct. 3 issue:
Water rates should be charged according to cost of service
Regarding recent article – “Santa Fe Irrigation selects multi-tiered structure for water rate increases.” I take great offense to Kelly Harless’s statement “Should Solana Beach residents have to forgo showers or skip flushing toilets so that Rancho Santa Fe residents can water their tropical Shangri-La?” Of course in her state of bafflement she probably hasn’t noticed the multitude of lawns that have been replaced with drought tolerant landscaping or the acres and acres of lemon groves that have disappeared. All at a cost to the RSF resident. Kristi Becker, “was appalled to learn that SFID has the highest daily household water use per person in California,” which must have led Ms. Harless to assume it was the fault of the RSF residents.
A tier structure unfairly penalizes those with large families and large properties and should not be used as a conservation tool. Water rates should be charged according to cost of service. We all understand the need to conserve.
Rancho Santa Fe
Statement inaccuracies re water rates
I write to call attention to the inaccuracy of the following statement printed in the September 26, 2019 Review article by Karen Billing on SFID water rates:
“In 2018, SFID had the highest daily household water use per person in the state at 559 gallons per person. The State’s 2020 plan mandates a 55 gallon per capita per person rate.”
There are two inaccuracies:
First, SFID reported 384 residential gallons/capita/day usage to the Department of Water Resources for the year 2018. (Note: the two sentences referenced above were taken from a letter written by SFID Dir. Andy Menshek to the Solana Beach City Council.)
It is troubling Dir. Menshek used data from the month of August 2018 to represent 2018 usage. Dir. Menshek could have stated, but did not, that in August of 2018 – historically the hottest month with highest water usage - SFID reported 559 residential g/c/d.
Second, Dir. Menshek, and therefore, unfortunately, the Review, contrasted the total r/g/c/d figure, which reflects both indoor and outdoor irrigation use, to the recently adopted AB1668 target of 55 residential g/c/d indoor usage by 2022. This is an apples to oranges comparison and it is a deceptive comparison.
Santa Fe Irrigation District serves a very heterogeneous customer base. City-sized lots, with a coastal evapotranspiration rate, differ significantly from the multi-acre lots to the east, with their drier, inland climate. It is true that SFID more often than not reports the highest residential g/c/d water usage. (Over fifty water purveyors choose not to report usage to the Dept. of Water Resources.) This statistic is a function of number of residents in the reporting agency, size of properties, proportion of very large properties to small properties, evapotranspiration rates, and amount of irrigated land/property. The recently adopted AB 1668 will give retail water agencies an Outdoor Irrigation Target that takes into account Annual Evapotranspiration and Landscape Area and an Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor.
Kelly Harless, a Solana Beach City Councilmember, questioned whether “…Solana Beach residents have to forgo showers or skip flushing toilets so that Rancho Santa Fe residents can
water their tropical Shangri-La?” Ms. Harless’s remark reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of water usage and water availability. Dir Menshek’s letter, in my opinion, was purposely written to provoke divisiveness. Misinformation and half-truths are not helpful in moving our SFID customers towards achieving AB1668’s mandate of water efficient landscapes.
Marlene E. King
SFID Director, Div. 3, representing
Fairbanks Ranch and large portion of Covenant
Jan. 9, 2020 issue:
The Santa Fe Irrigation District: A legacy of failure
The Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) started out well enough. We had Lake Hodges, which provided us an unlimited supply of cheap water. We had citrus groves galore and lush, green backyards. By now, everybody has seen the 1961 schedule of water rates from the SFID: we had a base level of charge with two levels of discount (repeat: discount!!) for excess use. By the mid-1990s, we were ratcheted up to a single rate for unlimited use (in 1996 we were paying $1.46/hcf). Today, we have a base-rate, with three levels of surcharge and there is a proposal to add a 4th level of surcharge! Once common citrus groves are now a rarity and we are being excoriated for our water use.
The SFID is overseen by a 5-member board of directors. Two of the members are voted in (or appointed) from Rancho Santa Fe. The other three are, likewise, from Solana Beach. Two of the Solana Beach members are retired government workers. The SFID is not making any attempt to locate new sources of water or secure cheaper sources of water for us. They are making no effort to control costs, or stand up to the County Water Authority, and they refuse to lobby Sacramento or Washington, D.C. on our behalf. They only offer higher water rates for high-volume users. The water works has never acknowledged that we don’t waste water—that water can’t be wasted…it always stays in the hydrologic cycle. They won’t admit that if we use the most water per-capita in the State (by watering our properties) then that means, by extension, that we are also capturing the most carbon dioxide per-capita in the State (greenery soaks up carbon dioxide) and therefore we should be getting carbon cap-and-trade credits, instead of hate. We could use those credits to put in purple pipes at the golf course!
Yet, because the SFID is a government monopoly, instead of getting cheap, abundant water, we get the predictable blame, contempt, shortages, high-costs, excuses, water-shaming, and, above all else, failure—a legacy of failure.
We need to overwhelm the SFID by signing and returning the Prop 218 protest forms (to the Association office, or to the SFID office directly). Everybody needs to participate in this very easy, non-controversial cooperation. If not, we’re just asking for higher water rates, lower property values, and to lengthen the time period it takes to sell our houses. Just like Twisted Sister, it’s time we tell the SFID we are not interested in them conducting business-as-usual. Please sign and return those forms before January 16!
Covenant Resident since 1963
Time to act is now
Every day there is news of climate catastrophes that may be linked to climate change. Every day we hear the same excuses from world leaders and legislators: It’s a hoax; we can’t do anything unless China and India do something; climate has changed before; there’s no scientific consensus.
Unless we act, history will show a lack of moral leadership that caused one of the greatest human failures.
But there is hope and a path forward. Scientists agree that climate change can be stopped by ending the burning of fossil fuels. A fee on carbon does exactly this in addition to generating jobs and encouraging energy innovation. If you want to be part of the solution, join a group like Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan group that is working on getting Congress to pass carbon reduction legislation.
Jan. 23 issue:
SFID rate increases
I was disappointed – but not surprised – by the Thursday decision by the board of directors of the Santa Fe Irrigation District to approve a new rate structure that clearly benefits small property owners in Solana Beach.
I was not surprised, since Solana Beach’s 3 votes comprise a majority of the 5- director board on any issue. Thus, it’s not surprising that rate structures favoring Solana Beach users will always prevail.
I was disappointed because the rates are clearly unfair to larger property owners. First of all, the structure itself has become a marvel of Byzantine complexity: five tiers with a multiple meter overlay. In contrast to SFID’s stated commitment to transparency, it is axiomatic that complexity facilitates obfuscation. Although all users, regardless of property size, receive the same mixture of blended water from Lake Hodges and other sources, the lower tier rates are priced as if most of that water were comprised of the less expensive Lake Hodges water.
Equally disappointing is the fact that irrigation rates (for area golf courses, for example) increase by more than 15%. This despite the fact that the target revenue increase for the district is much less: only 3%. Notably, the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club has, over the past 10 years, undertaken significant steps (removal of turf and reduction in irrigable areas) to decrease water consumption, yet its water bills have, if anything, increased. Seems like no good deed goes unpunished.
Finally, I am disappointed that SFID has not been more proactive in anticipating and meeting the current and future needs of all of its customers. Developing additional sources of reclaimed water is one example. Although reclaimed water may arguably not be cheaper than potable water, it’s hard to argue that the availability of an alternate sustainable source of water wouldn’t relieve pressure on our potable water supply.
To quote General Manager Al Lau, “Water is life.” “Life” in this case means more than basic humanity. It includes the plant and animal species that comprise the ecosystem that we all enjoy. A rate structure that disproportionately charges – or penalizes – for the use of water to protect our ecosystem fails to anticipate rampant wildfires and deteriorating air quality due to dead and dying trees and other vegetation.
While I appreciate and respect the time and effort that the SFID board members devote to their responsibilities, I would encourage them to consider the regional consequences of their actions and to be less nepotistic in establishing water rates.
Rancho Santa Fe
Feb. 20 issue:
Proposed lot coverage amendment
The proposed amendment to the RSF Regulatory Code would include in the 20% calculations of maximum lot coverage, in addition to all covered areas now:
All areas covered by pools and water features, including, and up to a 4-foot-wide perimeter paved pool decking and/or walkway
All areas covered by tennis courts and/or sports courts
Past Art Jury and Association boards have not adhered to the current Regulatory Code which contains restrictions concerning every aspect of site preparation, grading, construction and landscaping. If there had not been a lapse of enforcement, we would not have oversized houses placed visibly on highly graded lots.
There is no reason to deprive property owners of pools and sports courts which beautify and create badly needed fire breaks in high-risk Rancho Santa Fe.
The amendment is unfair to all, but it will impact the smaller lots unduly.
This measure must be defeated. Read it and vote “No”. The Association must simply enforce the code as it exists.
Patricia G. Astier,
Rancho Santa Fe
March 5 issue:
Open letter to the RSF Association board regarding the lot coverage amendment
I refer to your partisan proposal available by clicking on a link in your newsletters of February 17th and 24th. No one I have talked to in the past two weeks clicked on that link. No one knew what this amendment was about.
Your proposed amendment to include pools, pool decks, tennis and sports courts in the 20% coverage allowance targets the smaller lots. It will have a negative impact on some future sales as well as additions and remodels, thereby inviting friction and litigation.
It is time to enforce our very comprehensive regulatory code, not to add outlandish restrictions.
Please reconsider this unfair proposal and, if you must follow through on it, at least explain it at member meetings and submit it to a vote by all residents.
Rancho Santa Fe
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