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Original post made
on Jul 6, 2012
With an election coming up this fall, the voters, and businesses, have an opportunity to make a significant campaign issue out of this California Avenue/Lane Reduction philosophy. None of the currently elected Council has ever spoken to this issue, prior to being elected to the Council. It's time to put this question to every one running, be they incumbent, or "wannabe" .
We need to get each of the candidates to make a clear statement as to their views/endorsement of lane reduction, and the general state of "traffic management" in Palo Alto, both downtown, as well as the rest of the city. I don't think we can trust the local media to press these points for us. I think we have to do this work ourselves.
In the past, the "Meet the Candidates" forums have been pretty scriptedparticularly those run by PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods). We need to see more individuals involved in pressing these questions home to the candidates, as well as a lot of scrutiny of the contributions to the candidatesparticularly the incumbents. The labor unions tend to be "late filers", so their names don't appear in the public filings of money received prior to the election. It may be difficult to link union money to votes, but it is not hard to believe that union money has a big impact on what the candidates who accept their money say, and do, as elected officials.
Anyone walked down State St. and Main St. in Los Altos lately? Lots of empty stores due to their multi-year sidewalk renovation.
If your shoes need repairing, better do it now before the cobbler goes away.
Ah, progress. Can't wait for the next double-digit utility rate hike to cover declining sales tax revenues when the Cal Ave merchants go bust like they did in Los Altos.
California Ave is very dangerous for pedestrians because you have to cross 4 lanes of traffic without any stop lights to protect you. Traffic is light, but pedestrians still get hit on this street. I am sure businesses will get more pedestrian traffic if the city can make the street safer. Why does California Ave need twice as many car lanes as University Ave? Wide streets with no stop lights just encourage reckless and careless driving.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Here we go again...screwing up what works! Typical PA action.
Forget Cal Ave, I'll stick to Midtown shopping. It's getting better and better as new shops/restaurants move in, too...
@dangerous street! - And people cross all over Middlefield and Colorado and manage to make it to their destination
We often shop and eat on California Ave. We will continue to do so (excepting those merchants who have publicly opposed and caused the long delays) during construction. This is a generally good project which will BENEFIT the merchants in the long run.
I worked just off California Avenue for over ten years. About 18 months ago some thoughtless city employee(s) cut down every mature tree on California Avenue in order to "beautify" the street. Now we're expected to wait another year before they even begin the project! This destruction was not the fruit of the merchants' lawsuit, it was just bad management. What kind of inept planning is this?
Cal Ave street and sidewalks are way overdue for repairs. This construction work has to be done anyway. Glad to see the city using the opportunity to improve the road and go after grants to cover some of the cost.
The existing 1950's street design was created to give high priority to auto throughput efficiency when Cal Ave was a through street. It is now dead end street and retail intensive community center with a LOT of bike and pedestrian traffic. This is a really sensible design approach.
Cal Ave is part of a grid network of streets with parking BEHIND the stores. I don't usually drive Cal Ave to get to Cal Ave anyway. This is a good plan. When I bike there, I will enjoy the safer street. Just do it.
Yup. I'll be watching and Council's decision will affect my vote.
Yay! I agree with "dangerous street". Not only will California Avenue become more attractive and user-friendly, it will also become safer for pedestrians. I am so happy they will soon be moving forward on this project.
> California Ave is very dangerous for pedestrians because you have to
> cross 4 lanes of traffic without any stop lights to protect you.
The current width is about 66 feet. All-in-all, this takes 5-10 seconds for people not in walkers to traverse. There are stop signs at California/Birch and California/Ash, as well as a stop light at California/El Camino. It is very, very, rare to see a car blast thru these stop signs. Bicycles, on the other hand, almost never stop (not to mention their riding on the side walk).
> Traffic is light, but pedestrians still get hit on this street.
Really? This canard is trotted every time we have this discussion, and the City has failed to provide a list of accidents, including dates, transportation modality of the parties involved, and data about casualtiessuch as deaths and injuries. So farnothing of substance has been introduced into this discussion.
Never understood the comments about California Avenue being dangerous. I've frequented these merchants for the best part of 40 years by car, bike, and foot. I've never felt it was the least bit dangerous. I have never heard of anybody being hit by a car the entire time.
University Avenue is congested. dirty, and tawdry.
Los Altos State and Main Streets are hardly an apples to apples comparison. Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years will tell you that downtown Los Altos was/is/will be a dead zone.
Add on the recession and it is easy to see vacant stores there. Guess what, there are vacant stores in Menlo, downtown PA, San Mateo --- everywhere.
What a waste of money, since the retail outlets and neighbors have expressed their dislike for the proposal. If they go ahead with this money waster I will not be voting for any kind of tax increase to fund the infrastructure proposals next year.
you took out a few Stone Pines at the end of the street
during the CA clear cutting
and NEVER replanted them with like species
as is called out in PAMC.
In fact you never replanted at all.
even though the rest of the street was replanted.
How long do we have to wait Mr Keene
for the city
to propose corrective action
I propose a small circle of Redwoods from seedlings of El Palo Alto.\
Put the fountain in the middle of the redwood circle.
Please submit the cost to City Council for approval and PATW wiill support this proposal.
This is a great project with a number of benefits to those that live around, visit or do business on California Avenue.
Here's a quick break down of comments so far.
Wayne, all council members support this project. Look at their voting records. Many have made comments wildly in favor of the project. It would be hard for a council member to not support this project since it makes sense on every level.
Jo Ann, we're all pretty exasperated by your profound inability to speak of this project in any reasonable manner. Is there any chance you can make a logical correlation to their infrastructure improvements store closings? We're all ears. Los Altos is a completely different area as another poster mentions. Further, the project there was a complete infrastructure overhaul, not a just a surface improvement. Also, if your shoes need repairing then go to the business that best suits your needs. The cobbler on California Avenue is pretty good, however, likely to be much busier when the neighborhood is rejuvenated. I must stop here. Her arguments are not cogent.
Dangerous street, a primary reason for this project is safety. I was at lunch on the crowded California Avenue sidewalk today and watch as a car didn't slow down in time to see a pedestrian. Thankfully the car stopped and the pedestrian backed up. This happens everyday.
KP, the good news is no one is planning to take your choice away. They're just trying to improve a neighborhood that hasn't received improvement in over 50 years.
David, it's a shame how hard a small number of merchants have fought this project. They have spread misinformation and intimidated new merchants all for a project that will benefit them immediately upon conclusion - which is only a few months.
George, the tree removal was devastating. This project includes at least a few new trees.
Waste, only a few merchants have expressed dislike and nearly all neighborhood groups support the project. Yeah, there was a paid newspaper advertisement which included an apparent list of opposing businesses. However, when confronted with the benefits of the project and real information most merchants see the project as significantly better than the current state.
Trying to share a reasonable and constructive counterpoint is tiring. At least most people who are reasonable can reasonably conclude that this is a great project. Let's hope self interested and unreasonably anti-change minded lawyer(s) and business owners can let this project get rolling.
> " … it's a shame how hard a small number of merchants … only a few merchants have expressed dislike … "
55 merchants paid for an ad opposing lane reduction. That is not "a small number" nor "a few." It's probably the majority of retailers and restaurant owners. I've tried to find out the number of businesses in the district, but haven't been able to get any data from the city.
When I asked the city's economic development manager for a list of businesses on California Ave., he referred me to the transportation department. (Wouldn't you think the guy in charge of economic development would have a list of businesses in what is probably the city's second most important business area?)
The transportation engineer sent me a list of property owners, not business owners. She wrote: "I unfortunately don't have a list of all businesses along California avenue. I can get you the mailing addresses of all the businesses along California Ave and surrounding streets, if this would help?"
This was May 16, 2012.
I later found out that a list of business ownerswith contact informationdoes exist. In fact, one of those business owners had sent it to the economic development manager several months before.
As I have posted previously, the traffic study was a sham. The city told the consultants that " … there are no pending projects or planned projects in the foreseeable future. Therefore, traffic volumes on California Avenue between El Camino Real and Park Boulevard will remain unchanged with the current land uses."
This led the consultants to conclude that "The intersection LOS analyses show no significant impact from the proposed lane reduction along California Avenue. The roadway segment LOS analyses also show no significant impact from the proposed lane reduction along California Avenue." www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=25743
The city has long known that development would take place along the California Avenue "transit-oriented" corridor and several projects had already been proposed, e.g., 195 Page Mill, 2640 and 2650 Birch Street and now 260 California Ave. (the Illusions Club).
< " … all council members support this project …" True. After the staff presented a "final" plan, Council told them to go away and figure out how to make the sidewalks wider and add bike lanes.
This is a vanity project for a city that can't pay for its existing infrastructure, yet continues to find ways to spend more moneyand provide jobs for the planning and transportation department.
Isn't it ironic that car fees will pay for work that will make traffic worse.
Totally agree with Wayne Martin.
Let's breakdown comments by "pat".
During conversations with business owners who apparently "paid" for that "ad" it becomes clear that the information they received about the reasons to oppose the project are flat out wrong. To spread fear the primary opponents threatened an unsubstantiated loss to their business if the project proceeds. This was a complete fabrication. Some businesses will experience construction impact. This will happen during any kind of improvement. Are the opponents simply against improvement?
"pat" has droned on about the traffic study being a "sham". The study was conducted by a well respected, licensed traffic engineering firm. It's hard to find any "shamery" in their work. What is a sham is the misinformation about upcoming development and its potential impact on the street. "pat", look, even if those areas are developed then drivers won't likely use California Avenue to get to those destinations. That argument doesn't make sense.
An even bigger "sham" is "pat" and other opponents inability to watch what goes on when on the street. In the morning, more people pour into the street by foot than by car by a significant margin. Those people then walk to lunch, perhaps to get a beer or a mojito, then walk to the train home. Some might buy a camera or get a haircut. This all happens by a massive influx of pedestrians every weekday. Sorry paint guy but these folks won't likely buy your paint. Oh wait, you deliver most of your paint through your alley entrance and you'll still have the same parking and no car traffic impact.
No more public "art"!
That car with legs along Alma still makes me squeamish after all these years.
I wonder about congestion coming with the influx of cars into the Caltrain lot for the morning commute, and the outflow when workers come home on the train in the evening, all having to use a single lane. Have any of the preparatory studies addressed this?
I just hope not too many people are discouraged from shopping at Mollie Stone's and other businesses near the Caltrain station.
> all council members support this project. Look at their
> voting records.
If only we could. While the minutes of City Council meetings are on-line, they are not readily searchableand certainly there is no simply way to find all of the votes on this, or any project/issue.
> Many have made comments wildly in favor of the project.
Is this the same Council that was wildly in favor of the HSR before the Prop.1A vote a couple years ago? And the same Council that sat idly by when the US was attacked on 9/11, not instructing the City Manager to get some flags flying, even though the US Congress requested all City Governments to do so? Or the same City Council that didn't say a word when Officer Louis Verbera was indicted for detaining a number of women in order to sexually assault them? Or the same Council that didn't utter a word when the PAU employees were found moonlighting in Menlo Park? Or the same Council that has signed off on all of the PC-zoned projects over the years claiming things like: "the building is the public benefit"?
The point of the original posting was to point out that none of these people are engineers, scientists or business owners (for the most part). None ever seem to ask questions that challenge the often shoddy work of Staff, when presenting project proposals.
For example, the following is from the original grant proposal for VTA funding for the controversial California Avenue Streetscape project from the 2006
Project Description: California Avenue Streetscape Improvements
California Avenue from El Camino Real to the Caltrain station, approximately 1/3 mile, would receive streetscape improvements meant to: improve pedestrian access and safety via bulb-outs and crosswalks; improve bicycle access and safety via bike lanes and racks; reduce travel lanes, street parking, and calm traffic; improve bus facilities; improve the connection to the California Avenue Caltrain station; replace outdated amenities like street trees, street lights and street furniture; create a pedestrian plaza; create gateway features; add to the public art; and revitalize an important historic business and residential district.
There are a number of goals in this original project description, some of which would seem to make claims about "safety" issues on California Avenue that have never been proven, just alluded to. As pointed out in a previous posting, no oneincluding the Cityhas even put forward a characterization of the "safety" of this street, including metrics that include data about accidents and casualty rates, so that these same metrics will demonstrate any/all improvements after the money is spent creating a new "streetscape".
Let's pursue this issue of "revitalizing the business district". On face value, this might seem like a worthwhile thing for a City to want to doproviding that it knew what to do to achieve this sort of "revitalization".
But how many City Council members have ever revitalized a business, much less a whole business district? If the answer is nonewhat makes any/all of their comments meaningful? Even with their endorsement, will any of them be responsible in any way if the business climate on this short street segment does not wildly improve?
Pushing this point just a little, did anyone on the Council ask any meaningful questions, such as:
o) How does the City define "vibrant", in terms of measurable economic activity?
o) How many people utilize this business district today?
o) How many people will utilize this business district after the project is completed.
o) How many business are in this business district today?
o) How many businesses does Staff believe will be drawn to the Business District because of this street reconfiguration?
o) How big is the current economic base, in terms of dollars?
o) How big will the economic base be, after the street configuration, in terms of dollars?
o) How much money does the City receive today from sales taxes in this district?
o) How much will the City received after the reconfiguration?
These kinds of questions don't seem to ever come from the Dias. So we are left with the fundamental questionwhat good is a Council endorsement? What makes these people think they know what they are talking about? And why are people willing to accept the "endorsements" of Council Members who clearly don't know anything about the issues upon which they are commenting, and voting into existence?
> It would be hard for a council member to not support
> this project since it makes sense on every level.
Says who? And please keep in mind that if the City believed in this project so much, why didn't it simply fund it years ago? It really isn't that expensive. Why has it waited over six years just to save $700K? If "revitalizing this important historic and economic zone" was so important, why not put the money on the table as soon as possible? If California Avenue is really as dangerous as this projects supporters claim it iswe now know that the City has allowed these dangerous conditions to exits for at least six yearsjust to save a few hundred thousand dollars. Is it possible that these improvements aren't worth $700K of City money in terms of measurable improvements for this zone?
A "great project" .. we'll see. However, it is clearly not a well-run project, and it does not seem to have nearly the support within Palo Alto than its supporters claim.
> To spread fear the primary opponents threatened an
> unsubstantiated loss to their business if the project proceeds.
What gibberish. The language of this sentence alone shows that this poster is adept at the use of "word twisting", but not simple logic.
The opponents fear the loss of revenue during the construction period. This is true. But where are any claims by the merchants opposed that include dollar amounts? The concerned merchants have every right to predict losses. This has happened before here in Palo Alto when some small businesses were very adversely affected by street work on El Camino Real in the Barron Park area. If memory serves, a restaurant by the name of "China First" eventually went out of business. Not certain how many others did too, but the City showed no interest in the economic impacts that this project imposed on the business owners in its wake. Given that precedent, why would the City show any interest in how many business are impacted by this project?
> Claims that these losses are "unsubstantiated"
What does this even mean? Businesses have a right to predict losses, which might mean loss of jobs to their employees, and possibly the loss of the business, in the worst scenario.
> This was a complete fabrication.
If this person is claiming that no business in Palo Alto, or anywhere, has even been adversely affected by government construction projectshe/she is delusional.
> Some businesses will experience construction impact.
> This will happen during any kind of improvement.
> Are the opponents simply against improvement?
Wasn't the previous claim that the prediction of business losses "fabricated"? Now, a sentence or two later, the future losses are seen to be likely real. Which is it? Real or fabricated?
Maybe if the City were to compensate these businesses for their losses, then these sorts of projects would not be so worrisome to the merchants. Unfortunately, the City's employees generally can not be held responsible for their acts (such as bad planning). There was some political blow-back when the trees were cut down, but that was pretty minimal. Maybe if the businesses were to sue for lost revenues, that might get the City's attention.
This poster likes to string words together, but there isn't much of value in these words when read carefully.
It's about time for this project to be done! The city did a great job keeping everyone apprised of plans, for the past few years. I myself, had a stake in the discussions, attending some meetings with my granddaughter, who moved away since this was first discussed.
She will be thrilled to know that when she visits, we will be able to have a wonderful (and safe) pedestrian experience, in an area that has long been neglected. This is wonderful news.
I hold no hard feelings against the merchants that tried to stop this from happening. When Los Altos was redesigned, it didn't stop me from going there. The two districts my family most frequents are California Ave and downtown Los Altos, which is now lovely. Whomever doesn't like downtown Los Altos is either looking to find issues, or they haven't been there since the work was completed and they are guessing. Los Altos is wonderful now!
Kudos to everyone (council, Jaime Rodriguez and Transportation) for hearing us average citizens & finding a way to redesign the street in a way that makes sense for everyone that wants to see this area improved, and finally finished.
So glad that Wayne Martin and pat weighed in with stem-winders on this hot button issue. What a ticket Wayne and pat would be if only pat lived in Palo Alto!
While the City would not progess much at all if this ticket were victorious, the comments from the City Council table would be entertaining!
California avenue is a funky but functional street. You can print a business card, shop for a camera, get a hair cut, etc. After the renovation, it will more likely become a primarily entertainment district like Castro. It is difficult to judge which option is better
Wayne, are you against the project or the city or both? You make oddly disconnected arguments that imply that this is a bad project because the city has made unrelated mistakes. How is a badly needed, long overdue and relatively inexpensive project like this connected in any way to transgressions by a bad cop?
Wayne, you state that you can't find supporting council statements in city records. This seems to indicate that you haven't been to a meeting or watched proceedings. Which further indicates that you're watching this from afar. This seems to imply your intentions are mostly anti-government and thus your comments not terribly useful.
Wayne writes another long and winding post about business impact. At the end of the day, this project isn't solely about businesses. Sure, they're important but not the only consideration. The unreasonable few have delayed this long enough at everyone else's expense.
Wayne, feel free to do a little constructive research and attend a meeting or two.
Bravo, Trying to follow! Its about time that somebody called Wayne on exactly the points that you made in your excellent posting above!
Great Idea. It works in mountainview/Castro st. It will help a too sleepy area of Palo Alto.
Too sleepy? You can't park there now. A traffic hazard? Since when did people get so stupid they can't cross at a cross-walk?
Guess we don't need cobblers or paint stores but we DO need higher utility rates to make up for the lost sales tax revenues.
When the crash happened at Middlefield and Embarcadero, we were talking to one of the cops and he said that all the backed up traffic from near CAL AVE will be yet another traffic disaster like Town & Country where you can't even back out of parking space.
Sally asked "Since when did people get so stupid they can't cross at a cross-walk?" I don't think the problem is entirely with the stupidity of pedestrians, but mostly lies with the incompetence of drivers. Someone posted earlier that crossing Middlefield at Colorado is perfectly safe, yet the city recently posted bright new signs telling drivers that they must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. These signs should not be needed; anyone who has a license or the minimum knowledge of right-of-way rules should understand this. There must be a problem, though, or the city wouldn't have posted signs, and it does not appear that the problem is with the stupidity of pedestrians since the sign is directed at drivers.
Why does the Palo Alto Weekly keep referring to the proposed California Avenue streetscape redesign as a "controversial" project? Streets with much higher volumes of cars than Cal Ave have benefited hugely from designs like that proposed by the City!
It's ridiculous that when fact-challenged people like Terry Shuchat and his blindered buddies just repeated unsupported assertions and the "news" reporters report these opinions as facts.
The real facts about traffic issues on Cal Ave are that the current daily volume is 6000 per day near El Camino and much less on the rest of the street. With the turn lanes at every intersection eliminating any possible congestion, the design change from 4 lanes to 2 lanes plus turn lane = a no brainer for anyone not ideologically wedded to 1950s design that was needed when California Avenue was connected to Alma Street (before Oregon Expressway was built about 1969).
Rather than have an actual discussion to find a resolution to issues like potential impact on businesses, the opponents have chosen to rant and disrupt meetings.
It's time for the elected and appointed officials to expose the baseless claims and uncivil behavior of the opponents, and move forward.
Parking is ample almost all of the time except during a weekday lunch. Then parking is tight but can be found. I'm not sure why some posters to these stories indicate that busy-ness is bad. On the one hand you want the businesses to have complete say on the street yet you don't want too many patrons taking up parking spots and thereby your god given right to convenience. Pick one or chill out.
Regarding safety, I'm sure there's a near pedestrian miss happening as we speak on Cal Ave. The crossing is wide and not properly demarcated. It's downright dangerous. It wasn't designed to be a pedestrian street but yet has evolved into one, a great one. Now it needs a relatively small tweak that a few change-averse people are trying to prevent.
At the end of the day we don't necessarily need any one specific business. Patrons will find another cobbler. The shoe shop on Cal Ave does pretty good work, but we shouldn't design a neighborhood around their singular concerns.
Regarding tax revenue, a large tax generating business won't locate on Cal Ave proper because it's ugly, unsafe and non-functional which this project is intended to fix. Again, pick one.
Frankly the opposing posts keep getting weirder and weirder. From Pat to JoAnn to Wayne to Sally the posts are about one thing - inability to change. Well here's some serious scoop - the change has already happened. The street isn't a pass through. More people walk and bike on the street. More people want it nicer. And EVERYONE wants it safe.
WOW, Lots of comments.
Question: which is more controversial to you: Cal av street redesign or high speed rail?
Dude, they're different. Leave it that way.
No to HSR.
I was undecided about the Cal Ave project, until I went and actually examined the proposal, readily available on the City's website. Having looked at the plan, I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would oppose it. It looks good for pedestrians, good for businesses, even good for cars (more parking spaces!). It appears the main reason lying behind all the fuss (besides, perhaps, a lawyer or two lining their pockets) is good old anti-government forment. Would the real revolutionaries please stand up?
> How is a badly needed, long overdue and relatively inexpensive
> project like this connected in any way to transgressions by a
> bad cop?
It's not. Had you actually been following the thread, the comment was in response to a poster claiming that the City Council was "enthusiastic" about this project. The comment was intended to call into question the City Council's ability to take decisive action when there were problems involving trusted City employeeslike the Police and the PAU. Given this inability to stand up the residents, and to demand honesty and integrity from these employeesthe comment was questioning the value of their endorsement on this projectwhich has dragged on for years now, and has been promoted on claims that simply have little (if any) supporting evidence.
No one disagrees that the street could have been repaved a long time ago. The City has budgeted for thatbut failed to do the work for some bizarre reason.
> feel free to do a little constructive research and
> attend a meeting or two.
Actually, I do more research than most. I've posted the main design documents on-line for all to see--
CA Ave. Environmental Impact Report:
VTA Funding Request For CA Ave:
CA Ave. Traffic Plan:
There are quite a few comments in the design documents suggesting that this project is intended to get people onto "alternative transportation"which seems to be something that most people in Palo Alto are not interested in using. So, why should the City Council be endorsing this project, when it's not about "revitalizing" the business district, and really is about "getting people out of their cars"?
BTW--the traffic study is flawed because of the assumptions that seem to have been provided to the Consultant. No one is quibbling with the numbers of vehicles counted--what is being contested is the implications of the study. With additional housing, the number of vehicles using this area will increase, leaving us with perhaps too little capacity. There is also no data in this study about vehicular speeds, or general safety issues.
> project not about business
Really? I wonder what the merchants have to say about that? Why have a business district if it is not going to be prosperous, providing needed goods and services to locals and visitors, as well as generated sales taxes for the support of City-provided services and infrastructure? Why spend millions to "prettify" the area if it is not to increase business?
The documentation offered by the City is devoid of any claims of danger to pedestrians. What is also missing is any alternative that does not require removing lanes from our streetswhich is something that is not productive in any meaningful way.
> The crossing is wide and not properly demarcated.
> It's downright dangerous.
And this poster claims that people opposing this project are making "weird" postings. There is no City-provided evidence about accidents, or casualties. If people are really that concerned about danger on this street--then they should not go to this business district.
Even 100 close calls a day wouldn't matter to Wayne because they wouldn't result in police reports that would make it onto the internet where he could find them from the comfort of his home as he does his extensive "research" on safety.
I totally agree. The car with legs ("Rrrun") and it's companion, the running face sculpture ("Go Mama") both drive me nuts. I'm not against public art, but I hope the city chooses carefully.
Even the toughest opponent Terry Schuchat made an interesting comment at the planning meeting that was broadcast last night - "This is a phenomenal plan." It seems like most of the opponents have seen the light on the benefits of this project.
Lardo countered Wayne's comments rather nicely. Although we'll likely see another weak rebuttal to the comment.
It's nice to see the project finally moving forward.
Wow, the redesign is stunning. Thank you, City of Palo Alto!
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