News

Girls' Middle School seeks move to Palo Alto

School wants to lease, convert building in baylands for its 153 students

The Girls' Middle School, which has operated out of a Mountain View church since its founding 12 years ago, is seeking to move to the Palo Alto baylands.

The school has applied for a conditional use permit, saying it intends to lease and convert an office building across from the Palo Alto Golf Course to classroom space for its enrollment of 153 girls, grades six through eight.

In e-mails to the City Council this month, Palo Alto residents with daughters enrolled at the independent school praised its "'break-the-girl-stereotype' curriculum" that includes science, technology, entrepreneurship, robotics and design.

In urging the city to approve the use permit, John and Debbie Eastburn wrote, "Palo Alto should be begging GMS to relocate here."

Architects said the school would maintain the existing facade of the building, at 1880 Embarcadero Road, and that the carpool traffic generated would be less than that drawn by the building's current designation as an office.

"Because the school's parking needs are less intense than an office use, a portion of the existing parking lot will be converted to blacktop ball courts, a small organic garden and an open-air lawn area for outdoor eating," architect Clare Malone Prichard said in a June letter to the Palo Alto Planning Department.

GIrls' Middle School currently leases space from St. Athanasius Church at 160 N. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

> "Palo Alto should be begging GMS to relocate here."

Really? Let's see why maybe a school at this location is not such a good idea ..

1) Possible Loss of Property Taxes
2) Possible Loss of Sales Taxes
3) Increased traffic at possibly the worst intersection in Palo Alto.
4) Increased demand for police/fire services at this location.

Not clear that there are any benefits at all in having this school in Palo Alto, or at this location.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Girls Middle School is great, but why would any place with great schools be "begging" for another? They would certainly be welcome, but not an essential addition.


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Offhand, the location seems well-suited for this use.

To the author of the comment above: perhaps I do not understand your concerns.

For example, each time I've visited the Palo Alto Golf Course over the past 38 years or so, there's been little to no traffic at the intersection mentioned in the article.

The building was -- for quite some time -- vacant; what is the current property tax assessment of the property?; by what amount will the collected property tax change with this possible move-in by GMS?

How will collected sales tax change?

It's difficult to imagine any use here -- the building was long vacant -- not resulting in an increase in service levels. If we measure desirability by decreases in police and/or fire services, only vacancies everywhere would achieve our goal.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

'Why Should'-
Check your maps. The proposed 1880 address is way down Embarcadero and is right across from the road to the golf course and airport offices. It is not congested there.

The office park where it would be located is currently experiencing a high vacancy rate, so new tenants should be a good thing. And the property taxes are paid by the property owner, not the lessee.

Given the sorry levels of accomplishment of students coming out of many (although not our) public schools it seems to me we should welcome any school that is getting good results. Students in a private school will not tax the resources of our public schools-and the are not Tinsley students or students with false addresses getting a free ride on PA schools.

They may well become future productive citizens and help pay the taxes you are so concerned about.


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

> How will collected sales tax change?

This is a "business park", which means that companies that sell product might be collecting sales tax. Schools will never collect sales tax.

> there's been little to no traffic at the intersection
> mentioned in the article.

Presumably you don't go to the golf course at 7:30 AM or in the 4:00PM to 6PM drive times? While the traffic might be somewhat reduced at the moment (due to the economy), within immediate history there have been long lines on the Frontage Road trying to obtain access to/from the businesses in this park, and into Palo Alto.

> building empty

Google shows the following for this address:

Zephyr Enterprises
1880 Embarcadero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303-3308

Here's a little financial detail about the property ..

Web Link

One can only wonder how having one (or more) schools in this area zoned for R&D will affect property values, and rents, for the other properties.


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm


According to this property listing, the property has been sold:

Web Link

It's difficult to believe that the owners won't be trying to get tax-exempt status for this property, if they can.

> It is not congested there.

The congestion being discussed is at the lights controlling access from H.101, the frontage roads, and Embarcadero road.

> Students in a private school will not tax the resources
> of our public schools

If the property becomes tax exempt, then the PAUSD loses a percentage of the yearly taxes.


Like this comment
Posted by girls vs golfers
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Am I reading the comments here correctly? Golfers are opposed to a new school because they might miss their drive times? No wonder Palo Alto residents have such a reputation for being arrogant and selfish.

I agree that the "Palo Alto should be begging" comment is also arrogant, but not as bad as the golfers.


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm

> Given the sorry levels of accomplishment of students coming
> out of many (although not our) public schools

(Santa Clara) County schools exceed state API target:
Web Link

The Santa Clara County schools generally test higher than most schools in the state. This is, of course, related to the fact that the parents of the Silicon Valley industries are some of the best educated in the world, and educational attainment follows trends set in families, not schools.

The arrogance of the comment "Palo Alto should be begging" is the issue here more than the objections. It's clear that this school offers Palo Alto nothing except increased government costs, and increased traffic. As long as they meet the criteria for occupying this space, no doubt they will be granted permission to use it as a school.

However, that doesn't mean that Palo Altans have to put up with their BS!


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm

"This is a "business park", which means that companies that sell product might be collecting sales tax."

Well, then your original comment was purely speculative. In addition, it's based on a critical assumption: if not leased to the GMS, then you assume the building would be leased to a private entity or entity where such entity or entities conduct certain business subject to sales tax.

Although the building has been renovated of late, it was long vacant. What if the building continues to sit vacant?
_____

"Presumably you don't go to the golf course at 7:30 AM or in the 4:00PM to 6PM drive times?"

Your presumption is incorrect.

Are you confusing the location of this school with another location on Embarcadero?

If not, do you have a relatively current traffic study of the intersection near 1880 Embarcadero? If not, does a third-party have one available (say, associated with other properties in the area)?
_____

"Here's a little financial detail about the property .."

The site is subscription-based; I'm unable to see any detail.
_____

"One can only wonder how having one (or more) schools in this area zoned for R&D will affect property values, and rents, for the other properties."

Hasn't this issue been studied elsewhere? If so, is there any evidence in such prior studies showing a negative impact on the value of nearby properties by the location of a well-established private girls middle school?

If not, then your question is speculative; while you may speculate, I sincerely doubt you will get others to speculate, too, on this particular point.
_____

To 'Why-Should-We-Be-Begging':

Are you perhaps an employee of the PAUSD?


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

"It's clear that this school offers Palo Alto nothing except increased government costs, and increased traffic."

I politely disagree. If this statement were true, then no students living in Palo Alto would ever attend the GMS. And, any alternative use would result in lower government costs or lower traffic counts. But, I believe otherwise.
_____

"The arrogance of the comment "Palo Alto should be begging" is the issue here more than the objections. "

Here, I agree with you. Palo Alto should never beg. Instead, it should be prudent and wise; and it should seek out great uses. I sincerely believe the GMS will be a great use here.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I think more info is needed. I don't know the specific intersection, however assume this is on fill land - would city of PA be liable if there are schoolchildren injuries in case of an earthquake? I mean, it's a basic industrial park - not a super appealing location, not in a residential area, like schools usually are located.

I have heard of this school and their mission seems very positive.

However, traffic at 101/Embarcadero is horrible for us local residents and I disagree that schools do not generate traffic. For example, PA's Main Post Office (in EPA) is near that language immersion school and in the PMs, despite their apparent good will efforts, there certainly IS traffic and issues getting out of the government post office for us residents, owing to that "small" private schoo.


Like this comment
Posted by commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Where do the students at that school live? If they live in Palo Alto, the baylands area is easily accessible via the bicycle bridge near Oregon Expressway. I believe there are bike lanes along Embarcadero east of Hwy 101.

If they are coming from Mountain View, they can take the Hwy 101 bicycle underpass near San Antonio, then the bike path along the Bayshore frontage road up to Embaracdero.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

'Why'
Your diligence and energy on matters involving taxes would be well spent asking why so much space in PA is covered by government buildings- local, state and Fed.

A few years back part of PA Planning Dept exited the City Hall building and moved across Hamilton to occupy the space formerly occupied by a large local real estate firm. And our police dept 'needs' a huge parcel on Park Ave for its new to be built headquarters. And the five branches of our library occupy thousands of square feet that could be producing taxes.

Please help Palo Alto make more tax dollars by limiting the occupation of PA by more government that not only does not pay taxes, but instead burns them in its daily operations.


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

> Well, then your original comment was purely speculative

That's why the language: "possible loss of" was used.

> do you have a relatively current traffic study of
> the intersection near 1880 Embarcadero?

This is not the critical point where traffic impact needs to be measured. It's the H101/Embarcadero intersection. Notice what another poster states: " traffic at 101/Embarcadero is horrible for us local residents".

However, this is one of those things that the Planning Department should be on the hook for. Remember, there were all sorts of complaints about the conversion of Scott's Restaurant building by the "no growth" advocates a couple years ago--traffic being one of their complaints. Maybe this traffic information is on the City's web-site, maybe not. It certainly should be ... along with all of the current LOSs (Level of Service) of all of the intersections in Palo Alto.

> cost of government ..

If this property becomes tax exempt (which is speculative at this point, but highly likely), then there will be about 200 additional heads that need to be provided public safety services. If this site is generating no base property tax, then the costs of providing fire protection, and police protection, will fall on the other tax paying property owners in Palo Alto. The parcel in question, if it does become tax exempt, will still be responsible for the PAUSD parcel tax, however.

> PAUSD employee.

No .. just someone who believes that people ought to understand how non-profits (and other tax exempt entities) push their costs (and "lost opportunity" costs) on the backs of people who don't benefit from their operation here.



Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm

"It certainly should be ... along with all of the current LOSs (Level of Service) of all of the intersections in Palo Alto."

I agree.
_____

I'll be interested to see if the GMS counts alter existing and projected LoSs at key intersections. Offhand, my guess -- and it's purely a guess -- is the GMS counts will not alter estimated future LoSs.


Like this comment
Posted by Ask yoriko
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by PAParent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2010 at 6:19 pm

First, an observation...the people that often post on this board seem so far to the right of Rush Limbaugh with their love of property rights (no matter the topic that is worked in) that you would think Palo Alto a very conservative right wing town.

Second to all you oldsters, thinking that some nice sales tax paying company that sells things could move into the space, wake up. Many net firms have click downloads where no "sales tax" is colllected. And this area is not zoned for Macy's.

Third, the local schools are over enrolled, as are there many concerns about bullying. This has oft been discussed on this board. Why not welcome an entity that reduces burden on PAUSD, plus is planning on paying rent (they aren't moving in for free folks) and each parent/family trip to said school results in sales tax at the Starbucks and whatever store the family needs to stop at en route to and from school.

Were the same issues about lack of sales tax raised with the German School of Silicon Valley locally? or the Stratford school that leased a PAUSD facility. Or how about Deanza trying to take over Cubberley. You don't seem to anger about that, so why hate on the girls school?


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2010 at 6:25 pm

While Mr. Eastburn's correspondence to the Council et al. is, in my opinion, 'over-the-top', Mr. Raney's correspondence regarding GMS is worthwhile reading; here, he notes GMS's advantages as follows:

• an intimate experience with about 53 students per grade level
• "break the girls stereotype" curriculum, with robotics, entrepreneurial program, design program, etc
• social/emotional learning
• not-teaching-to-the-test: critical thinking and problem solving
• diversity
• learning themes that flow from class to class throughout the day (IE a single cross- disciplinary project is covered in Science, Computer Science, and Humanities)
• teachers that are so enthusiastic about the teaching philosophy that they just about burst at the seams on Back To School Night

While my daughter is currently off at college, I'm very sympathetic to Mr. Raney's email. I think GMS would be a welcome addition to Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Moira
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

What's wrong with another location in Mountain View? I suppose the prestigious "Palo Alto" address will attract more applicants, even if it will be between a garbage dump and an airport.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I think it is fine that the Girls Middle School is relocating to Palo Alto.

However, the traffic issue is worth discussing. A school will produce different traffic patterns than the previous office usage. The teachers will of course arrive in the morning and leave after school, but presumably each student who is transported by car will be dropped off by parents who will leave straight away and then return to pick up later in the day. As has already been mentioned the 101/Oregon/Embarcadero intersection is horrendous during commute times. For those trying to get to the school, it may be easier to use San Antonio to cross 101.

This may be the time to extend the Palo Alto shuttle as far as the airport. This would serve the school, the airport, the golf club, the athletic center, as well as many other sites. Additionally, it might be the time to start charging a modest fare for the service. This would stop those who use the shuttle for school getting free school bus rides while others get nothing or have to pay.

S6jvX


Like this comment
Posted by school bus
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I don't know where the students live, but if convenient, the school should just run a shuttle out to the California Ave. Caltrain station. That's maybe 2 miles away.


Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2010 at 6:52 am

i bet no one cared to let the EPA residents know of such a move...traffic is already bad there from the international school...palo alto needs to be taxed...palo alto would be un in arms if this happened to conjest them...


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 10:28 am


> Were the same issues about lack of sales tax raised with the
> German School of Silicon Valley locally?

Was this discussed on the Weekly Blog? Where is it located?

> or the Stratford school that leased a PAUSD facility.

Isn't the Stratford school next door to the Junior High on California Ave? This is in the middle of a residential area, and not zoned for business.

> Or how about Deanza trying to take over Cubberley. You don't seem to
> anger about that, so why hate on the girls school?

Cubberley is also not in section of town that is zoned for business. It is, however, poorly managed from a revenue-generation point-of-view. It also represents a possible $50M-$100M liability to the City for improvements down the line. Getting rid of Cubberley would be in the taxpayer's interests. Most Palo Altans are all for this facility vis-a-vis the Utility Tax. Very few Palo Altans actually get much use out of the facility.

While there are a few people who might want the City to keep it, most people who understand the finances realize that getting rid of it would be a good thing, while any uses other than for a "public" purpose would probably be unacceptable to the major (meaning new housing, or a business park). Hence, the problem of "what to do next" with this facility.

As to the comments that the financial implications of allowing non-profits to occupy locations zone for business are "anti-girl's school"--those comments are really misguided, and represent the tendency of people on this blog to react emotionally, rather than to think through the underlying issues and details of a given situation.

Girls school, boys school, or childrens' school--the issues are all the same. The City needs to consider the tax generation for its land use decisions, along with traffic and the other issues that enter these sorts of discussions.


Like this comment
Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 10:44 am

Correction--

> Most Palo Altans are all for this facility vis-a-vis the Utility Tax.

should have been:

Most Palo Altans are all pay for this facility vis-a-vis the Utility Tax.


Like this comment
Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Since everything in this city is filtered through the "is it green?/will it create more traffic" prism, this potential move needs to be studied and evaluated for the effects on the quality of life in Palo Alto. If indeed even one additional car trip into Palo Alto is too many, as a former council member used to tell us over and over again, then a complete traffic impact study must be carried out. It does not matter, in that case, if Stanford brings in 2000+ employees, Skype 500+, a new school X + or a small mom and pop store 2 new trips-- a new trip is a new trip. Also there are the green considerations--will the people that work and study at the school be driving and/or bicycling to the location--this should be a requirement in order to cut back on greenhouse gasses.
Every new business in town must be held to the same high standard--unless of course we really do not have a traffic problem in the city and it is just NIMBYists blowing smoke in our eyes!!!


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

"If indeed even one additional car trip into Palo Alto is too many, as a former council member used to tell us over and over again, then a complete traffic impact study must be carried out."

Quite amusing.

Extended out to an extreme, this logic might be reason to regulate any and all births in the City of Palo Alto. Let's set a goal here of 'zero total trips', achievable only when no one lives -- or works or attends school -- in the City. Let's get really green now!


Like this comment
Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm

JA3+--it would be amusing if it was not the mantra of said former councilmember and other's in the city--some people believe that if you say something over and over again it becomes true. We have been hearing for years about "traffic" problems in the city--do we really have a traffic problem? i Think not. this is one of the main sticking points in the adversarial relationship that the city has with Stanford--as put forth endlessly by a number of past and present council members.
The other thing I find hypocritical is attempts to lure people in to the city withe Destination Palo Alto and other similar programs. I also find it hypocritical that the city promotes the whole 'walkable neighborhood " fallacy and says that everyone should bike and walk everywhere, yet wants tax revenue from car dealerships!!! You will also note that even though they encourage using public transportation and shuttles, there is an outcry when companies try to follow this suggestion (think Facebook in College Terrace)
My take is that if traffic is a problem and we do not want new car trips in the city, then every new business, whether they are building a new space or occupying an old structure, should be held accountable for any new traffic in the city.


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Too Much Traffic:

Agree in full with much of your post (i.e. the one immediately preceding hereto); +1.


Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I really hope that the city approves the use permit--by all accounts this school is wonderful, and we should positively welcome it: celebrate good education, girls being able to study science and math etc., and a small-size school!

Traffic concerns being raised by opponents of the school are invented obstacles--no-one has raised them about the notion of the airport being expanded, for example.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Escondido School
on Dec 31, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I am at GMS during pickup and drop-off times. There are less than 100 cars going in and out of their parking lot, and I have not had much of an issue with traffic around that area. It rarely backs up onto the street considering that, of the small student population, many carpool, bike, or take the train. In addition, many students stay after school for extra-curricular activities.

I personally believe that this is a great opportunity for GMS to expand and for the current and future students to gain additional opportunities academically. The nearby bay lands offer many science outlets especially in the 6th and 7th earth and life science curriculums. Moving to this new location would provide many more athletic resources as well.

Considering that the GMS ad appears on this page, I would say that GMS already gets many Palo Altan applicants as it is. I do not think that they would move to Palo Alto for the only reason to receive more applicants.


Like this comment
Posted by stanford shill
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Do some of the kids that are currently enrolled at that school live in Palo Alto? If yes, then moving the school closer to the students will reduce car trips around town, reduce traffic, and reduce pollution. How can anyone be against that?


Like this comment
Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

Jardins says:

"Traffic concerns being raised by opponents of the school are invented obstacles"

Traffic concerns have always been an invented obstacle by NIMBYists, obstructionists, some of our so-called city leaders to delay, stop or cut back on most any project brought before the city.
Their is a constant whine about "too much traffic" for almost every issue--unfortunately people believe this constant whine, yet it is not true--we do not have traffic problems in Palo Alto. Some people would love to see everyone biking and walking--this will not happen ever. First of all, the term "walkable neighborhoods" is a pie in the sky, feel good expression. For example, where will the residents of the areas on the side of El Camino going towards the foothills walk to for their shopping--there are no library branches there either.


Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm

It seems to me that the proposed GMS site has about as little effect on traffic congestion as a site could have.

It's not near residential, it's not near the downtown. It's not near El Camino and Page Mill.

Most people coming from outside Palo Alto will reach the school via 101 and the side of Embarcadero *east* of the freeway.

People in Palo Alto will reach it via Embarcadero and Oregon, both of which already feed into 101. And Embarcadero, itself, is already a school corridor.

Given that are middle schools are overcrowded and the school is popular with Palo Alto parents, I'd say you have to balance the possible property tax loss against the gain of PA parents paying property tax while not having their daughters in Jordan/JLS/Terman.

And just a reminder, folks--while we have sites that could be turned into elementaries and high schools, we don't have an extra middle-school site. So, yes, we do want this.

And, yes, the school's very popular with PA parents--Ohlone's almost a feeder school for it.

I'd say the real issue is while there are some good private alternatives for girls around here; it would be nice to something for boys.


Like this comment
Posted by Getready
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Unfortunately one of the leading lights of the "too much traffic"cacophony lives on the road where the school will be.i am sure she will rally the troops about non-existent traffic issues.


Like this comment
Posted by commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Maybe this will finally give the city a reason to upgrade the bike path under Hwy 101 in south Palo Alto to be open year round. It is currently closed for most of the school year.


Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

GetReady,

Does anyone actually live on that side of Embarcadero. Also, it seems to me, that GMS would generate less traffic than would other uses of the site. I mean, they want to reduce the parking lot.

Commuter,

I doubt it will happen, much as that would be nice. (I mean you'd think Google would be enough of a draw.) The GMS site is closer to the pedestrian overpass near Oregon. I'd think that would mean a fair number of kids could, yes, bike there.


Like this comment
Posted by JO
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Does anyone actually live on that side of Embarcadero? Well, not legally since Palo Alto's zoning does not allow for residences in that area. When the Housing Element was last revised about ten years ago, the idea of allowing housing on the bay side of 101 was raised, but was rejected by City Council, as I recall, mainly due to concerns about liquefaction making it very unsafe during an earthquake. Seems to me that if it's not safe for housing, then it shouldn't be considered safe for middle schools either.

Don't be fooled by the proposed reduction in the parking lot. The traffic will be generated by parents dropping off their kids and picking them up. Middle school kids don't drive their own cars, so they don't need the parking space, but that means that each kid being dropped off or picked up by an adult driver generates two round trips to and from the site by a vehicle per day. That is double the number of vehicle trips generated by an office worker who parks at the site during the work day.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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