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Thread: Do planners want to end sprawl?

  1. #76
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    This is why I like this definition: The decentralization of the urban core through the unlimited outward extension of dispersed development beyond the urban fringe where low density residential and commercial development exacerbates fragmentation of powers over land use

    I think what the last element of "fragmentation of powers over land use" speaks to this issue of sprawl across different municipalities. We have that same issue here in the Albuquerque metro area which encompasses up to 4 counties and several towns, cities and villages.

    Since these municipalities have no real incentive to cooperate with one another (what? you don't want that Walmart? hey, we'll take it over here - and its sales tax revenue to boot!) you get conflicting zoning approaches that in many cases encourage leap frog development.

    This is one reason I feel that statewide or regional planning authorities that have real legal teeth may be one of the only ways to effectively control and direct growth. Its why Portland and other Oregon cities are able to enforce Urban Growth Boundaries - its a state law to maintain one for cities over a certain size.
    Of the "planner type" definitions of sprawl, I think that's about the best I've seen, and probably the most realistic. Being trained as an historian rather than a planner, I look at historical settlement patterns and the specific history of places and see that in action. Cities and villages regulated land use and buildings long before near-by unincoporated towns did (or still do in many cases), and businesses/developers have long taken advantage of that.

  2. #77
    Dolores Hayden wrote about a number of waves of suburbanization that are as old as the country itself. I don't have time to look up the citation, but I seem to remember the last of them as:


    Streetcar suburbs
    Sitcom suburbs
    Edge cities
    Exurbs

    But she talks about at least 7 of them, if my memory is correct.

  3. #78
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Dolores Hayden wrote about a number of waves of suburbanization that are as old as the country itself. I don't have time to look up the citation, but I seem to remember the last of them as:


    Streetcar suburbs
    Sitcom suburbs
    Edge cities
    Exurbs

    But she talks about at least 7 of them, if my memory is correct.
    Hayden has it right. When you look at the growth of urban areas in historical context, you can't help but see that the patterns of the distant past repeating in the near past.
    • A group of German immigrants founded Columbus, NB in the middle of the prairie in the 1850s on a piece of land they purchased, platted, and sold off lots to other settlers who patronized their businesses. There was nothing around Columbus in the 1850s, not even farms. In other words, the city didn't develop from the local need but because of some newcomers' development plans.
    • There were still farms on the northern part of Manhattan Island in the 1870s, around what is now Harlem. Horse-cars didn't travel so far from the "city center", so there wasn't any mass transit or any public water or sewer. When developers came in, they put in the sewers and water lines and hooked into the city ones further south. As the population grew, the horse-cars (and later the electric street cars) extended their routes.
    • In the 1890s, Bethlehem Steel Corp started building its huge steel plant just south of the Buffalo city line, which created the suburban city of Lackawanna.
    • Some time between WW I and WW II, the Buffalo Airport was created in what is now suburban Cheektowaga. At the time, it was just farm fields and pastures. Where else was an airport going to be built? Not in downtown. Not in Buffalo or any other city. During WW II, Curtiss-Wright Corp built manufacturing facilities around the airport (CW built airplanes for those who don't know) as did other manufacturers. Their workers needed housing and gasoline was rationed. The oldest part of suburban Cheektowaga was born. Some of that barracks-like housing still exists in Cheektowaga.

    The problem with just looking at what's there now and making broad indictments of corporate America or suburban governments is that it's simply not true. It also fails to look at the ways that central cities contributed to their own decline, namely, their rampant governmental corruption and their complicity, at least in the Great Lakes area, with their white citizens' rather overt racism. In many ways, city governments pushed people out.

  4. #79
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post

    The problem with just looking at what's there now and making broad indictments of corporate America or suburban governments is that it's simply not true. It also fails to look at the ways that central cities contributed to their own decline, namely, their rampant governmental corruption and their complicity, at least in the Great Lakes area, with their white citizens' rather overt racism. In many ways, city governments pushed people out.
    During the height of the urban renewal era, the planned displacement of people was immense. Gary Indiana planned to displace 40,000 people at a time its total population was just 180,000. New York City's plans called for the removal of 500,000 families. These plans didn't count those displaced for highways. Its no wonder so many cities lost population in this era.

  5. #80
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Don't forget, too, that there were things foisted onto major cities from above (ie, federal courts imposing mandatory cross-city school busing for 'desegregation') that also sent middle and working-class families fleeing to the newer suburbs in droves.

    The past-WWII decades up to the late 1970s/early 1980s were indeed chocked full of really bad things for cities.

    Mike

  6. #81
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Don't forget, too, that there were things foisted onto major cities from above (ie, federal courts imposing mandatory cross-city school busing for 'desegregation') that also sent middle and working-class families fleeing to the newer suburbs in droves.

    The past-WWII decades up to the late 1970s/early 1980s were indeed chocked full of really bad things for cities.

    Mike
    I could be very wrong, (and the issue of busing most likely deserves its own thread), but busing did not really begin until after 1971 when the Supreme Court ruled that cross city busing was constitutional in a court case concerning Charlotte, NC. Boston, for example, did not begin its busing until 1974. Prior to that time, segregated schools were ruled illegal, but little action was required except to end the practice of drawing school boundaries that reinforced busing.

    But the flight out of cities began much earlier than busing and was in full swing by 1960.

  7. #82
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    During the height of the urban renewal era, the planned displacement of people was immense. Gary Indiana planned to displace 40,000 people at a time its total population was just 180,000. New York City's plans called for the removal of 500,000 families. These plans didn't count those displaced for highways. Its no wonder so many cities lost population in this era.
    One of the major grievances that Buffalo "boosters" have against the city's suburbs is the fact that NYS decided to build a new campus for SUNY at Buffalo in Amherst instead of within the city. What these folks ignore (or don't realize) is that 1) the city leaders rejected the university's plan to build the new campus on a city-owned golf course across the street from the existing campus
    2) the location where the city wanted to build the new city campus would have resulted in displacing at least 20,000 people and leveled what is today one of the city's most historic and desirable neighborhoods: Allentown.

    Not all of Buffalo's many problems were of their own making, but many were. I'm sure that that is true in just about every city. There wasn't some evil conspiracy among suburban leaders to destroy American cities. As with most large scale migrations, there wasn't just a single cause. There were pulls from the suburbs as well as pushes from the cities, and I'm sure that these were different for different urban areas.

  8. #83
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    One of the major grievances that Buffalo "boosters" have against the city's suburbs is the fact that NYS decided to build a new campus for SUNY at Buffalo in Amherst instead of within the city. What these folks ignore (or don't realize) is that 1) the city leaders rejected the university's plan to build the new campus on a city-owned golf course across the street from the existing campus
    2) the location where the city wanted to build the new city campus would have resulted in displacing at least 20,000 people and leveled what is today one of the city's most historic and desirable neighborhoods: Allentown.
    This is a blatantly false statement. The University was never proposed for Allentown. It was proposed for teh waterfront which was at that time a barren wasteland.



    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    all of Buffalo's many problems were of their own making, but many were. I'm sure that that is true in just about every city. There wasn't some evil conspiracy among suburban leaders to destroy American cities. As with most large scale migrations, there wasn't just a single cause. There were pulls from the suburbs as well as pushes from the cities, and I'm sure that these were different for different urban areas.
    Who cares. Suburban spralw is a very noxious and destructve thing

    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    IMO, you started this thread so that you could bash planners who don't subscribe to your own narrow ideas.

    The historical fact is that sprawl existed in the US long before there were automobiles. Deal with it.
    What do you mean by "Deal with it"? What does that mean? As to my "narrow Ideas" what does that mean as well? Based on the responses its seems most palnners on here do not like sprawl. Why do you like it so much? Could your infatuation with sprawl be described as a narrow idea?
    Last edited by Gedunker; 22 Feb 2010 at 8:14 AM. Reason: Seq. posts

  9. #84
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    I agree with Jim Plans that sprawl is building on rural or agricultural land, and even building outside of urban boundaries.

    Most of California is urban sprawl. From my understanding, sprawl was only possible by urban cores outside of big cities to spread out. In California, the expansions of more CSUs in rural areas helped this greatly. Also prisons, hospitals, larger agricultural industry, wineries, and local businesses helped bring this about. Also, stated in the article I posted suburbs became more desirable as common amneties in cities can be found outside of high-density urban cities now such as art galleries, diversity in suburbs, and more shopping options in the suburbs.

    I have only lived in California, so I can only talk about what has happened here. I would guess though that many rural areas have been built out and the traditional rural area can now be considered suburban. Stated by the Census, rural is 0-999 ppl per square mile. Rural used to be considered 0-40 ppl per square mile or as one of my teachers stated it when you can't see one house from the next one down.

    The USA has become so populated by immigrants because we no longer have the baby boomer generation having a bunch of kids. From, this we tend to see more small suburban homes in sprawl area. There are still some that prefer cities like non-families, minorities, ones looking for cheap housing, and for better economic oppurtunity.

  10. #85
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    I blame the zoning

    Yeah, we've probably beat the issue to a pulp, let it get back on its feet, and then beat it up again over the years, but the debate continues. Here's an entertaining take on it: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010...te-control.php
    I especially like the frames and commentary from "Its a Wonderful Life".
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  11. #86
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    Sprawl equals more jobs for mediocre and incompetent planners

    I have found that mediocre and incompetent planners LOVE sprawl -- and they either work for big mega-developers who profit from sprawl, or they are hired by town officials whose political fotrunes are tied to fortune of sprawl-mongers.

    In the last 2 places where I lived, places where I was attracted by vast swaths of green undeveloped land -- the land eventually became zoned to give a boost to moneyed tract-home developers and gradually fell victim to "communities" of McMansions without sidewalks.

    Did the town planners care? Not at all -- They were secure in their jobs and were too busy enjoying the perks of being on the good side of the developers rather than focusing on safe paths to schools and denying mega-developers their proposals to convert green space into suburbia.

  12. #87
    What does the APA say and do about sprawl?

  13. #88
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by townncountry View post
    I have found that mediocre and incompetent planners LOVE sprawl -- and they either work for big mega-developers who profit from sprawl, or they are hired by town officials whose political fotrunes are tied to fortune of sprawl-mongers.

    In the last 2 places where I lived, places where I was attracted by vast swaths of green undeveloped land -- the land eventually became zoned to give a boost to moneyed tract-home developers and gradually fell victim to "communities" of McMansions without sidewalks.

    Did the town planners care? Not at all -- They were secure in their jobs and were too busy enjoying the perks of being on the good side of the developers rather than focusing on safe paths to schools and denying mega-developers their proposals to convert green space into suburbia.
    If these communities had "vast swaths of green undeveloped land", where did you live? If you weren't a farmer but somebody who chose to live on a small plot of land in the country and work in town, then how are you "better" than the people who live in subdivisions whether those subdivisions have large houses or small ones? You contribute to sprawl just like the people who buy "McMansions". Moreover, I don't think you'll find many sidewalks in communities with "vast swaths of green undeveloped land".

    How do you feel about agricultural subsidies? How do you feel about state/local governments buying develop rights to farmland and/or timber lands? How do you feel about living down-wind of a large dairy farm? A big reason that "vast swaths of green undeveloped land" get turned into subdivisions is that
    • farmers/ranchers can't make a decent living and quit farming or ranching
    • children of farmers/ranchers can't see a future for themselves in farming/ranching
    • farmers/ranchers can't afford to pay taxes on their property, especially when their property is close to/part of a large and growing metro
    • farmers/ranchers can sell their land to developers for a whole lot more than they can make farming/ranching
    • farmers/ranchers get tired of people who buy a two acre lot in the middle of farm country and then complain about farming practices (like spreading manure or harvesting late into the night), so they sell out to developers.

    If your "vast swaths of green undeveloped land" aren't being farmed, then that land was probably bought by a speculator/developer from a farmer/rancher long before you ever moved in. If you want to maintain "vast swaths of green undeveloped land", then you need to buy some and do it yourself -- or convince your town to buy the developmental rights to undeveloped property or buy it outright. In any of these scenarios, if you want to maintain green space, then it's going to cost you some $$$ in order to do that.

  14. #89
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel View post
    What does the APA say and do about sprawl?
    AICP Ethics say nothing about sprawl.

    Linda, I have always found it interesting when folks consider farms to be un-developed. It takes a lot of work to clear land, put in the additional ditches that are needed, and havest stuff that has an economic benefit to someone. Maybe by green undeveloped land he means national parks?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #90
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    townncountry I'm not as inclined as Linda to point out how ridiculous your story sounds (whether I agree with sprawl or not) but on behalf of the town planners you disparage as being "on the good side of the developer" let me take a moment to educate you: NOBODY EVER BECAME OR STAYED A CITY PLANNER FOR THE PERKS. To suggest that there are perks for being on the developer's "good side" is, at best, a serious accusation - and I for one have already dismissed it and you.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  16. #91
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    AICP Ethics say nothing about sprawl.

    Linda, I have always found it interesting when folks consider farms to be un-developed. It takes a lot of work to clear land, put in the additional ditches that are needed, and havest stuff that has an economic benefit to someone. Maybe by green undeveloped land he means national parks?
    I'm not some "property rights" radical, but I get agitated over this. I come from a farming family, although none of us farm any more. I still own the land my parents farmed, and one of my cousins owns the land my grandparents farmed. My cousin and I want to keep our lands in our families, but we aren't millionaires, so maybe we may have to sell some it to afford to keep the bulk of it. Our right to do so shouldn't be restricted by other people's desire to maintain their bucolic vistas.

    There are a lot of people who whine and complain about sprawl but they're unwilling to pay the price to keep land together in large parcels. One price would be to restrict subdivisions of land, possibly allowing only 1 or 2 subdivisions, and only to family members or only allowing subdivision into lots of 10 or 20 acres. That means that it would probably make it difficult for most middle class people to move to the country or even have a cottage in the country. Another price would be supporting agriculture/logging with lower tax rates for land actually used for farming or logging. A third price would be for the federal or state or county to actually purchase land to establish national, state or county forests (we have all three in NW PA and SW NY). These last two, of course, would raise taxes on residential properties.

    On the national and state levels, there certainly needs to be more done to keep family-owned farms and ranches in business and to help them thrive. I'm not an expert in this, but the programs now in place aren't working as the shrinking number of farms and farm acreage attests. If you want to save farmland from sprawl, then farmers have to be able to make a decent living, especially on their farms in and near metro areas.

  17. #92
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    Planners want to end sprawl because we are visionaries. Engineers want to continue sprawl. At a recent meeting of the minds, us transportation planners figured that engineers are in their own little worlds and can't think outside of their ITE manual. Programs, traffic counts, etc combine buses as part of the traffic. Ask them to include transit trips in their models for potential traffic in a subdivision and see what they say. Unless someone will dispute that, then that is the truth.

    An article in the Toronto Star http://www.thestar.com/comment/colum...article/560992, which defended planners and chastised engineers for the work they do in the city. A response was placed by the exec director of the ITE branch here in Toronto.

    So I wonder what everyone thinks of that?

  18. #93
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I'll bite. That we live on different planets than engineers is not a new thought, and it's absolutely true. However, don't you think that simply saying that "planner's want to end sprawl and engineers want to continue sprawl" is maybe oversimplifying the concept of sprawl and the reasons behind it? I think it's a mistake to simply label the enemy. As a planner, I want to speak FOR ideas: livability, community orientation, vibrancy, choice, connectivity, etc. I don't want to be relegated to being one of "those guys" who hates cars and thinks he's really deep and interesting. I'll leave that to the posers.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  19. #94
    Cyburbian kw5280's avatar
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    I'm pretty much along the same line as ursus. As planners we should not have agendas such as ending sprawl. We should use our knowledge and put it into action when appropriate. If a community is looking for a solution to sprawl then we provide one. Our weapon is the master plan and there are not any rules that say what we write in a master plan has to conform to ITE or any other specification. It is merely an analysis of what exists and a vision for what the community wants in the future. As ursus suggested, we speak for ideas we know work based upon previous experience and we use examples to solidify those ideas.

  20. #95
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    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    I'll bite. That we live on different planets than engineers is not a new thought, and it's absolutely true. However, don't you think that simply saying that "planner's want to end sprawl and engineers want to continue sprawl" is maybe oversimplifying the concept of sprawl and the reasons behind it? I think it's a mistake to simply label the enemy. As a planner, I want to speak FOR ideas: livability, community orientation, vibrancy, choice, connectivity, etc. I don't want to be relegated to being one of "those guys" who hates cars and thinks he's really deep and interesting. I'll leave that to the posers.
    Look. I'm a realist. We live in a world of cars and we are trying to squeezing walking, cycling and transit into it. So it's called sustainable transportation, TDM strategies or whatever the like. We also know that it's true that engineers live in their own world when it comes to analysis paralysis. Transit is always an afterthought when building communities/subdivisions. Then what about the greedy developers? So how can we all get along without fingerpointing? Someone tell me when there is the reality of how some communities still are geared towards the car.

  21. #96
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by andreplanner View post
    Transit is always an afterthought when building communities/subdivisions. Then what about the greedy developers? So how can we all get along without fingerpointing? Someone tell me when there is the reality of how some communities still are geared towards the car.
    Don't you start to see progress, though? We have a whole vibrant community growing (albeit at the fringe of the urban center) at the end of a light rail spur in Utah...planned by a greedy developer, not the public entity (I'm still trying to recover from the shock). It's not perfect, in fact it looks a little "sprawlish" out there, but it's been planned for mixed uses and to be served by that transit line. All we have to do as planners is continue to advocate the leading edges of thinking. I don't want to sound Pollyanna-ish, but I see it working I think.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  22. #97
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    Well I am going to be working for a city that is planning extensively for LRT expansion and TOD around stations. Whereas I am leaving a city that has a lack of initiative and innovative thinking. It's making me wonder.

  23. #98
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    3553'14.69"N 7844'12.56"W google earth

    the above are some coordinates of a neighborhood in raleigh-durham nc

    it is about 1 mile by .75 mile in dimensions.

    a rough count is about 350 or houses with a number or row-house/plexes mixed into the neighborhood. it looks like what i have read described as sprawl.

    it sits just off of a busy us hwy 70. it surrounds a good size grocer with the i guess usual chinese take out, pizza place and i believe a pub.

    the neighborhood is likely a 5 or so mile (often busy) drive to major research triangle employers. if i recall, walking in quite setting is limited to this neighborhood. while a large state park is about a tenth of a mile up the hwy i dont believe one can easily walk up us 70 and cross over to the park.

    so while basic services are within less than a half mile walk/bike for most
    large state park likely would require a car trip (though short) and and few mile (3 or 4 maybe) drive back into raleigh for movies, additional eateries.

    for the car complaint sector (if they are legitmately concerned about less car dependency) this area seems to require more car use than many others. but that may change over time as stuff fills in more.

    a nice city park lake is about 1.5 mi in a strait line from the neighbor hood but i believe tree barriers and bordering cul de sacs blocck any path acces to this area...that is one issue that i thought was a negative about the placement and nearby planning.

    i beleive some regonal transit may go near this area but not so much as to reduce ant traffic impact at all.

    as this area is sandwiched between raleigh and durham i cant say that any great amount of surrounding wilderness was removed....due to the large nearby state forest acroos teh us highway
    check coordinates for viewing.

  24. #99
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    I think sprawl is due to the lifestyle alot of americans/canadians live.

    People like to have green lawns, black driveways to park there two cars, and like having to drive everywhere to get anywhere!(that I don't understand why people like to live in suburbs)

    I personally Hate sprawl. I am an enviromentalist, and I also hate seeing more and more farm land being excavated for homes... as farmer do feed cities. I like being able to walk to the store, work and to the nearest rapid transit station. Where i lived as a kid this was possible... but the walk would consume half your day lol.

    I would prefer a few BIG business/commercial centers in a city instead of several dozen... like in the case of Ottawa. These Business centers would be connected via a direct route rapid transit system... that is my perfect city.

  25. #100
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    I'm not sure I have my thoughts on the subject completely straight in my own head... but I'm hoping that writing stuff down here will help.

    First of all, to those who think the question is moot because planners don't/can't make policy or laws: I think that viewpoint is blatently wrong. Sure, we're not the ones who ultimately put in a vote for a policy. However, we do the background research, and we provide the recommendations. Politicians are certainly free to ignore our recommendations, but a planner who understands the political system is able to spin their recommendations in whatever way is necessary to make them politically palatable. Politicians have pretty transparent aspirations and goals; it's not that hard to play to them to influence decisions. Wheteher we should or not is a question I'll leave for a later day.

    As for the question of sprawl... personally, I'd like to see less of it. There's just so much inefficiency in sprawl; I can't see how we can continue building it to the degree we are now. And while there are many people who yearn to live in a McMansion, I believe there are many more who would love to get away from them and ditch the 45 minute commute. Unfortunately, for most people there isn't a choice. Our current system is structured so that anyone who isn't a bajillionaire and wants more than a one bedroom condo has to buy 45 minutes outside of town. People can only live where they can afford, and unfortunately our mortgage system doesn't take into account the thousands of dollars spent on gas when evaluating affordability. People themselves are also incedibly illogical when it comes to money. For some reason we much prefer smaller, continual costs over larger capital costs even if it costs more in the long run.

    So how do we stop sprawl? I'm not 100% sure. I'm pretty sure greenbelts aren't the answer. They only ensure that the city is too expensive for most people, thus causing them to live even further away outside the belt. I think the answer lies somewhere with building more housing options closer to the city, and doing it in ways that is most efficient in terms of cost.

    I'm not sure that I've said exactly what I want to say yet... I think I'll have to stew on this for a while and follow it up later.

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