This category contains 12 posts


A few thoughts on awarding public incentives for the Alamo Manhattan project in Oak Cliff:

  • The risk of developing property in North Oak Cliff is less now than it has been in decades.
  • The scale of real estate development should take its signals from the marketplace.
  • Public monetary incentives for developers can distort the marketplace and inflate expectations for future growth.
  • Public incentives impact every project built after the one that gets public money.
  • Public incentives can be helpful when they focus on direct improvements to common spaces and infrastructure, and support community values.
  • We must look closely at how public incentive deals are structured and enforce the outcomes promised by the developer.

The City of Dallas uses a variety of public financial incentives to promote real estate development in areas of town considered risky.  Neighborhoods and commercial corridors in North Oak Cliff, for the most part, have benefited from these past incentives.  Active shops, restaurants and homes along Bishop Avenue, West Davis Street, Beckley Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard are leading the way as destinations for residents and visitors. Buzz in these areas gives us all confidence that these changes are part of a success story.  There are clear signs of enthusiasm for investing in North Oak Cliff.  So, we must ask ourselves is it still too risky for private developers to invest in North Oak Cliff without incentives to achieve community growth goals?

Alamo Manhattan’s proposal for its project in North Oak Cliff is designed on a grand, contemporary footprint. It makes us wonder if there is a point when incentives can lead to inappropriately large development projects. The Alamo Manhattan development vision gives us an idea of what is possible with access to $11 million in public incentives.  In reviewing this proposal, we should compare it to what a project might look like with public funds half of this amount, or with just enough public funds to repair the sidewalks and replace the sewer lines, or with no public funds at all.  We need to see and think about how much the incentive package is influencing Alamo Manhattan’s proposal.

Giving public incentives to developers for a project elevates development expectations in the entire community.  The price of land will increase, and will increase based on elevated and distorted market conditions provided by the public funds, not based on true market conditions. The result will be an environment and market that is more difficult for smaller-scale, local development.  Case-in-point today is how many small-scale development projects are now found in Uptown?

Public incentives can be helpful to make development attractive in less desireable communities.  Is North Oak Cliff having difficulty attracting development today?  Over the last 20 years, North Oak Cliff evolved organically with cornerstone public investment in utilities and infrastructure, and smaller developers using mostly existing structures along Davis, Bishop Arts, and Beckley without public incentives.

Many residents want to see the momentum continue, but we also must think about what happens when we exhaust the supply of legacy structures.  It is important to recognize that our future will require new and updated infrastructure and a greater supply of housing to support our new streetcar line and an urban, walkable core where people of all ages can work and enjoy a nice quality of life.

We have a tool chest to help with improvements and they should focus on water, sewage, streetscape and utility improvements, as well as reflect our community’s values like LEED certification, transit oriented design, and better building materials.

Finally, we must look closely at how public incentive deals are structured and enforce the outcomes promised by the developers.  Public/private partnerships get complicated by the ways real estate developers and financiers structure partnerships and payouts.  Public incentives should not be bundled into aggressive management fees and quick exit strategies that primarily benefit developers and bankers.

We can welcome a new generation of residents in North Oak Cliff.  The area offers plenty of space and a deep zoning framework for different types of dwellings and commercial structures.   Public incentives are a great tool for sparking growth and promoting community values, and we must stand strong to guard our values and tax resources.  We must be courageous enough to walk away to protect our long-term goals.

Corporate Site for Alamo Manhattan | Griggs on Alamo Manhattan | Petition Against the Project

Posted by Michael & Beverly Mendoza


It’s Spring in the Oak Cliff Gateway

The latest draft of the Oak Cliff Gateway ordinance and supporting exhibits are available to review.  [Oak Cliff Gateway Special Purpose District]

This draft serves as the basis for the April 22 City Council public hearing.  Getting to this point is a remarkable achievement.  At nearly 800 acres, the area covered by the ordinance represents one of the largest zoning cases the City of Dallas has ever reviewed.  The ordinance is informed by contributions from neighborhoods, commercial stakeholders and professional planners.  I am grateful for the time so many people have invested to open the Gateway to additional neighbors, businesses and local retailers.  By coincidence, earlier this month The Economist published several articles on how poor land use in some of the world’s greatest cities carries a huge costs.   Two policies, restricting land use and taxing property rather than land, appear to create wasteful scenarios in most cities.  While Dallas is no exception we should be encouraged.  The changes proposed in this ordinance give land in the Gateway a better chance of being more productive and serving the citizens of Dallas in better ways.

Michael A. Mendoza




LCNA seeks benefits of “granny flats” in the Gateway


Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) – also known as “granny flats”, “mother-in-law apartments” or “alley flats” – have received significant attention nationwide in recent years, alongside conversations about the lack of affordable housing options for renters, aging Boomers, and homeowners in growing urban areas.


The City of Dallas does not generally allow ADUs but citizens in Oak Cliff have petitioned The Office Sustainable Development and Construction and the Dallas City Plan Commission for an amendment to our current zoning code ordinances (PD 468) that would establish regulations for ADUs and make them allowed.  This amendment would be included in the ordinance presently under consideration for the rezoning of the Oak Cliff Gateway.


What is an ADU?


The definition of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) can vary by community. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington states that ADUs are most commonly defined as “a self-contained living unit created within or detached from a single-family dwelling.” Many city ordinances highlight the existence of separate cooking, sleeping, and sanitation facilities as distinguishing ADU features. Within their definition, accessory dwellings allow a homeowner to add an accessory dwelling unit on a property with an existing or proposed single-family home in the form of a detached, attached, or interior dwelling with a separate entrance.


BENEFITS of an ADU ordinance amendment


Within the past few decades, more and more municipalities across the country have been adopting standards to allow or encourage the construction of ADUs. Commonly-cited examples include Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Denver, and Savannah.  Communities are looking to ADUs to help make progress toward a variety of community goals, including:


• Allowing seniors to age-in-place or live near relatives as their housing needs shrink.

• Improving affordability in a tight rental market.

• Accommodating the demand for growth without disturbing existing neighborhood character or contributing to sprawl.

• Generating income for homeowners to help finance housing costs and improvements to their homes.

• Diversifying housing stock and provide greater opportunity for single-person households to live in low-density residential areas.

• Improving walkability with access to local commercial and public/institutional uses.


This post was drafted with language and definitions provided by The City of Minneapolis’ Department of Community Planning & Economic Development.

Posted by Michael A. Mendoza

Gateway: The proposal is not ready

Earlier this week I attended a briefing on the Oak Cliff Gateway hosted by the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League (OOCCL).  The gathering was well attended by stakeholders from across North Oak Cliff and specifically from the neighborhoods we know as Kidd Springs, East Kessler and Lake Cliff.  During the briefing city staff delivered their latest version of recommendations on changing the zoning ordinance for the Oak Cliff Gateway.  The presentation was adequate and the dialogue was open and often direct.   Staff are in favor of adopting form based zoning and utilizing Article XIII (Form Based Code) as the framework for the ordinance.  You can find the proposal here >>


The recommendations drafted by city staff are not well received.  Yes, this is a huge area.  It is difficult to please everyone but we have been attending meetings and sharing ideas for a long time. The proposal we have today feels mostly imposed rather than inspired or informed by the decade of conversation of which many of us have been participants.  The meeting concluded with representatives from each neighborhood association stating that they will not support the current version of recommendations.  Subsequently, I received a note from the OOCCL stating they will not support the proposed ordinance either.   Residents and property owners in the area recently received our blue voting affidavits from the city secretary asking us to support or protest the recommendations.  I informed the group that my recommendation to LCNA would be to vote against current staff proposal and to ask the City Plan Commission to amend the proposed ordinance with changes that I believe better serve the Gateway.


In reality the ordinance is a moving target.  It will change between today, next week during the CPC hearing and into August as it goes to City Council.  Voting no does not mean one is against idea of a zoning change.  This vote simply informs CPC, staff and City Council that one is not pleased or convinced with staff recommendations.  Councilman Scott Griggs suggested that we vote on how we see the proposed plan and then follow up by informing CPC and staff with specifics on what we would like to see changed.  The basis for my decision follows:

Lake Cliff


I believe Article XIII appears to do a good job of regulating towers to protect view corridors – it encourages spacing, narrow towers and it regulates against towers that create walls .  While I have not seen a map or a dramatization, I think the view corridors from historic Lake Cliff Park to the CBD skyline are protected while allowing for the possibility of tower development along the Trinity River Levee from Marsalis to I-35.  I am disappointed to see that the form based sub-districts presented by staff offer a prescription of little change for Lake Cliff – single family homes remain the only new structures allowed west of Marsalis.  Staff overlooks the variety of building types in Lake Cliff and sees the neighborhood as single-family residential.  Staff drafts the corridors of Ewing and Lancaster as residential with a three-story maximum.  I disagree with both of these recommendations.  The maximum heights along east side of Marsalis and on both sides of Lancaster and Ewing should be increased.  I ask for the activation of garage apartments as a residential use and language allowing for limited commercial opportunities along Marsalis and Beckley Avenues.


East Kessler to the Trinity River Levee


Staff’s recommendations reduce the higher densities and heights along most of the Trinity River Levee.  The draft presented does offer mixed uses but it restricts heights to eight floors.  I disagree with this recommendation.  The area between East Kessler and WMU-8 should have some type of height buffer as proposed in the Gateway Committee recommendations.   Article XIII appears to do a good job of regulating towers to protect view corridors so I don’t see why the zoning on the east side of beckley should have a maximum height of 8 floors.  Additionally, I think all heights above 8 stories should be tied to development triggers.  For example:  a structure with 10 stories would offer additional open space adjacent to the street, 15 – 20 stories might trigger open space and greater retail space.


Methodist Hospital Expansion Area


The hospital has assembled land across Beckley Avenue.  One of these parcels is presently in use as surface parking.  For these properties staff suggests retaining the 20-story height maximum.  Staff suggests reducing the maximum heights down to 12 and 5 stories south of Greenbrier and along Zang Boulevard north of the 7-11.  I don’t see the benefit of creating a policy that creates a valley between properties located along the levee and Beckley Avenue.   Additionally, I think all heights above 8 stories should be tied to development triggers.  For example:  a structure with 10 stories would offer additional open space adjacent to the street, 15 – 20 stories might trigger open space and greater retail space.


Madison, Beckley, Ballard Triangle


Staff recommends RTN (Residential Transition Neighborhood) category for the north side of Ballard.  I disagree with staff and agree with those that see situations of limited commercial use for the homes on Ballard – shops, galleries, live-work spaces.


Zang Boulevard between Beckley Avenue and 8th Street


I am confident that the streetcar will extend to the Bishop Arts District and the corridor for this expansion is Zang.  The zoning categories in this corridor should allow for greater densities and a variety of uses.  I think both sides of Zang could accommodate greater densities.  Staff is recommending heights up to 5 stories on the east side of Zang and up to three stories on the west side of Zang.  The regulations imposed by a Residential Proximity Slope (RPS) make these recommendations misleading and arbitrary.  It would benefit everyone if we were able to see elevations depicting how the RPS would influence development on both sides of Zang.


Neely Street and Beckley Avenue


Staff is recommending up to three stories with shop fronts for the properties north of 8th street.  I agree with this recommendation.  However, the northern boundary of the subdistrict jigs up and down as it follows the plat lines for the first and second properties north of 8th street.  This line drops arbitrarily along Neely between Beckley and Patton.  Why?



Most of us are not expert at writing zoning ordinances but we do notice even subtle differences in built environments favoring vehicles and prescribed uses rather than open spaces and approachable structures and mixed uses.  I am simply asking staff and the city plan commission to find a way to accommodate our desires during this unique and long-awaited opportunity to make a difference in future of the Oak Cliff Gateway.  You can express your opinion by sending a note to Mike Anglin and or all planning commissioners.


Mailto: Mike Anglin, Commissioner, City Plan Commission, 1500 Marilla Street, 5BN, Dallas, Texas 75201,

Posted by Michael A. Mendoza

District I Candidate Forum Reveals Challenges for Gateway Rezoning

Since April 2012, when the Oak Cliff Gateway Advisory Committee conveyed its recommendation to the folks at Dallas City Hall, our civil and elected officials have not demonstrated a sense of urgency to complete a zoning case that will lay the groundwork for millions in city tax revenues along the Trinity River Corridor, offers opportunity to protect several established neighborhoods, and establishes a framework for better living amenities and a desirable quality of life in a diverse, urban setting.

Land use and zoning discussions in the Oak Cliff Gateway area have been going on far too long.  These open ended discussions hurt our community.  After months of inquiry and prodding we are not much further along than when the land use study was adopted in 2009.  Why has dialog and momentum been allowed to stall?  Where is the leadership behind this case?  Earlier this week, during a candidate forum for District 1 at Tyler Street Methodist Church, the answer may have started to unfold.

I asked both candidates the same question: “Why do city staff members continue delaying action on the Oak Cliff Gateway zoning case?  Do you have an update?”

Councilperson Delia Jasso responded that the case is moving along.   She stated that she had been briefed on this case a few days earlier.  Jasso said a new staffer has been hired to manage the process.  She also stated that stakeholders would need to assemble again because the advisory committee made some last minute changes that need to be reconciled.  “We are working to get it through the process,” she said, and ended her statement with a seemingly dismissive wave.

A closer look:  Most of her statement is true.  While the Gateway Advisory Committee has not met since March 2012, a few members have continued to press on getting the case on the City Plan Commission agenda.  We began inquiring directly to staff members, administrators, the city manager, and the mayor’s office.  A backlog of zoning cases and a shortage of staff were cited as reasons for the delay.  After some prompting, a solution came forth from Councilman Griggs and Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans to allocate special funds for a temporary hire to review and manage the Gateway Zoning case – someone with experience, who would not take too long to get up to speed on the case.  On the matter of “last minute” changes to the recommendations, well this is untrue.  The recommendations were finalized in March 2012 and shared with the city staff for review, reconciliation and completion.  As of April 2012, this zoning case remains in an inbox at city hall.

I also asked Councilman Scott Griggs the same question.  His response was markedly different.  “The short answer”, he said, “is this zoning case should have been done months ago.”  He informed us that city staff tends to back off when a project or issue affecting two districts is not a priority shared by both council persons.  He told us that he is in favor zoning changes in the Gateway and that he has pushed for the case at every opportunity.  Griggs said that he is in favor and in a hurry because residents are dragged into too many one-off, single purpose zoning cases.  He reminded us that within months we will see the arrival of a streetcar.  He highlighted the fact that institutional investors (Trammell Crow Co., for example) have started to acquire and develop property along the river levee.  Griggs spoke about how it is important to prepare the Gateway for new development and to have a framework in place to protect existing neighborhoods.

A closer look:  Indeed, Griggs has demonstrated more than a casual interest in the Gateway zoning effort.  He attended several Gateway Advisory Committee meetings and he setup a consultation with the team at the City Design Studio for ideas on open space, development incentives and street grids.  Griggs also continued to work on public amenities like the bike path on the Jefferson Bridge and the expansion of the streetcar line presently under construction across the Houston Street viaduct.  Griggs appears more active in seeking solutions to go forward rather than accepting staff’s dithering pace.

Keep in mind that a zoning case, like any other public issue, needs a champion.  In most zoning cases, these champions arrive in the form of paying customers – property owners and their representatives seeking to change development rights.  Champions for this type of zoning change come from political leadership.

The Gateway Advisory Committee is a classic, community-based, grassroots effort.  While it was initially assembled by city councilmembers Delia Jasso and Dave Neumann, the advisory committee raised its own funds, hired a respected planning team (Good Fulton & Farrell) and initiated community involvement to assemble a set of recommendations for the zoning ordinance.  This work was informed by base maps and the land use plan passed by the Dallas City Council in 2009.  After months of dialog with residents, neighborhood associations and other stakeholders, the advisory group chose to draft its recommendations within the framework of the city’s form-based zoning ordinance known as Article XIII.   The process of developing these recommendations is very well documented on the Oak Cliff Gateway blog (  Nothing has been added or changed to the recommendations since March 2012.

Post by Michael A. Mendoza

Low Income Housing Program Recommended for North Oak Cliff

The housing office at Dallas City Hall has a revitalization plan for a section of North Oak Cliff.  I think we all agree on the City’s objectives: address blight, improve the quality of housing and stimulate investment.  How we get there is up for debate.  The City’s plan involves designating land east of Marsalis as a neighborhood supported by Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).  Representing the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, Bob Stimson sent the Dallas City Council a letter asking our policy makers to reconsider this recommendation.   >> OCC Letter  Leveraging housing tax credits has been a part of the urban policy maker’s tool chest for decades.  They are relatively easy and convenient to administer.  The briefing package prepared on the matter even states that there is no cost consideration to City.  While there may not be a budget outlay, these policies can inflict a price in other ways – stigma, land values, and economic segregation.  The City’s briefing document does not offer examples of successful LIHTC programs but it does offer a good SWOT analysis on North Oak Cliff.  I agree with the conclusion.  The area’s greatest threats include current zoning.  >> City Council Briefing pg. 12

Council persons Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs will cast a vote on this item tomorrow, December 12.  Let them know what you think about allowing another section of North Oak Cliff to qualify for Low Income Tax Credit Housing and remind them that the area’s zoning remains one of the biggest barriers to redevelopment.

Contact:  Delia Jasso 214 670 4052 or Scott Griggs 214 670 0776 or

Posted by Michael A. Mendoza

Tim Herfel: Where is City Hall on the Oak Cliff Gateway?

Dallas Morning News Opinions – Published: 29 November 2012 08:46 PM

Dallas City Hall Briefing Horseshoe

Does it have to be this difficult? For five years, the city of Dallas has struggled to enact a zoning ordinance for the Oak Cliff Gateway, an area adjoining the residential area of East Kessler Park and bounded by Interstate 35E on the east, Interstate 30 on the north, Beckley Avenue and Zang Boulevard on the west, and Davis Avenue on the south. City leaders, in particular Mayor Mike Rawlings, have expressed enthusiasm about this area becoming a showcase for new urbanism redevelopment. That effort now seems to have been abandoned.

The Gateway has the potential to become a model of urban development, providing the same positive impact on north Oak Cliff that the Klyde Warren deck park is expected to have on Uptown and downtown. But under current haphazard zoning, developers can build on individual tracts without considering how each development affects the remainder of the Gateway and without providing assurance that the result will further the city’s espoused goal of enhancing inner-city livability.

City Hall invited East Kessler Park residents five years ago to provide their thoughts on the Gateway’s rezoning. Those comments were incorporated into a comprehensive land-use plan, of which the major aim was guiding development that emphasized walking and biking and minimized negative high-density impacts, such as traffic and parking, upon adjoining single-family neighborhoods.

However, in January 2010, when the land-use plan was officially adopted, city coffers were too depleted to afford the staffing necessary to translate the plan into a zoning ordinance governing development. To take up this slack, a Gateway steering committee of developers, community representatives, landowners and other local stakeholders formed in late 2010 to draft a zoning ordinance that would be submitted to the City Plan Commission for approval.

In March of this year, after more than a dozen steering committee meetings and two community meetings, the committee met to vote on a proposed ordinance. During that meeting, according to the steering committee’s minority report, the committee “experienced a heavy-handed campaign on the part of Methodist Hospital to invalidate neighborhood desires and to advance private agendas at the exclusion of promoting what is best for the area as a whole.”

In June, the city purported to take back control of the Gateway rezoning process. Since then, all has been quiet on the city front, so quiet that in mid-October the steering committee asked the mayor and City Council why it could not “get a straight answer on when a public hearing will find its way onto the agenda of the City Planning Commission. Is this case delayed, suppressed or forgotten?” No explanation has been provided.Dallas City Hall Briefing Room

In early November, Trammell Crow Residential announced a $19 million, four-story, 200-unit apartment project on nearly three acres of land near the Trinity Town Homes on East Greenbriar, with a healthy subsidy from the city. While it is fortunate that the Crow project isn’t some massive high-rise — something the current zoning would allow — it is troubling that the city approved this project in the face of the Gateway’s unresolved zoning issues.

Why have those five long years of community involvement and investment to appropriately rezone the Gateway disappeared into the black hole of bureaucracy? And why is the city willing to allow development on a case-by-case basis without regard to the Gateway as a whole? This is a troubling mystery, given that the foundation of the mayor’s GrowSouth plan is to strengthen and engage neighborhoods.

It’s critical that we get the Gateway zoning case posted on the Plan Commission agenda. Otherwise, a great opportunity for an Oak Cliff Gateway emphasizing “walkability” and “bikeability” will be irretrievably lost.

Tim Herfel is president of the East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association and may be contacted through

Link to Dallas Morning News >>

Statement of Minority on Gateway Complete Street Initiatives

Methodist: Lane reductions will cause failure of Beckley & Colorado

Sent Individually to Members of the Oak Cliff Gateway Steering Committee

March 1, 2012

Steering Committee:

While I understand the argument some have for wanting to reduce vehicular lanes on Beckley and Colorado, I just want to express one last time that the result would be detrimental to both Methodist Dallas Medical Center and others dependent on those streets. Thousands of patients, employees, physicians, and visitors, not to mention ambulances and emergency vehicles, depend on these routes to efficiently access our hospital with little disruption to our residential neighbors. A traffic study performed by Lee Engineering supports that with our new ER expansion and our plans for growth east of Beckley any lane reduction will cause failure of Beckley and Colorado for Methodist and for others who depend on those streets.

The good news is that there are viable alternatives to lane reductions. Methodist has and continues to be supportive of appropriately signed and shared bicycle/automobile lanes on Beckley. We believe that these lanes, combined with dedicated bicycle/pedestrian lanes on Greenbrier and Haines connecting to Colorado west of Methodist Dallas, are a reasonable compromise that allow for increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, while maintaining adequate vehicular lanes.  We see this as a win-win for a bike-friendly community and the hospital that supports it.  I hope the residents around Methodist Dallas will see it that way as well.

Please do not hesitate to call if I can provide any additional information. I sincerely appreciate your support and consideration as we work together for the betterment of the community we both treasure.

Thank you,

Stephen L. Mansfield, Ph.D., FACHE

President and CEO

Methodist Health System

Methodist Hospital…on changing traffic patterns along Beckley & Colorado

Steve Mansfield, President and CEO of Methodist Hospital System, responds to the East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association, and the Oak Cliff gateway Steering Committe, on the suggestions to change traffic patterns on Beckley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.  You can see the street proposals here >>


Letter to Oak Cliff Gateway Steering Committee:


 November 21, 2011

 Dear Christian and Oak Cliff Gateway Committee:

There are a couple assertions in the Oak Cliff Gateway Recommendation document (attached) from Timothy Herfel representing the East Kessler Neighborhood Association that I feel warrant some additional perspective for the consideration by the committee.

We at Methodist Health System cherish the neighborhoods around Methodist Dallas Medical Center and know they bring tremendous value to our area. We are certainly supportive of Oak Cliff Gateway changes that enhance our area. However, the reduction of lanes on Beckley Ave. from I-30 to

Colorado Blvd. and on Colorado Blvd from Bishop Ave. to I-35 would impede emergency vehicle traffic and cause additional traffic congestion.

By maintaining those lanes, the committee will not only minimize potential disruption of ambulance and other emergency traffic but will also accommodate the additional demand that would be essential to our, and other, planned developments in the zone east of Beckley Ave. and west of Zang Blvd.

In comparison, I would ask the committee to consider roadways surrounding other major hospitals in the Dallas area. Those that I visit most frequently do currently have lane numbers that appear comparable to Beckley. For instance, Harry Hines Blvd. which runs in front of Parkland and UTSW and Walnut Hill Rd. fronting Presbyterian-Dallas.

Methodist Health System encourages and supports healthy lifestyles for our employees and community. We have been recognized locally and nationally for being on the leading-edge for some of our employee health initiatives. We believe however, that it is possible to have a healthy lifestyle

without necessarily riding a bicycle on the main thoroughfares around Methodist Dallas. I am one of those people who cycles for my aerobic exercise. I’ve ridden thousands of miles through north Oak Cliff over the past five years without riding on Beckley (other than to cross over it).

The committee has a tough job trying to blend a multitude of perspectives, some of which are asynchronous. It is our hope that the committee can establish a plan that enhances the Oak Cliff Gateway but also maintains the current lanes around the Methodist Dallas Medical Center campus.

Thank you.

Stephen L. Mansfield, Ph.D., FACHE

President and CEO

Methodist Health System


Timothy Herfel

Laura Irvine

Scott Siemer

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