La Mesa/Mt. Helix

WELCOME, LA MESANS!

Our La Mesa section covers the communities of La Mesa and Mount Helix.  Click here to read some fascinating facts about La Mesa and Mt. Helix.  Click here for links to city services, activities, shopping, business groups, farmers’ market,  schools, library, hospital, service groups, theaters, transportation, utilities, weather and more in La Mesa.


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HOMELESS HOUSING PROPOSED AT HOLIDAY INN: LA MESA HOLDS SPECIAL MEETING MONDAY, SUPERVISORS REVOTE TUESDAY ON PROJECT PUSHED THROUGH WITHOUT NOTICE TO CITY OR RESIDENTS

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

File photo: cart at a homeless camp in Spring Valley

View background report provided to council members

September 17, 2020 (La Mesa) – The state and county want to convert a Holiday Inn in La Mesa to provide 139 units of transitional housing for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless due to COVID-19.  Supervisors initially approved an application to the state for the “Homekey” project on Sept. 15 with no prior notification to the city of La Mesa, residents or businesses nearby. 


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MEDICAL EXAMINER RELEASES NAMES OF EAST COUNTY CRASH VICTIMS AND BODY FOUND ON HIKING TRAIL

East County News Service
 
Photo: Kiana Taylor's Facebook, SDSU Class of 2020, tossing her graduation hat in May 2020
 
September 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The County Medical Examiner has released the identities of victims who lost their lives in several East County accidents over the past two weeks including two lives lost in a fiery multi-vehicle crash near La Mesa, a pedestrian killed in El Cajon, a missing Lake Morena camper found dead in Hauser Valley, a Borrego pickup truck driver killed in a rollover crash, and a motorcyclist who died at the scene of a crash in rural Alpine.
 
Kiana Taylor, 22, of Poway died September 11, 2020 after a vehicle fire resulting from a collision on Sept. 9 that occurred at the intersection of 70th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, on the border of La Mesa.  A vehicle entered the intersection and struck her vehicle, causing it to collide with other vehicles and catch fire. She was transported to UCSD Medical Center, where she died two days later of burns and abdominal blunt force injuries. 
 
Casey Diane Hargis, 22, of San Diego was a passenger in the same vehicle in the accident above when it was struck, pushed into other vehicles and burst into flames. After 911 was called, she was transported by paramedics to UCSD Medical Center and died the next day of vascular injuries from pelvic fractures.

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VIEW INTERVIEWS WITH LA MESA COUNCIL CANDIDATES KRISTINE ALESSIO AND LAURA LOTHIAN

By Miriam Raftery

September 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – ECM held ZOOM virtual interviews with La Mesa City Councilwoman Kristine Alessio and realtor Laura Lothian, who were unable to attend our candidate forum last week. The candidates discussed the major issues facing La Mesa including the city’s response to protests, housing and homeless, downtown redevelopment, help for local businesses, racial justice and policing and more. 


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2020 LA MESA CITY COUNCIL VIRTUAL CANDIDATE FORUM SEPT. 23 HOSTED BY METHODIST CHURCH

East County News Service

 
September 9, 2020 (La Mesa) - Six candidates. Two seats. Find out where La Mesa’s City Council candidates stand on important issues.

 

La Mesa First United Methodist Church will host a Virtual La Mesa City Council Candidate Forum on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, at 6:45 p.m. The forum will be held via Zoom and moderated by Pastor Christian DeMent.


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VIEW VIDEO OF LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view video of candidate forum full size, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH6GkbU9ayo&t=3085s

Note: You can now view separate video interviews with Councilwoman Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian, who were unable to attend the forum, here:  https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/view-interviews-la-mesa-council-candi...

September 6, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At East County Magazine's virtual forum for La Mesa City Council Candidates on Thursday, candidates offered their ideas for addressing the compelling issues facing the city including police/racial justice/public safety issues in the wake of protests and a riot, downtown redevelopment, housing, homelessness, budget priorities, COVID-19 relief and more.

Three of the six candidates running participated in the forum: Councilman Colin Parent, as well as challengers Allan Durden and Jack Shu. Mark Papenfuss said he had a family emergency but will schedule a Zoom interview soon. Laura Lothian and Kristine Alessio had schedule conflicts but have provided individual interviews posted above .

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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SHOW TIME! EAST COUNTY MOVIE THEATERS REOPEN

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The  magic of movies on the big screen returns after months of shutdowns due to COVID-19. 

Two major theater chains, Reading Cinemas International (NASDAQ: RDI) and Regal, announced reopenings this week of cinemas including several locations in East County (La Mesa, El Cajon and Rancho San Diego) featuring long-awaited new-release films.

Both chains have also rolled out new procedures to protect guests  in compliance with CDC health guidelines and state safety regulations.


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LA MESA RENTAL ASSISTANCE GRANT PROGRAM APPLICATIONS CLOSED

Source: City of La Mesa

September 2, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Due to high demand for La Mesa's Rental Assistance Program, Home Start has closed their application form as of 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 31.

Residents whose applications are currently under review will be contacted by a Home Start representative within the next two weeks for follow up.


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LA MESA VILLAGE ASSOCIATION TO IMPLEMENT DECORATIVE FLAGPOLE BANNERS IN DOWNTOWN LA MESA VILLAGE

Source: La Mesa Village Association
 
September 2, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) has announced that they are coordinating the installation of lamp post banners along La Mesa Blvd. between Acacia and 4th Street in the heart of downtown La Mesa to further promote the City of La Mesa, local downtown businesses and events as well as bring additional beautification to the Village.

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LA MESA POLICE RELEASE DETAILS ON DETENTION OF STUDENT WITH DOWNS SYNDROME THAT PROMPTED SUIT AGAINST CITY

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 1, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department today released details on the brief detention  and handcuffing of an 11-year-old Murray Manor student with Downs Syndrome on August 29 of last year. The child’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the city and the La Mesa Spring-Valley school district, alleging that their son was traumatized.

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LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO APPEAR IN VIRTUAL CANDIDATE FORUM THURSDAY, SEPT. 3

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: La Mesa City Council candidates Allan Durden, Colin Parent, Mark Papenfuss, Kristine Alessio, Jack Shu, and Laura Lothian.  Four of the six candidates have agreed to participate.

August 29, 2020 (La Mesa) – Six candidates are vying for two seats on the La Mesa City Council. East County Magazine invited all candidates to participate in a candidate forum this Thursday, September 3 at 7 p.m. Have a question for the candidates?  You can send it to editor@eastcountymagazine.org by 12 noon on Thursday.

Four of the six candidates have confirmed they will participate.  Shown in the photo above, they are Allan Durden, Mark Papenfuss, Councilman Colin Parent, and Jack Shu.  Councilmember Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian are not available but agreed to do an interview with ECM via Zoom, which we will post when completed.

The forum, held virtually via Zoom due to COVID-19,  will be live-streamed on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine   Video will also be recorded and posted at www.EastCountyMagazine.org after the forum. We thank the #FacebookJournalismProject for supporting our virtual candidate forums during the pandemic.

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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CAPTAIN MATT NICHOLASS NAMED INTERIM ACTING CHIEF OF LA MESA POLICE: CITY LAUNCHES NATIONWIDE SEARCH FOR ITS NEXT CHIEF

East County News Service

Photo: Captain Matt Nicholass, tomorrow's Interim Chief of Police (left), and soon to be former Chief of Police Walt Vasquez (right). Chopper the Biker Dog, law enforcement mascott wishes Chief Vasquez "all the very best on his retirement during his 'final walk-out."  Photo courtesy of Facebook, Chopper the Biker Dog

August 27, 2020 (La Mesa) - The City of La Mesa plans to hire an executive recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search for its next Chief of Police, according to a  new release earlier today from the City of La Mesa.

There will be a community input component to the selection process. The process is expected to take several months to complete. Once the recruiting firm is hired additional details will be released.

Captain Matt Nicholass will assume the role of Acting Chief of Police tomorrow, August 28, 2020.


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LA MESA OKTOBERFEST GOES VIRTUAL OCT. 2-4 WITH STREAMING OOMPAH BANDS, BREWMASTER TASTINGS AND PARTY PACKS TO GO

Now you can lounge in your lederhosen at home, or shop specials in the village

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 25, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Since 1973, the La Mesa Oktoberfest has been attracting Oktoberfest revelers from across San Diego and Southern California for three free days of festive live music, German food, and steins filled to the brim with German and Craft Beer! In light of  COVID-19 safety protocols, the La Mesa Oktoberfest this year brings you a reimagined weekend of festivities, keeping with this La Mesa tradition with a free La Mesa Oktoberfest Online that you can savor at home—or an optional “Party Pack” upgrade.


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EAST COUNTY EATER: LE BON BO-BEAU REOPENS IN LA MESA

 

By Henri Migala

 

August 23, 2020 (La Mesa) - After being closed for several months, BO-beau in La Mesa has re-opened with reconfigured sitting areas that not only conform to mandated social distancing guidelines, but in an elegant way actually enhances the sense of intimacy for diners and patrons.

 

A member of the Cohen restaurant group, BO-beau is located in the historic downtown village in La Mesa.  The website describes the restaurant as where “Bohemian-chic meets industrial elegance.”  That is probably an accurate description when all sections of the restaurant are open, but with only the outdoor seating areas being available, the full experience of ‘Bohemian-chic and industrial elegance’ is replaced more by a comfortable, delightful and stylish experience of open-air garden dining.


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READER’S EDITORIAL: ROAD MAP FOR LA MESA

An open letter to La Mesa’s Mayor and City Council

By Dave Myers

August 24, 2020 (La Mesa) --  I am a 27-year resident of La Mesa and also a retired San Diego County Sheriff’s Commander with 35 years in local law enforcement. In May of this year, all of us saw and experienced the horrific scenario that started out as a peaceful BLM demonstration taken over by criminals without police intervention and rapidly devolved into a nightmare of looting, violence, and the burning of downtown La Mesa.


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LA MESA RESPONDS TO HOMELESSNESS

City Council approves Citizen Task Force recommendations
 
By Bonnie Baranoff, Chair, La Mesa Citizen Task Force on Homelessness
 
August 23, 2020 (La Mesa) - Homelessness in La Mesa isn’t new, nor is our community’s concern about or exasperation with it.  
 
In February 2019, a motivated City Council responded to local homeless advocate concerns by approving the formation of an Ad Hoc Citizen Committee consisting of five-seven residents.  In March 2019, the City Council selected seven community members with a variety of knowledge of and experience with the issue. On July 17, 2019, we came together for the first meeting of the Citizen Task Force on Homelessness.  

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HUSBAND ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF MT. HELIX MAN

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 21, 2020 (La Mesa) – Daniel Scott Jordan, 44, has been arrested in Nevada and charged with the murder of his husband, Kevin Powell, 38, at the couple’s Mt. Helix home earlier this month.

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COUNCIL CANDIDATE JACK SHU SHARES HIS VISION AND PRIORITIES FOR LA MESA

 

View video 

Hear audio aired on KNSJ radio

By Miriam Raftery

August 21, 2020 (La Mesa) – In an exclusive video interview, Jack Shu shares his visions for the future of La Mesa.  Shu has been an active advocate in La Mesa and countywide for over three decades on social justice issues, human rights, homelessness, and protect the environment.

A California State Parks Superintendent for 29 years, he also served as a peace officer within state parks. As past president of Cleveland National Forest Foundation, he worked at a state and countywide level to protect open spaces, reduce pollution and build healthier communities. In La Mesa, he helped establish the Citizens Public Safety Oversight Task Force on police issues, as well as a Citizens Task for on Homelessness. He’s served on the city’s wellness committee, on the board of Heartland Human Relations, and as a cultural diversity consultant.

In our interview, Shu laid out his vision for a more "vibrant" and inclusive La Mesa in all areas of the city.  "Let's aim higher. Let's do better," he said. 

Shu shared his thoughts on the key issues in  La Mesa including housing and homelessness, revitalizing neighborhoods across La Mesa and downtown, police and racial equity issues, public safety, and budget priorities.

Audio: 


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LA MESA APPROVES CARES AID FOR RENTERS AND BUSINESSES, HELP FOR HOMELESS AND A REPORT ON CIVIL UNREST RESPONSE

By Briana Gomez

File photo:  Mike and Linda McWilliams have laid off two-thirds of the staff at their San Pasqual Winery tasting room in the La Mesa Village, according to testimony to the City Council on August 11.

August 20, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa City Council met on August 11 via teleconference,  on hour after a trying virtual town hall the previous Thursday where notification of  Police Chief Walt Vasquez’s resignation was announced publicly.  The Council approved CARES Act funding to help local renters and businesses. Other highlights included approval to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the May 30-31 protest and riot, as well as moving forward on action to help the homeless.


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SIX MEN DETAINED AFTER SHOOTOUT IN LA MESA; THREE “ARMED AND DANGEROUS” SUSPECTS IN DARK SUV REMAIN AT LARGE

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 19, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Department seeks witnesses to shootings at a strip mall last night in the 7400 block of El Cajon Blvd, La Mesa. Despite multiple shots fired at a business and vehicle, there are no known injuries.  

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ROLLING BLACKOUTS ACROSS COUNTY: BE PREPARED

 

East County News Service

August 14, 2020 (San Diego) -- The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which oversees the statewide electric grid, has directed SDG&E to initiate rotating, one-hour service interruptions (rotating outages) throughout its service territory in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The blackouts are underway and are currently affecting thousands of residences.  View a list of current outages and estimated restoration times at  https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/outage-center/outage-map.

While the rotating outages will be widespread in the region, communities located in high fire threat districts, which experience public safety power shutoffs, will be exempt from the service interruptions, SDG&E announced today.



The local outages are the result of excessive heat driving up electricity use and putting strain on the grid. CASIO has declared a “Stage 3” power emergency because contingency reserves have fallen or are anticipated to fall below requirements and cannot be restored without service interruptions.


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LA MESA POLICE CHIEF VASQUEZ TALKS RETIREMENT AS TOWN HALL EYES MAY 30 RIOT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego News Association

Photo:  La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez speaks at June press conference. Photo by Chris Stone

August 13, 2020 (La Mesa) - Minutes after a virtual Town Hall began Thursday on La Mesa’s protest and riot events, Police Chief Walt Vasquez announced his retirement from the force after five years “as the city’s top cop.”


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DEATH UNDER INVESTIGATION IN UNINCORPORATED LA MESA

East County News Service

August 12, 2020 (La Mesa) – In response to a call requesting a welfare check on a resident in the 4400 block of Carmen Drive in unincorporated La Mesa, Chula Vista Police officers found the body of a man shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday.  The Sheriff’s homicide unit is investigating.

The street was temporarily blocked off for an investigation overnight.

Lt. Thomas Seiver with the Sheriff’s homicide unit asks that anyone with information on this incident call (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.


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GROSSMONT HEALTHCARE DISTRICT SUPPORTING ALS ASSOCIATION’S ALS FIESTA, A VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER, AUG. 12

East County News Service

August 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) has been named a supporter of the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter’s 2020 ALS Fiesta, the chapter’s annual major fundraiser. This year’s ALS Fiesta, the fifth annual, will be held as a virtual online event from 7 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 12. Participation in this year’s ALS Fiesta is free and open to the public. Proceed will benefit the chapter’s services provided to local families living with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LA MESA COUNCIL WEIGHS CARE ACT RELIEF FOR BUSINESSES AND RENTERS, PLUS POSSIBLE SALE OF PARKING LOT NEAR RESTAURANTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Some businesses have been hard hit by both the pandemic shutdowns and business disruptions from looting, fires and vandalism

August 10, 2020 (La Mesa) -- On Tuesday, August 11, the La Mesa City Council will consider topics of major public interest at a 5 p.m. closed session followed by a 6 p.m. public meeting. 

At the closed session, for which the public can email comments by 4 p.m., includes potential sale of a public parking lot with meters behind the burned Randall Lamb building and behind many restaurants and businesses on La Mesa Blvd.  

Also on the closed session, council will hear details of housing planned for the former police station site being leased for development, including affordable housing units.  

At 6 p.m., Council will consider how to spend CARES Act relief funds due to the pandemic.  Staff has proposed renter relief as well as grants for small businesses and city costs. The Council majority previously voted against aid to businesses, so Councilman Kristine Alessio is urging the public to speak out if they want to see help provided for struggling small businesses in La Mesa, as other East County cities have already provided.

Below are details.


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LMPD OFFICER IN TROLLEY STOP INCIDENT LEAVES FORCE: QUESTONS OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY REMAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Screenshot from video via Instagram: Officer Matt Dages and Amaurie Johnson in controversial stop

August 8, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police officer involved in the controversial stop of a  young Black man near the Grossmont trolley stop on May 28, is “not employed by the City of La Mesa in any capacity,” the city announced yesterday.

The terse statement provided no details on whether Officer Matt Dages resigned or was terminated, nor whether any wrongdoing was found in an investigation. He was placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation, the results of which have not been made public.

An assault charge against Amaurie Johnson, 23, was dropped after body camera footage failed to substantiate Officer  Dages' version of the incident.

The announcement of Dages' departure has drawn reactions ranging from relief to calls for greater accountability and transparency.


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MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

View video of first attack on ECM photographer 

View video of second attack on ECM photographer

 

Help us identify the attackers. If you recognize either of these assailants, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

 

Story and photos by Henri Migala

 

August 3, 2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa was once again the setting of a demonstration in support of racial justice and against police brutality on Saturday, August 1. Ironically, both protesters and counter-protesters aggressively sought to prevent media coverage by multiple outlets, raising the question of why many on both sides wanted to demonstrate their views without press coverage. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

FREEWAY CLOSURES IN LA MESA TODAY

August 1, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The following freeway off/on ramps and interchange will be closed as of 2:30 p.m. today due to a planned protest, the city of La Mesa announced at 1 p.m. today.:

 

Southbound SR 125 to Westbound Interstate 8 Interchange

El Cajon Boulevard offramp from Interstate 8 Westbound

Jackson Boulevard onramp to Westbound Interstate 8

Spring Street offramp from Eastbound Interstate 8


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LA MESA POLICE ISSUE WARNING ABOUT PROTEST SATURDAY, CITY BANS OBJECTS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS IN AREA AROUND PUBLIC BUILDINGS

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department has issued a press release warning of a protest planned Saturday, August 1 starting at 3:30 p.m. by organizers who have not responded to inquiries from LMPD. In addition,  City Manager Greg Humora has issued an emergency order banning many weapons and objects that may be used as riot tools in a restricted area around civic buildings from noon tomorrow through 5:30  a.m. Sunday. Banned items including sticks on protest signs, bats, guns, knives, explosives, glass bottles, spray paint, and many more objects.

A flyer circulated online touting the protest over police use of force issues indicated that “civil disobedience” was planned and urged participants not to bring children, indicating the event is for age 18 and up. The flyer has prompted uneasiness among downtown merchants, some of whom have boarded up storefronts in anticipation of potential civil unrest once again.


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FEDERAL LOANS AVAILABLE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CIVIL UNREST

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to help small businesses across San Diego County that were affected by civil unrest which began May 26, 2020, if they do not have the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

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