South Napa County

Oct 31, 2014

Where your Napa Valley experience begins

Several development issues are ongoing south of the City of Napa, Napa Pipe chief among them, and I will continue to follow them here. Napa Pipe will be a major piece of the development, along with the Watson Ranch/Town Center Project [zoning map] and the Gasser North and Century Center projects on Imola, occurring between American Canyon and Napa that is now on the verge of uniting the two and creating a Napa-Vallejo metropolitan area. Napa Pipe, Watson Ranch and Gasser North will add perhaps another 4000 voters to the county rolls, most, probably, with a greater interest in shopping centers than in vineyards. The industrial-commercial development in Napa Pipe, and the large area of American Canyon targeted for light industrial will create the need for even more housing and more urban voters. Urban development is a ponzi scheme in which governments must always approve more projects to generate ever more revenues to support the infrastructure and service costs of previous developments - and so on. The pressure to vote to change the agricultural zoning in the county will be relentless, increasing with each new development. The demographic changes in the county's voters has been clearly laid out by the NVR editor, Sean Scully, in a couple of articles here and here.

The end of agriculture in Napa began as soon as tourism was seen as a way to boost agricultural profits. The development required for tourism has begun an ever widening cascade of development projects that will not end. The Napa commercial wine industry will survive using imported grapes in the industrial facilities developed around the airport cashing in on the Napa name. (The Farm Bureau lays out the production shift to imported grapes since 1991 here. Currently 1/3 of all wine made in Napa county is made in one building next to the airport). But the development of Napa Pipe and other major urbanizing projects are a potent indication that the vineyards of the ag preserve may eventually be pruned to a garnish around tourist attractions set within a Walnut Creek landscape. Are we willing to make the ruthless political decisions necessary to not just slow but reverse that process?

Napa Pipe

Development doesn't pay for itself. It doesn't. [If] you are looking at Napa Pipe now in south Napa, where a developer again is circulating memos showing how much profit it would generate, the profit might be actually true but it isn't really profit, because the cost items are all left out, whether it's traffic, clean air, noise, health, education and other items [concerning] social welfare.
- Volker Eisele, 2009

My first exposure to Napa Pipe, by accident, was at the Oct 29th, 2014 County Planning Commisson meeting. It was the day they turned over the project, after years of hearings, to the Board of Supervisors for approval, then on to the planning staffs of the county and city of Napa to iron out the quite substantial nitty gritty. They were done with their task, visibly relieved. Chair Fiddaman conjured an image of Pontius Pilate washing his hands.

For 8 years now the county has been promoting the development of a brownfield site within the county on the Napa River just above the Southern Crossing. It is the site of the former Kaiser Steel plant and was bought by a corporation led by developer Keith Rogal in 2005. Mr. Rogal's previous development is the Carneros Inn housing tract and resort carved out of the agricultural open space in Carneros in 2005. His new development is known as the Napa Pipe Project, and it will include a Costco, 165,000 sf of industrial/office space, 40,000 sf of retail space, a hotel, senior center, and an ever diminishing number of housing units, currently at 945 which include 190 units of affordable housing. It is probably the largest single development in the county's history.

From the beginning the project presented problems for every other public body in the county. The cities of Napa, Yountville and American Canyon, the Napa Valley Unified School District, the Napa County Farm Bureau expressed serious concerns. (There were probably more but I gave up trying to go through all the opposition correspondence this project has generated!) The tenaciousness of the county Board of Supervisors, led by Bill Dodd, is the only reason that it has withstood the resistance, particularly from Napa City. Only recently has there been a shotgun wedding, or rather engagement at this point, arranged between the county and the City of Napa to push it forward. The city has tentatively agreed to expand into the site to provide necessary services as the housing units and commercial developments are completed.

The county's ostensible interest has been to provide the housing that the county must supply to fulfill the ABAG mandated allotment of 180 units, including 113 very low to moderate income units, in the 7 year period from 2014 to 2022. (At one point the City of Napa offered to fulfill 80% of that allotment within the current city limits if the county would back off the project. To no avail. ) But why is Napa Pipe necessary to satisfy ABAG requirements?. In the County General Plan 2014 Housing Elementment, 230 unit locations have been identified in the county (table H-F), without adding the 945 units of Napa Pipe or the very contentious 191 units proposed for Angwin. The county can fulfill its requirement through 2022 without Napa Pipe. The irony is that The 190 units of affordable housing in the project will not even accommodate the minimum wage workforce of the hotel, retail and nursing home facilities within the development, let alone the 113 units destined for current moderate to low income people. The need for affordable housing will be made even more dire by building the project.

The city, no doubt, has an interest in the prospect of a high revenue generating Costco (and hotel) to relieve the infrastructure and service costs they have taken on from previous development projects. And the citizens of Napa voted to annex the property largely so that they can have a Costco to call their own. Costco so far has been mum on their intentions probably still considering how much they can milk in concessions to come in.

In 2008 Measure N was placed on the county ballot to stop Napa Pipe. With its strong growth contols, Measure N may prove to have been the last best chance Napa County had to maintain its agricultural character. Keith Rogal spent $1.4 million in opposition and the measure was defeated by 600 votes, probably a half of the number of voters that will occupy Napa Pipe upon completion. In homage to Orwell he called the opposition campaign "Keep Napa Napa".

Napa Pipe Design Guidelines (big file!)
County Napa Pipe Project page
County staff summary of project and developer, county, city agreements 11/25/14
The Fordor analysis summary of unfunded development costs is here.
Fordor: Myth of Smart Growth

NVR 6/1/17: Napa planners to get first a look at a Marriott hotel, winery
Larry Florin CA Economic Summit 5/11/17: Napa Pipe on the fast track
NVR 3/28/17: American Canyon Planning Commission approves luxury townhouse project
NVR 3/18/17: Highway development could boost American Canyon population
NVR 1/16/17: Napa's Costco coming, but date uncertain
NVR 12/22/15: American Canyon approves new industrial development
NVR 11/02/15: Developer to help fund new American Canyon schools
NVR 10/14/15: Construction begins at new Commerce Center in south Napa
NVR 10/1/15: American Canyon planners praise mega business park
NVR 9/24/15: Costco construction to start in 2017
NVR: Meritage resort plans major expansion
NVR LTE: A way forward on Napa Pipe 7/30/15
NVR: City approves water service deal for Napa Pipe 7/22/15pm
NVR: Costco, Napa Pipe waiting on city decision 7/22/15am
NVR: City to weigh Costco, water proposals for Napa Pipe site 7/20/15
NVR LTE: New approach for Napa Pipe? 6/26/15
NVR: County will look at alternative water options for Napa Pipe, Costco 6/23/15
NVR: Costco construction hung up on water/housing issues
NVR: Supervisors urge resolution of Napa Pipe water issue
NVR: Council to respond to county’s Napa Pipe water warning 6/14/15
Costco submits plans to the county
Developer Rogal sees 'New Urbanism' at Napa Pipe
City planners smile on Napa Pipe project
County delays Napa Pipe city agreements again
Measure A not in Napa's best interests
Supervisors moving Napa Pipe forward
Napa Pipe project workers deserve Napa living wages
Who's behind Keep Napa Napa?

Watson Ranch

The other mega project in South Napa, the 1200 unit housing project proposed above and around the cement works ruins in American Canyon seems to be coming alive agin after a year in limbo. We will continue to follow it on a new Watson Ranch Page.

Stanley Ranch

Update 5/7/17: Only recently, after stumbling upon these documents, have I become attuned to the third mega-project that will be urbanizing the agricultural entry to the county just south of the Hwy 29 and 121 junction in Carneros. It is a housing project and resort known as Stanley Ranch. The project was approved by the City of Napa in 2010. Sometimes, until you see a site plan, the numbers representing the project in a table don't have an impact. A big chunk of vineyards at the approach to the Valley is to become suburbanized and another bit of Napa's forlorn effort to maintain a greenbelt separating the city from the sprawl moving up from American Canyon will disappear.

How the parcel became a part of the city needs a bit of research. As a far-removed extension of the urban-rural limit line, it seems to violate every concept of maintaining the separation between existing urban and rural uses that the county and cities have been committed to since the ag preserve and Measure J were enacted.

NVR 12/20/15: City gives thumbs-up for luxury hotel at Stanly Ranch
NVR 5/9/15: Stanly Ranch resort developer promises 'authenticity'
NVR 11/19/13: Pipeline project to bring water to Carneros area
NVR 1/23/10: Critics blast St. Regis project, but city touts revenues; more hearings ahead
NVR 4/17/05: Merryvale set to begin Stanly Ranch renovation this summer

2009 Stanley Ranch documents


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More traffic for Bottleneck Junction

Bill Hocker - Jun 1, 2017 2:23PM  Share #1516

NVR 6/2/17: Design of south Napa Marriott hotel leaves city planners cold
NVR 6/1/17: Napa planners to get first a look at a Marriott hotel, winery
The project documents are here (large file)

The planning commission seems to have focused on the uninspired architecture floating in a sea of cars. One always hopes for good urban design, but the other chain-tenant shopping plazas and car dealerships they have approved on Soscol don't offer much guidance to the designers. What was not discussed, apparently, was the impact of another few hundred vehicles coming and going each day in this increasingly bottlenecked area of the county, once again highlighting the way in which the municipalities' development lust ignores impacts down the road (literally).

The junction between Hwy 29 and Hwy 12 has become ground zero in the carrying capacity of Napa County, with traffic congestion at the top of everyone's negative list about the county.

The fact that both visitors and workers are turned off by the commute is a good thing for those of us wishing to slow the urban development currently happening up valley. And that attitude seems to be taking hold in the county as well. The Napa Valley Transportation Authority recently decided against enlarging Hwy 29 at the junction. Building transport infrastructure just induces more development to fill the increased capacity, the reasoning goes. The theory, though perhaps not expressed directly at the meeting, is that you can control urban development just by making it impossible to get to the development sites. That theory was at the heart of the decision in the 1970's to stop building freeways in Napa county beyond the one small stretch through Napa City.

Unfortunately, based on approved projects, the bottleneck at this junction is only just beginning to build. Besides the many building projects in the pipeline further up valley that will be adding all of their visitors and employees to this junction, the proposed development around the junction itself, which the Marriott project again shines a light upon, is enough to make any traffic engineer blanch. It includes:

These projects will add several thousand vehicles per day to the traffic already there. The gridlock distances and hours will continue to expand. The legal problem is that all of the developers already with approvals are now expecting government to insure that people can get to their projects, and they will exert a lot of pressure. And the municipalities, concerned as always only with economic expansion and no concern about the urbanizing pressure their developments exert on the unincorporated county, have no interest in limiting access. Even residents who see the value of preserving what is left of unurbanized Napa will not tolerate an hour to get through the junction for long. And, because these are state highways, Caltrans will be forced to do something. The county's desire to disincentivize urban growth by limiting access will be forced to mitigate the traffic they have already sanctioned before they can implement a restriction plan - or be sued. The road will have to be widened to 6 lanes and the Soscol flyover built. Napa residents and state residents will have to come up with the money to do it. But what happens after that?

Controlling urban growth by limiting access is only half of the solution needed. The other must be to stop granting use permits and building permits, based on the unacceptable impact they will have to the access needed for businesses already in existence and those already approved. Unfortunately, since the Marriott is within the city's southern gerrymander, little can be done. But if the county is serious in their access restricting strategy, then the next step beyond saying no to infrastructure projects is to start saying no to new developments. It is either that or to begin making plans for the Hwy 12 and 29 freeways that will inevitably be necessary.

At every planning hearing, government officials and some residents have stars in their eyes over the tax revenues and fees projects are expected to bring. It is only years later that the real cost of those approvals are known. The widening of Hwy 29 and the Soscol flyover will cost about $150 million - just one of numerous infrastructure and service costs taxpayers must bear to insure that developers can make profitable investments. "Development doesn't pay for itself. It doesn't." Volker Eisele is sorely missed.

American Canyon Under the Bus

George Caloyannidis - Jan 1, 2017 11:26PM  Share #1366

Where your Napa Valley experience begins
For some time now, many of us have been pointing out both in the press and in testimony at the Board of Supervisors what is now evident to anyone living in the Napa valley that the protections mandated by the State throughthe California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been falsely applied byNapa County and our up-valley cities in as much as they have consistently been applying very limited radius of impacts and neglecting to observe the mandated cumulative impacts of "future, likely projects" labeling them as"speculative". How speculative is it that one day someone will build a home,a winery, a hotel on an appropriately zoned property they own when a neighboring property has received similar approvals?

Anyone doubting the effects of this failure, can experience the nightmare of Napa valley traffic as compared to just a decade ago. And yet, though through-traffic has remained steady below 10%, our officials have been telling the public that all the projects they have been approving from winery visitations to resorts and hotels have "less than significant"impacts or that their impacts have been mitigated. At this point, only ourSupervisors continue to live under this illusion. And it is not just traffic. This extends to less obvious impacts on the rest of the general infrastructure which will come home to roost at the cost of tens and hundreds of millions.

From a wider county-wide perspective, the motivation is also that of any given jurisdiction bullying itself to infrastructure share advantage. Which brings us to the victimization of American Canyon.

As an example, just the two approved Calistoga resorts will generate 2,900 daily vehicle trips, added to the County's bit by bit tens of thousands of winery and events visitors. These approvals never cared to factor in their impacts on American Canyon as they should have. Now a mere 6,300 peak hour vehicle trips the three American Canyon projects will generate, pose almost insurmountable CEQA mitigations thanks to years of myopic government policies.

If one were to roll back the clock by several decades and had considered where most residential, commercial and industrial development in the county ought to have been, it is obvious American Canyon would have been the choice, leaving agricultural lands in true conservation status and the three small up-valley towns as true to character as possible. Most large commercial activity as the Napa Airport Corporate Center and the Napa Logistics Park and the 1,250 homes and apartments at Watson Ranch and space for others for affordable housing in sufficient numbers, would be in the least impacting location. That model would have required leadership towards some revenue sharing, a leadership we never got.

Now as late comer to the game, American Canyon realizes it has been duped by the up-valley gradual, massive accumulation of fake "less than significant impacts" now strangling its ability to develop regionally wise projects, all of which diversify the vulnerable, fluctuating, monoculture-tourist economy we rely on and provide much better paying jobs than it does.

Where has visionary government been?

When will County policies stop being beholden to the wine-tourism special interests? Who will take the lead to develop the comprehensive vision which will safeguard the remaining resource? The already compromised quality of life? Who will muster the courage to say "yes" to the right projects and "no" to the ones CEQA is supposed to insure us against?

The sad reality is, we have run out of infrastructure capacity. Building it out to the 6-lane freeway to Yountville and 4-lane freeway to Calistoga and re-designing dozens of dysfunctional intersections as the County Draft EIR predicted years ago with the full knowledge of the Supervisors, will not only cost hundreds of millions but will deliver the final blow to the Napa valley. This will seal the legacy of decades of county governments.

NVR LTE version 1/4/17: Considering the Impacts

Just a few thousand more cars (updated)

Bill Hocker - Dec 23, 2015 10:14PM  Share #1020

NVR 12/22/15: American Canyon approves new industrial development
NVR 10/1/15: American Canyon planners praise mega business park

This project will add 5800 more workers to the traffic jam known as American Canyon. Does anyone really think that CalTrans or local taxpayers are going to build road extensions and interchanges and highway widenings faster than the developers add projects and jobs and tourist destinations throughout the county? Hundreds of acres of open fields between Am-Can and Napa are slated for industrial development beyond this humongous project, bringing tens of thousands of employee cars and transport trucks. A couple hundred more projects are in the works throughout the county: housing, commercial centers, resorts, event centers, Costco, Napa Pipe and Watson Ranch, all their traffic trying to make their way through the already congested interchanges of American Canyon and South Napa.

And then there's the 388,000 sf warehouse being built at the Jameson Canyon bottleneck:
NVR 10/14/15: Construction begins at new Commerce Center in south Napa

Meritage - under the radar (updated)

Bill Hocker - Dec 5, 2015 9:02AM  Share #1004

NVR 12/5/15: Planners OK major expansion of Meritage Resort
NVR 9/20/15: Airport commission clears proposed Meritage expansion

Just as the ink dries on the Napa Pipe project, which, in the traffic it will generate and the voters it will house, will change everyone's lives in the Napa Valley, here comes the mega-expansion of the Meritage resort next door. This approval by the airport commission (the county planning commission+2) is an initial clearance so the the real planning review by the Napa City planning commission can get under way. The county jail just up the road is also moving toward approval. Industrial projects continue to be built just south of the Soscol/29 junction. All will add who knows how much traffic to the already overcrowded entry to the valley. My screed on the traffic issues of Napa County is here.

When is the planning commission going to look at the cumulative impacts of all these projects. I'm sure over the last 20 years there have always been elaborate traffic studies for each project that conclude another left turn lane or signal will mitigate the impacts. But the traffic is approaching gridlock anyway. The mitigations, even if they work, of course just push the increased traffic down the road, beyond the purvue of the traffic report.

When is the planning commission going to demand that the planning department come up with an analysis of the traffic problem that accounts for the cumulative effect of all of the projects approved or in process in the county before one more project like the Meritage expansion is approved. A development moritoium is essential if solutions are to be found to the current and near future traffic problems. I suspect that there is no solution short of freeways filling the valley which will themselves bring more development.

As I sit stalled through two signals at the Jameson Canyon/29 interchange, I think that the development in the valley has already exceeded the carrying capacity of the roads that access it. What justification can there be to consider more development projects when it is quite possible that it will be impossible to reach them. In 1990 the county concluded that they were not going to be able to mitigate the traffic impacts that might be caused by the approval of the WDO. Despite that conclusion,I don't think that they came close to envisioning the level of development that has occurred in its wake. The county needs to stop, not just to review where they are going with all this, because it is already obvious where we are going, but to develop the policies necessary stop this direction entirely. Now.

Napa Pipe's not over til it's over (updated)

Bill Hocker - Aug 17, 2015 1:48PM  Share #848

NVR: Can Napa meet Napa Pipe's water needs? 7/15/15
NVR: City approves water service deal for Napa Pipe 7/22/15pm
NVR: Costco, Napa Pipe waiting on city decision 7/22/15am
NVR: City to weigh Costco, water proposals for Napa Pipe site 7/20/15
NVR LTE: New approach for Napa Pipe? 6/26/15
NVR: County will look at alternative water options for Napa Pipe, Costco 6/23/15
NVR: Costco construction hung up on water/housing issues
NVR: Supervisors urge resolution of Napa Pipe water issue
NVR: Council to respond to county’s Napa Pipe water warning 6/14/15

The future of Napa County still stands in the balance as the city of Napa considers where its limited resources might best be spent: Enabling a grand development scheme that will continue to suck city revenues to provide the water, utility, road and school infrastructure needed - at the same time increasing the urbanization that will eventually kill the wine industry. Or pulling back on its rate of development so that the city and county can work together on a long term commitment to a sustainable, agricultural small town environment that benefits residents and the wine industry alike.

The supervisors have been working for years on this plan as a solution to the ABAG mandated housing that the county must supply between 2014 and 2022 and beyond. It is a serious problem for a county short on land for urban development. Developer Keith Rogel came in with an offer they couldn't refuse. The problem has always been convincing the city to take on the burden of annexing the project once built. The city will lose money servicing just the housing, and the key was the significant sales tax revenue promised by a Costco. Without those revenues the city isn't interested. As of this date the city has been unwilling to agree to supply water unless the developer guarantees that those revenues will be paid to the city even if the Costco, for some reason, doesn't get built. Costco is unwilling to commit until it knows about the water. It is an impasse that had the Supervisors, who have a state mandated June 30th deadline to get the water supply issue resolved in their housing proposal, visibly furious at their June 9th meeting.

As with the tourism industry, Napa Pipe is a devil's bargain. It gets the state off the county's back in the short run. In the long run there is no upside for the city, the county, the wine industry or the county's residents. The city will eat up the Costco revenues on services, infrastructure and schools for the project. The 190 units of affordable housing will not even cover the number of low wage jobs the project will create and the ABAG mandate will be even larger next time. Workers will still have to drive to their jobs in town. The 20 minutes residents might save not having to go to the Vallejo Costco will be eaten up in the traffic jam at the Soscol/29 junction. The traffic impacts will be a nightmare for residents, workers and tourists alike. And those that feel increased urbanization at the edge of the ag preserve will relieve development pressure on the vineyards are in denial.

This massive project, with its far-flung impacts and eternal commitment of dwindling resources, should not be built.

Napa Pipe would, however, provide an excellent place for Bottlerock and other Napa Expo events that cause major but infrequent traffic issues. The existing expo site could then more purposefully be used to provide the affordable housing near to town that is needed for its low wage tourism workers.

Napa Pipe: the beginning of the end

Bill Hocker - Jul 23, 2015 1:12PM  Share #913

NVR: City approves water service deal for Napa Pipe 7/22/15pm
NVR: Costco, Napa Pipe waiting on city decision 7/22/15am

At the Napa City Council meeting on July 21st, 2015 Ray Tooker, the city's Community Development Director, presented the final, final, final negotiation between the City, the County and the Developer on the Napa Pipe Project. The city council signed off on the agreements necessary to allow the project to proceed including the final issue of promising to provide city water for the project. It is of course the harbinger of death for the tattered agricultural ambitions of the Napa County General Plan. My rant on Napa Pipe is here.

But it was this slide from Mr. Tooker's presentation, as he put forward the steps that the city council must now take, that truly summed up the future of Napa County.

The idea of a greenbelt around Napa to prevent it from becoming just another indistinguishable part of the Vallejo-Napa metropolitan area faded some time ago. The areas south of the Soscol/29 junction have long been slated for industrial development and the parcels are currently being filled willy nilly, pushing against both sides of Hwy 29. (no 600' setback here.) The 1988 development of the Napa Valley Corporate Park, now Napa Valley Commons, between Napa Pipe and Soscol, killed off one of the better opportunities to maintain a buffer between Napa and American Canyon.

The grape-crusher monument built as part of the corporate park has always seemed an apt metaphor for squeezing ever more profits out of Napa land through building projects. Monuments and plaques may eventually be all that is left of Napa's agricultural history. (The scenic overlook at the monument is also a bad omen: the view presented up the Napa Valley is of the potemkin vineyard of the Meritage Resort in the foreground and the roofs and mechanical equipment of the corporate park blocking the view of the valley.)

But the powerpoint slide above was even more poignant in that it truly represents the last vestige of a once laudable idea to try to control urban growth. It highlights in the clearest way possible the failure of the city and the county in the face of development pressure to be able to follow through on their goals. Sad.

There is still an elaborate annexation scheme, needed to incrementally transfer property from the county to the city as the project is built, that must be approved by the state-supervised LAFCO agency that regulates urban development. That will involve another round of public hearings. It's never quite over.

Napa Pipe dream not yet a nightmare

Bill Hocker - Mar 7, 2015 11:39AM  Share #679

NVR: Napa Pipe delays frustrate county officials

Napa Pipe is not yet a done deal - there is still hope for the future of the county.
The county needs 180 of RHNA housing through 2022. Instead they are building 945 units of housing, 200,000 sf of retail-commercial-industrial space, a hotel, a nursing home plus a Costco, all in a development frenzy that will leave the city and county facing unfunded infrastructure and service costs, the residents and visitors facing vast increases in traffic in the south Napa bottlenecks, and growers and vintners facing ever more urban voters more interested in shopping centers than vineyards and wineries. Be sure to read the comments to the article.

My Napa Pipe screed is here

Winery Waste Public Forum: Jan 27, 1015

Bill Hocker - Jan 26, 2015 8:50AM  Share #572

[My own little screed on the winery waste issue is here]

Jeff Tucker, Director of Administrative Services/Chief Financial Officer Napa Sanitation District
1515 Soscol Ferry Road, Napa, CA 94558
Office: 707-258-6000
Direct: 707-258-6012
Cell: 707-312-1591
Fax: 707-258-6048

Reminder – Please RSVP if you will be attending this community discussion. We would like to see you there and hear your input!

Winery Waste Public Forum January 27, 2015

The Napa Sanitation District is hosting a community discussion on winery waste. The existing solutions, either trucking millions of gallons of winery waste annually from Napa County down to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EMBUD), or constructing and operating pretreatment systems, can be costly and time consuming to manage. Trucking has the additional problem of leaving a significant carbon footprint. The purpose of the public forum is to explore various options available to the community for a less expensive alternative to managing this waste and reduce the carbon impact of trucking waste.

You are Invited to Attend

The District is inviting those in the community who have an interest is discussing a solution to this problem to attend the Public Forum. This includes wineries that are currently trucking waste, those who currently pretreat and/or discharge to Napa Sanitation, those looking to locate winery facilities in the area, and those who have an interest in helping wineries with new locations or with designing systems for managing this waste.

Please RSVP and attend this important discussion.

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