Development must protect the arts

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By Stephanie Weisman

OPINION Recently, the Bay Guardian ran an article critical of The Marsh theater's position on the condo development proposed for 1050 Valencia St. (see "Street Fight: Driving us crazy," 11/12). It incorrectly claimed that we oppose the project. Thank you, Guardian, for now giving us the opportunity to set the record straight.

The Marsh does not oppose a proposal to develop condominiums and commercial space next door to us at 1050 Valencia St. Rather, we are trying to get conditions attached to the project's building permit — for both during and after construction — that reflect that this developer chose to build up against a world-renowned, community-based theater. We believe it is reasonable to expect the developer to be a good neighbor.

For almost 25 years, The Marsh has developed solo performances, presenting nearly 700 performances annually with 400 in our Mission location alone. We also offer solo performance workshops and year-round after-school classes and camps for youth where no child — toddler through teen — is turned away because of lack of money. We foster risk-taking and diverse artists from novices to those with worldwide acclaim, giving voice to the vital stories of our times.

The construction plans for 1050 Valencia directly affect our theater space and our ability to continue to host live performance. As currently designed, the plans for both construction and occupancy could mean noise that would drown out unamplified solo performance. The project will also reduce theater lighting and ventilation.

We've seen the history of new affluent residents in fancy SoMa live/work lofts who didn't like living next to the loud music and milling crowds they chose to move near. These wealthy newcomers could afford to hire lawyers and fight expensive legal battles, and they successfully closed down entertainment venues that had defined SoMa for decades. We seek conditions to prevent this from happening to us.

We are requesting the large open deck adjacent to our building be moved behind a sound barrier. We are concerned that when residents have a party or open their windows with music blaring, the sound will disrupt our performances. This endangers our existence. We are also asking for conditions prohibiting the commercial space next to us from having live entertainment that would impact our performances.

Without specific legally enforceable conditions attached to the permits, we have no recourse if the developer or subsequent property owners lack good faith. To date, based on developer Mark Rutherford's treatment of us, we have no reason to believe in his good faith. San Francisco's development history shows that only legally enforceable conditions really protect the public interest over the "lifetime" of a building's construction and use.

The Marsh is a metaphor for the current displacement of people and culture in the Mission District. Miraculously, we were able to purchase our building in 1996, a market low, with the support of our artists, patrons, board, and forward-looking foundation and nonprofit and commercial loan entities. Otherwise, The Marsh would not exist today. We would never have been able to afford today's market-rate rent.

We are now a safe house for artists to develop their work at our space, for the children who take our affordable classes, and the audiences who attend our critically-acclaimed shows. But we are not indestructible. If protective conditions are not written into the building permit, and we end up with disrupted programs and performances, we will not survive artistically or financially.

Comments

Rather than try and stop people living next door because of the alleged noise?

And why is the fact that SOMA residents complain about noisey nightclubs relevant to a theater that doesn't have amplified entertainment or large, drunk crowds?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

The Marsh has already invested in soundproofing for Valencia Street traffic and passersby.
But the kind of noise that would be coming from the condo's very closely built open deck of the condo where music can be played at parties is simply beyond the finances of The Marsh. They are asking the developer- who has funds- to add a sound barrier to his roof top deck - but have gotten no response from him except perhaps here now in the comment section ;-)

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

Stephanie makes it quite clear in her article that The Marsh is NOT trying to "stop people living next door," so please read before you comment.

Also, this is not a case of "alleged noise." Try performing a solo-show next to a jack hammer and then use the word "alleged." Try hosting a children's performance when your neighbors are having a wild party on their open air deck and then use the word "alleged."

All I can think is, you must be the developer or at least on his pay roll...

Posted by Marshian on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 9:39 am

Typically not very quiet places.

Anyway, these "wild" parties are hardly nightly occurrences. And people should be entitled to let their hair down from time to time, especially if there aren't any real entertainment venues nearby ;-)

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:10 am

On what basis is the Marsh theater "world renowned"

I have lived here for 20 years and I have never heard of it, and neither has anyone that I know. A google search turns up a marsh theatre in berkeley and maine.

It might seem that a "world renowned" theatre could invest in some soundproofing/amplification if needed

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 7:28 am

one-man show and haven't encountered any reason to go back there subsequently.

The phrase "delusions of grandeur" comes to mind. ACT it ain't, and even ACT ain't all that by the standards of New York and London.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 8:12 am

Been here longer than a decade - first time I've heard mention of this place.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

Dear "I've been here Longer than a decade" You or I can not be the gage of what is significant in any particular art form. Yo- I'm sure there are things you and I haven't heard because we aren't looking. I don't know all the music venues. Unless I was interested in music. Art spaces don't have town criers - if you already have an interest in storytelling, performance and children's theater then you would most likely know about the Marsh.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

Just saying I'd never heard of it. Not commenting on its artistic merits.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

In fact, I bet theres' some people who live on Valencia Street who do not know about it.

Either way, they seem to think that everyone else owes them.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

I didn't say you were commenting on it's artistic merits. I just didn't get why you think it worth pointing out that you individually have not heard of a theater. Seemed myopic to me. Calm down? Was I using caps or using exclamation points? I was participating in a civil discussion.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

Just because a theater is world renowned doesn't mean it has massive surpluses of cash to defend itself against developers.

See this article and read about how The Marsh is internationally known: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-one-person-shows-in-the-...

Posted by Marshian on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 9:41 am

because the internet says its so!
I could probably find an article on the internet on how the marsh theatre is actually on another planet.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 10:29 am

Maybe because it's not renowned in your world, doesn't make it any less renowned in the world of the artist it caters to. Please be respectful and try not to sound so elitist, because it's this type of attitude that is ruining the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 10:07 am

In reply to the 3 previous comments: The kind of performance we do at the Marsh is un-amplified - even if we used microphones - there is a need for space between the spoken lines. I don't expect the previous commenters to understand or respect this type of art. But many people of all ages and backgrounds do respect it and have supported the Marsh for over 20 years. The content of Marsh shows are thought provoking, socially relevant and sometimes just fun.
To soundproof the Marsh for un-amplified solo performance is costly and not affordable to this non-profit community center. One of the things The Marsh is asking the developers is that the condo's proposed " large open deck adjacent to our building be moved behind a sound barrier." Without the cooperation on sound issues from the developers I know that the kind of noise from parties on the roof top deck would make it impossible for audiences and performers to survive in this location. The Marsh is not getting any response from the developers and they are trying, like so many in this city of evictions, to preserve a culture that made Valencia Street awesome for the last 20 years. Thanks for reading

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

and my name is Marga Gomez - I wrote the above post- please reply with yours

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

The performance art prevalent in this comment section is whatever the collective noun is for a blathering trolls, worse than the most self indulgent of 1980s performance art.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 5:06 am

your shows are acoustic and vulnerable to noise pollution.

For instance, there could be a siren go by, or disturbances from other buildings around there where - let's face it - there is a lot of activity and people and nightlife.

It looks to a lot of us that you are seeking to opportunistically piggy back onto this development to get some freebies that your turnover doesn't justify.

If you are really that sensitive to noise, then why don't you relocate to a quieter neighborhood like Noe Valley? Or else bite the bullet and pay for soundproofing, so that your neighbors do not have to walk on glass every night?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

It would be a tragic mistake to allow the Marsh to die.
Some of the best and most creative events have been produced at this venue.
Please dont wipe out these amazing 'fringe' productions. The theater is always full at every performance.
Thanks!

Posted by Guest jules on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

It would be a tragic mistake to allow the Marsh to die.
Some of the best and most creative event
s have been produced at this venue.
Please dont wipe out these amazing 'fringe' productions. The theater is always full at every performance.
Thanks!

Posted by Guest julie sperber on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Oh FFS:

1. The Marsh is worldrenowned as a theater dedicated to one-person performances. Or at least nationally renowned. you want her to underestimate?

2. The March shouldn't have to protect itself from that sound, because it is an integral part of the existng social fabric, which new elements must not destroy.

Guardian, please move to real name comments.

Posted by San Fran Shum on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

neighbors be super quiet all evening every evening.

If their premises are that sensitive to ambient sound, then clearly they bought the wrong building in the wrong place.

Valencia was a busy, noisy street long before the Marsh arrived and will be long after the Marsh has found a more suitable building and location.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

That existing noise from Valencia St we already deal with -the Marsh does have soundproofing for that- but an an open party deck with music playing -built up against the wall is too much to overcome . They bought and invested in the building 20 years ago. It wasn't the wrong building. It brought business to the street and improved the quality of life for everyone.
The Marsh can't afford relocate. You seem to not understand what it's like NOT to be rich. Your thinking pretty much justifies all the displacement that is happening in this city because you and your pals have the money to buy and sell it all.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

I have been going to the Marsh as a theatregoer and a worker (I did PR for several shows there in the 90's) for nearly 20 something years, longer if one includes the Cafe Beano days.

It is an important arts incubator, and as such, has hatched several nationally known performers and shows; and acts as a proving ground for new and established artists to create, hone, perfect, and launch their shows.

I have attended shows over the past few years, where passersby engaging in some sort of loud tomfoolery made it near impossible to enjoy the show.

Yes, I guess The Marsh could install soundproofing and air conditioning (both would be necessary), but I'd imagine that, knowing the space and the organization's size, the cost of doing so would eat up much if not all of their annual budget.

Therein lies the impasse, I assume.

Stephanie: What about a kickstarter campaign to soundproof/air condition? I'll donate, and I am sure that many performers, past and present would do the same.

That way folks can enjoy their noisy deck, and you can continue to facilitate your fabulous productions.

Posted by Jeff Diamond on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

I have been going to the Marsh as a theatregoer and a worker (I did PR for several shows there in the 90's) for nearly 20 something years, longer if one includes the Cafe Beano days.

It is an important arts incubator, and as such, has hatched several nationally known performers and shows; and acts as a proving ground for new and established artists to create, hone, perfect, and launch their shows.

I have attended shows over the past few years, where passersby engaging in some sort of loud tomfoolery made it near impossible to enjoy the show.

Yes, I guess The Marsh could install soundproofing and air conditioning (both would be necessary), but I'd imagine that, knowing the space and the organization's size, the cost of doing so would eat up much if not all of their annual budget.

Therein lies the impasse, I assume.

Stephanie: What about a kickstarter campaign to soundproof/air condition? I'll donate, and I am sure that many performers, past and present would do the same.

That way folks can enjoy their noisy deck, and you can continue to facilitate your fabulous productions.

Posted by Jeff Diamond on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

I can't believe some of the cold hearted comments here! I haven't lived in the city since '86 but drive in frequently from West Marin to see friends and take in entertainment. I have been to the Marsh many times for shows including Marga Gomez, Brian Copland and many more. This is not the Symphony or the Opera House. This is small theatre that gives a chance to many talented locals and others to perform. San Francisco is quickly becoming the city of the one percent. If this new building makes it impossible for the Marsh to continue it will not just be a loss for SF, but the entire Bay Area!!!
Dimitri Serafimides

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

Maybe we should build some housing in West Marin, so we don't feel so much pressure here.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

Oh hell yeah! Now you're talking GPD.

Like say a 10 story green glass box with a Wal-Mart right nearby.

Posted by Tally Youngblood on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

So its pretty much acknowledged that the Marsh is only effective as a theatre space if surrounding ambient noise is very low. Additionally that the owners cannot afford to do anything to the building to fix the requirement of silence..
So basically its the expectation of the theatre support community that there be only development next door which they deem compatible with the space.
Who compensates the land owner next door for not being able to sell his land at what he deems a profit?

I get that the theatre is a good SF resource, but it seems a little ridiculous to me that the developer should pay to fix problems inherent in the building that exist regardless of the development. Should the developer also subsidize the profit margin of the theatre if it has a few bad months? It isnt reasonable to assume that development wont happen, or that the development should be downsized to not affect the theatre.

I second the suggestion that the theatre look into alternate ways of funding the necessary work for the space like kickstarter. If it is as globally renowned as claimed, it wont be a problem at all.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

San Francisco is nothing without its cultural offerings. Nothing. The city I came to love in the 70's and 80's does not exist anymore as the toll of high density vertical living spaces, office high rises, bio tech and high tech monsters and a new pervasive monied class have become the new San Francisco. Developers have cultivated the art of making money, but this is not art. Everything that's wrong with consumer society is now becoming the new culture of San Francisco. A serious counterbalance is needed if the city is to retain its soul. The Marsh is such a place. If you can tear yourselves away from the hypnosis of electronic media and see a live performance by someone as brilliant as Marga Gomez, then you will begin to see the value of what I'm talking about. Art is revolution. Join the revolution or watch your natural and cultural environments evaporate away.

Posted by John Parulis on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

If you think the soul of SF is about some hippie revolution then that pretty much tells the story doesnt it?
SF was, is, and always will be about money and greed. Gold rush anyone?
Try and be less of a caricature next time.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

that the people defending greed are always anonymous, patronizing and demeaning to anyone who might espouse values besides personal enrichment. Go carry on, you brave money and greed-loving keyboard warrior, don't let yourself be distracted by any non gold rush SF history, for there's certainly never been anything going on here that had to do with literature, art, music, food, social justice, sustainability and — I know this will make your head hurt — love and compassion. You should try to buy some stock in ignorance. Oy.

Posted by Sven Eberlein on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

I'm saddened to read posts in which people who don't know about The Marsh seem to see that as a premise for dismissing its importance. I don't know anything about monster truck rallies but I'm happy for them to flourish. I'm saddened to see somebody post that "it's not ACT." Um, no, it's not, its mission is radically different from ACT's. The Marsh is a solo performance venue that has nurtured the work of some of the best known solo artists in the nation. The smallness of the space is appropriate to that mission, not a measure of The Marsh's lesser importance or status.

Many commercial developers in SF seem to have chips on their shoulders. Yes, there are many natives and longtime residents hoping to preserve something of San Francisco's identity as a home for diverse populations of artists, creative people, nonprofit workers, and people who work hard for a modest income. That doesn't mean we're anti-growth. It means that we expect the immense value of places like The Marsh to be understood and for their missions to be honored and supported. You will make your millions anyway. Please work with us to keep San Francisco San Francisco.

Posted by Michelle Carter on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

so .. I've been aware of the Marsh since its Hotel Utah days.
Just because you naysayers never heard the Marsh doesn't negate its importance.. it proudly illustrates your ignorance to a San Francisco institution right under your nose.
The developers are well aware they're right next door to a theater. It comes down to respect. Building a soundproof wall should be a no brainer.. Don't poop all over the theater and then force them buy their own toilet paper. Put the damn thing in the budget and tell potential occupants how cool their new sound proof outdoor patio is. They can be as loud as they want and disturb no one.. The tenants will be happy and the theater can thrive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

Great post!

Posted by Michelle Carter on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

Yes. I agree.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

I feel that the Marsh is a gem, & there is very little left like it anywhere in the city. We've seen artists & creative venues driven out & subsumed by big commercial ventures and by the generally insane real estate costs. The thing is, all that makes this city so special and attractive and nurturing is becoming extinct.
For a major developer to balk at installing a relatively simple sound barrier in order to maintain a gem in the area seems nuts to me.

But it's about greed, and it's also about ignorance of the presence of small, ingenious, scrappy artists. It blows my mind that people who love nearby know nothing about the Marsh. I think folks spend too much time with fast food entertainment, that they miss the magic of authentic artists, like Marga Gomez, who live all around them.

Posted by True Art Lover on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

Would rather hark back to hippie days of peace love & understanding than to 19th century era precipitating exploitation of Chinese workers on railroads and enriching what are commonly known as robber barons. I lived here during the hippie days. Promise you, they were not so bad...we even had working toilets and Dolby sound, amenities that were hardly available in 1849. Perhaps there is some nostalgia for the disease and massacres of those days? Please enlighten, I do not see why anyone would prefer them.

Posted by Guest Native San Franciscan on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

Well....in 1849 there were still live oyster beds in the Bay, not to mention Salmon runs and sky-darkening flocks of birds, and hordes of deer, and plenty of room for vegetable gardens.

Basically food was free for the taking, and talk about locally sourced.

Bernal Heights was empty, actually so was the Mission, and pretty much most of SF. If you wanted a house you just moved to some nearby vacant land and built one.

Permitting and so forth was not such an issue.

Of course there was the Vigilance Committee and the Sydney Ducks, and Shanghai Kelly. Diseases like Typhus were rampant.

But overall 1849 was a pretty good year. It wasn't til after the Civil War that the robber barons really got out of hand.

And by the way, for every mile of track laid by Chinese, the Irish laid five.

When the English went to build railroads in China and India they quickly discovered it was more efficient to import Irish work gangs than to rely on local labor.

Posted by H Hawthorne Folsom III on Dec. 07, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Seen at The Marsh. 'No' sound at all. Genius. What would neighboring audio hoopla have added? What noise did she make that the arts community should be responsible to insulate condominium livers from it? Two way street here; and I'm really tired of hearing about building owners' god given right to turn a profit. What're y'all gonna spend it on, a trip to the moon, propelled by your own poison gases, in royal solitude? In short, developers should have to live in the world of their fellow human beings, too. "It ain't a charity" is something certain people should wear tattooed on their ass for a couple of years, pushed themselves into the street by the larger sharks...that's happened in SF, as well. Boom and BUST. Better believe it. But I wax florid....Will take my next cue from Liebe---silence is golden. Bye now

Posted by Guest Native San Franciscan on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 12:21 am

I'm puzzled why anyone other than the developer would write things like,"why don't they move." Well, that kind of tells us who is responsible for the anti-Marsh comments, doesn't it?

The Marsh's requested sound conditions ARE THE SAME type of conditions that have been placed on similar projects with similar adjacent conditions for the last 20 years. The Marsh is not asking for Valencia Street silence. It is asking that jackhammers be halted during performances. It is not asking the new residents to quiet their conversations in their homes. It is asking for sound screening on the proposed outdoor deck. It is not asking that only Marsh fans buy the probable $1.5-$1.75 million dollar units. It is asking that prospective buyers be alerted to the Marsh's operation next door before they put in a purchase offer so that if they object to a performance venue next door that was in existance long before the condo units went up, they will not be hood-winked into buying somewhere that will end with a contentious relatiionship with the Marsh. The Marsh is not asking for this building to adhere to stricter interior sound requirements than other buildings. It is asking that the required 45 decible maximum legally level be verified before building occupancy.

Regarding The Marsh's 'selfish' attitude. The Marsh is a non-profit arts organization. The developer is a for-profit private entity. The Marsh provides low-cost, high-quality theater performances for the Mission and The City. The developer provides high-cost condominiums to the 1 percent. The Marsh has provided a living for hundreds of artists and technicians over several decades. The developer will provide a limited number of temporary construction jobs for a period of well under two years. The Marsh provides hundreds of kids PER YEAR an opportunity to learn about Shakespeare, about Theater, and about the arts, on a sliding scale that reflects their ability to pay -- frequently at no charge at all to kids whose families have struggled to maintain a Mission apartment for years. The developer will not likely be providing a home to any kids, because most local families cannot possibly afford to buy his high-end units. So who is selfish?

PLEASE PLEASE: If you care about The Marsh, if you care about the Mission: COME TO THE HEARING AND SPEAK UP FOR THE MARCH. This Wednesday, December 11th, 4:45 pm.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Theater performances are in the evenings and at week-end.

No problem.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:13 am

Unfortunately, this is not true. There are Saturday matinee performances year round -- and the developer currently has the right to work on Saturdays. There are also free daytime, weekday performances The Marsh puts on for San Francisco school children and weekday performance the summer kids' theater program puts on.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:37 am

I'm sure a word to the builders could get you an hour's hush if you asked nicely, rather than demanded arrogantly.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:55 am

The Marsh has asked for conditions like this not for months, but for the last two years. The developer could have voluntarily added these conditions AT ANY TIME over the last two years.

The hearing on WEDNESDAY, DEC 11 at 5 pm, City Hall, Room 416, is THE LAST CHANCE The Marsh has to get these conditions.

At the last hearing there were about 100 speakers for the Marsh and 3 for the developer. This time there will be 200-plus for the Marsh. If you feel so strongly, why don't you come to the hearing. You and your three friends can make your point.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

because you can get a couple of hundred of the "usual suspect" activists out for almost any issue. They typically don't have jobs, families or lives, and show up at every meeting.

Obviously people aren't going to show up for a developer.

These city meetings are meaningless and it is always fun watching how bored the Supes are during the endless public comments section. I'd rather watch grass grow.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

Lodging opposition to a non-profit arts organization that gives poor kids a place to go after school. Hope you are being well-paid for your comments.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

showing that there are people who believe the Marsh's objections here are flimsy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

I really appreciated "I'm puzzled's" post. It really said what had to be said.

I am not only puzzled, but greatly saddened by reading all the nasty-toned messages that have been posted. I can't understand why anyone would be against neighbors being considerate of one another. Why a developer would object to putting into place some protections for an already established and much appreciated institution right next door --or why they would be against informing condo buyers that they will be living next door to a live performance space.

We live in close quarters here in the Mission and we all need to be conscious of and considerate towards the reasonable needs of our neighbors. Asking for a sound barrier for the deck and restrictions on loud construction noise during performances seems like a very reasonable accommodation. Expecting people to take into account the needs of their new neighbors seems just decent. If you were moving next to a hospital or a home with a baby, you might want to consider whether you'd be having loud parties at all hours. You'd probably appreciate it if the developer thought ahead and tried to prevent problems by considering where to place the deck and by providing sound-proofing and by informing you of relevant facts about your neighbors.

I am very troubled by the lack of concern for other people which has been expressed in many of the negative responses here. Very sad.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

I support the Marsh wholeheartedly and have many performer friends who got their start there. I remember it back when it was a coffeehouse. I moved from my native SF 13 years ago to the East Bay because the dotcommers drove prices up. Now it's happening again. If we lose art in SF we lose the very flavor of the city.

If we can't make it for the hearing on the 11th, please let us know what else we can do to show our support.

Posted by SF native on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:02 am

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