A closer look at the fake shadow diagrams in 1406-1410 East King Edward tower rezoning application

The rezoning application for 1406-1410 East King Edward contains a series of incorrect shadow diagrams, and we think the term “fake” is appropriate. Every shadow diagram that came with the application is wrong. In a previous post, we described a number of other aspects of this rezoning. The City is conducting a Virtual Open House until December 12th and has included these shadow diagrams as part of the package. Note that the tower is described as 14 storeys but actually has the height of a typical 20-storey building. [Update: after the publication of this post, a revised shadow diagram was included in the City’s website, please scroll to the end for more details]

The focus of this post is to provide a more detailed breakdown of the shadow diagrams. Municipalities typically require a shadow analysis for tall buildings because shadows are considered a negative impact on the neighbourhood. So shadow diagrams are an important consideration in urban design, and obviously everyone (planners, Urban Design Panel, Council, and the public) expects them to be correct and accurate. Now regarding this application, below is a comparison (applicant on left, our analysis on right):

There are a number of ways to verify a shadow diagram. One is to simply look at the general direction of the cast shadow, even before even looking at the length of the shadow. The concurrent rezoning at Arbutus and 8th has a series of shadow diagrams. The street grid in Vancouver is almost parallel outside of the downtown core, so Arbutus and Knight are roughly on the same alignment. It would stand to reason that the direction of the shadows for these rezoning proposals would be similar. Here’s a comparison of the shadow diagrams at noon on September 21 (Arbutus & W 8th on the left, Knight and E King Edward on the right):

Both of the these shadow diagrams can’t be correct. Either one is correct and the other is wrong, or both are wrong.

It’s also possible to manually check the direction of the sun without even using a 3D rendering package. There are a number of online resources to do this. For example, the NOAA Solar Calculator can give you the location of sun at any time of the year for any location in the world. Here’s a screenshot showing the direction of the shadow on September 21 at noon:

The solar calculator is showing the sun to be coming from 158.77 degrees (from north, in the Azimuth field; with the Elevation information of 39.2 degrees above the horizon one could also calculate the length of a shadow). Continue reading

109 social housing unit tower rezoning (14=20 storeys) at 1406-1410 East King Edward & Knight. Virtual Open House ends Dec 12, 2021: A look at applicant’s urban design materials.

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A rezoning application for a tower with 109 social housing units at Knight Street and East King Edward Avenue has been submitted to the City of Vancouver. A Virtual Open House event for public feedback is being held between November 15th and December 12th. There’s an online comment form and a Q&A section on the City’s shapeyourcity.ca web portal. Chee Chan is the Rezoning Planner assigned to this proposal (PMSHI.rezoning@vancouver.ca). This application was received on October 19, 2021 and an Urban Design Panel review occurred on November 10, 2021. There are many aspects to this application, but here we focus on design-related topics in the application materials, with some concerns about the integrity of what has been presented and omissions by staff.

We preface this by saying that regardless of what a building contains, the public has the right to expect high standards of accuracy, professionalism, and integrity by taxpayer-paid public servants employed at City Hall, urban design professionals, including the Urban Design Panel, and applicants. The public has a right to expect the Planning Institute of BC and Architectural Institute of BC to provide oversight and ensure professional standards, and there are various codes of conduct, but past experience with any attempt to use their systems has been disappointing. One would expect Vancouver’s chief planner to take an interest in these matters.

The submitted tower design at 1406-1410 East King Edward would have a total height of 56.4 m or 185 feet, a floor space ratio of 11.73 and a total area of 77,313 sq. ft. (7,183 sq. m). The proposed tower is billed as ’14-storeys’; however, in reality, at 56.4m the height is equivalent to a 20-storey building based on the typical 9 ft. or 2.75 m floor height (and a higher first floor of 4.15m). The proposed building has floor heights of 3.531 m (floors 3-13) while the levels 1 and 2 have floor heights of 4.267 m (for more details see the elevations on p.43 of the application booklet).

Important: The shadow diagram included in the application is incorrect and shows shorter shadows and shadows in the wrong direction at the indicated times. Here’s a comparison (applicant on left, our analysis on right):

There are 129 bicycle parking spaces proposed on the site and just 4 vehicle parking spaces. The site is situated just north of Kingcrest Park on the southeast corner of Knight and King Edward Village. It’s located directly across from King Edward Village. Just how tall is the proposed building compared to King Edward Village? That’s a good question. The elevations submitted by the applicant don’t show this. How can the Urban Design Panel “help the Planning Department and City Council create urban design policy, including the design and interrelationship of all physical components of the City” if they don’t have crucial contextual information and don’t ask for it when the applicant fails to provide it? For reference, the slideshow below includes a number of scale references using the elevation provided and the City of Vancouver’s 3D LiDAR point cloud dataset as well as shadow diagram comparisons:

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It is perhaps worth noting that during the pre-application stage, no dimensional height and no information about density was provided by the applicants. When asked for this information the project coordinators refused to provide it. No public comments and questions were posted publicly during the pre-application stage, despite neighbours reporting that they did indeed send in comments. The public comment system is basically a black box, a black hole. In effect bureaucrats are filtering/screening/censoring public input, and so there are fair questions about the legitimacy of the pre-application stage. The application is being put forward by the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) on behalf of BC Housing and it is designed by Stantec Architecture Ltd.

Urban Design Panel Meeting reviewed this application on November 10, 2021. There was no discussion about the integrity and accuracy of images presented by the applicant.

A similar tower is concurrently being proposed for a site at Arbutus and West 8th Avenue. The site has a tower proposed with a height of 50 m or 164 feet and a floor space ratio of 4.42. Further analysis on the rezoning proposal for 8th and Arbutus can be found in our previous post. BC Housing would partner with the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), who recently went through a rezoning of a 9-storey building at 1766 Frances. M’Akola Development services is involved with this application as a consultant, and was also part of the team for 1766 Frances as well as 1015 E Hastings Street (a 42.5m tall building with separate entrances for market and non-market units). Continue reading

Park Board preview Nov 29-30th: Expanding Low Intensity Turf Maintenance Areas, VanPlay Annual Report, 2022 Operating Budget, Fees and Charges Updates. Council budget meeting Dec 1st

Park Board will be holding two meetings in the upcoming week, on November 29th and 30th. There will be a Special Meeting of Vancouver City Council on Wednesday, December 1st to discuss the 2022 Capital and Operating Budget and to hear from speakers that curiously starts again at 9:30am. The daytime discussion of Budgets in Council is a practice that was introduced during the Vision era. The last time an annual budget was discussed in the evening was back on December 10, 2013 (6pm start).

On Monday, November 29th Park Board will be holding a Committee meeting and a Regular Board Board meeting. The single item to be discussed at Committee is regarding the report back of the results of the pilot project on Low Intensity Turf Maintenance. Park Board will consider the transitioning of more traditional grass turf areas into naturalized meadows. Interested members of the Public can sign up to speak by noon on Monday. The report recommends the following:

“The ongoing transition of 42 hectares of park and golf passive-use turf areas (7% of city-wide
total) to be managed as meadows by 2030 would align with Park Board and City policy goals to
increase access to nature, create new habitat areas, and support climate action”

At the Regular Board Meeting of Park Board, the VanPlay Annual Report will be presented (this report is not online as of this writing). The Colonial Audit – Interim Progress Report will be reviewed (report is also not online). The item Team Urban Parks (Team UP) Activations will be reviewed. A motion on notice about Park Board Commissioner COVID-19 Vaccinations has been moved by Commissioner Mackinnon.

On Tuesday, November 30th, Park Board will be looking at the proposed $143 million 2022 Operating Budget. There are also a wide range of minor incremental increases in fees and charges (that are generally in 2%, 3% and 5% range) for a wide range of services. The report details the proposed changes and also compares the rates in Vancouver to neighbouring municipalities. Speakers have until noon on Tuesday to sign up to speak.

Naturalized area in New Brighton Park

For reference, the meeting agendas are reproduced below: Continue reading

Hazmat crews at Vernon Drive around the Grandview Viaduct. Possible fuel leak

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Hazmat crews shut down Vernon Drive on the morning of November 26, 2021. The photos in the slideshow were taken around 9:30am. The hazmat crews were parked around a City-owned Silt Filtration Plant at 1599 Vernon Drive and the neighbouring lot to the south. There was likely a fuel leak in the area; however, crews did not elaborate.

The Vancouver Plan—Listening to Neighbours or Nobodies? (City Conversations No One Else is Having #16, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.” (Our brief intro to the Special Council Meeting he is referring to is here.)

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City Conversation No One Else is Having #16
The Vancouver Plan—Listening to Neighbours or Nobodies?

By Brian Palmquist (first published on 23-Nov-2021)

here – https://brianpalmquist.substack.com/p/the-vancouver-planlistening-to-neighbours

November 23, 2021—I made some notes at the Special Council Meeting with a panel of “national and international city builders”:

“People should be able to choose where in a neighbourhood they want to live”—Paty Rios, panelist

“The best ideas for a community come from the residents in that community”—Andre Brumfeld, panelist

“Low-rise and mid-rise homes make more sense than “sykscrappers”—3 to 4 storeys is ideal”—Paty Rios

“Vancouver has been excellent at not having just bedroom communities—US cities are gleeful at how lively we have been during the pandemic”—Solomon Wong, panelist

***

“That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?” My son was looking over my shoulder at the title of this Conversation.

“Well, I’m writing about the Special Council Meeting held today for the ostensible purpose to “enable a panel discussion and dialogue with national and international city-builders to discuss emerging directions for the Vancouver Plan.”

“I’ll bite,” he responded. “Isn’t discussion good at the emerging directions stage?”

“It would be if it were really discussion and dialogue, rather than a continuation of the flawed Vancouver Plan process.” He’s used to me making sometimes inflammatory comments, so waited patiently for me to continue.

“So let me start with the lineup of this panel of national and international city-builders: it was chaired by an architecture critic from Toronto who writes consistently from a build, build, build perspective. Of the three panelists, only one is from the Vancouver area, and they’re a transportation consultant.”

“So we’ve got one Vancouverite—where do the rest of the panel come from?”

Continue reading

The Broadway Plan—Rays of Hope Among the Shadows (City Conversations No One Else is Having #15, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles, including this 2021 series “City Conversations No One Else is Having.”

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City Conversation No One Else is Having #14
The Broadway Plan—Rays of Hope Among the Shadows

By Brian Palmquist (first published on 20-Nov-2021)

November 17, 2021—city staff conducted their Broadway Plan Fairview Neighbourhood Workshop—I attended the Webex presentation and made some notes:

Photo credit – City of Vancouver—from the Broadway Plan city staff presentation

“So, Dad, was this workshop better than the last?” My son was referring to the Broadway Plan workshop I had attended the night before, as compared to the Vancouver Plan workshop I had attended a scant two days earlier and found wanting.

“I’m not sure whether to be hopeful, or just worried I am being deceived.”

“I’ll bite,” he bit into his dad-purchased scone, smiling at the irony. “What was hopeful and what was deceitful?”

“Well, I always like to end on an upbeat.” He looked askance at that statement, remembering some of my recent thoughts. “All right, I like to end upbeat if there’s anything to be upbeat about. Is that more accurate?” He shrugged so I continued.

“Ending on an upbeat means I have to start with the deceitful stuff—unfortunately, there’s lots of that in this plan, starting with the aerial sketch of the plan area. Have you noticed that all of the city’s larger plans, such as northeast False Creek, the Jericho lands, Senakw’, to name a few, all lead off with a perspective or isometric we will never see except through the lens of a drone? Or there’s a ground level sketch that cuts the top 20-30 storeys out of the picture. And there’s nary a shadow to be seen because, presumably, it’s always sunny in Vancouver.”

He smiled at my feeble attempt at a weather joke. “But isn’t that distant view necessary in order to get the full picture at a glance? And what’s an isometric when it’s at home?”

Ground level sketch at left of the 30-40 storey isometric sketches at right—from the Broadway Plan city staff presentation

Continue reading

Atira Bans Journalist

The Flint at 1516 Powell St is run by the Atira Women’s Resource Society

Atira Property Management Inc. has blocked veteran journalist Jen St. Denis, writing for The Tyee, from speaking with tenants and from entering their buildings when accompanied with a resident. On October 8th, 2021, St. Denis wrote a piece about the conditions at the Flint, a building that is managed by Atira:

SRO Tenants Have Lived with Broken Windows for Years The city has ordered the property managers to fix the problem. Tenants have been complaining for months. (Jen St. Denis, 8 Oct 2021, The Tyee)

Is Atira’s response essentially to bar reporters from speaking to tenants?

The information about the ban was shared via twitter and included this tweet from meenakshi:

Significant taxpayer resources go to support Atira’s work. Social services agencies do a lot of good and help provide shelter and meals to many people who would otherwise be homeless and go hungry. That being said, should there be a reasonable expectation that Atira could take a little bit of the media spotlight when shortcomings about their operations are examined by the press?

We’ll let some readers who don’t follow the social services in too much detail in on a little secret. The vast majority of the tenants (90-plus percent) are great and get along fine. It’s a tiny minority of the residents that can create friction. It might be worth noting that some housing providers turn a blind eye when just a few of the residents take all kinds of second hand goods and used bikes in and out of the premises on a regular basis (a factor that can create friction with the immediate area). The success of a housing site is very much dependent on the management team and the manager at the location.

Atira manages just over 1,000 non-profit housing units in the City of Vancouver (data from February 2021). Continue reading

Long line-up for a final meal at Bao Chau Vietnamese Restaurant. Neighbouring Slocan Restaurant has already closed

There was a long line-up at the Bao Chau Vietnamese Restaurant located at 2717 East Hastings on Sunday, November 21, 2021. For some of the patrons, this may have been their last meal at this establishment. This restaurant has served the community for over 29 years and it is set to close sometime around the end of November (this could be as early at the 25th according to a patron). The neighbouring Slocan Restaurant just closed its door about a week ago. The Slocan Restaurant had been in operation since 1974.

The restaurants and the entire building will be replaced by a mixed 6-storey commercial and rental project that was approved at a Public Hearing by the majority on Council back on July 23, 2020. At the Public Hearing, a number of speakers voiced their concerns about the ongoing gentrification of their neighbourhood. In a 6-storey development one block to the east at Kaslo, two restaurant chains have established storefronts (a Dairy Queen and a Tim Hortons).

Here a couple of open questions to ponder: are there are opportunities for small local businesses to be established in new buildings such as the one slated for 2735 East Hastings? Is it is even possible to replace restaurants like the Bao Chau and The Slocan in the current retail climate?

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(Special Meeting of Council) Vancouver Plan – Emerging Directions and Big Ideas: A Dialogue with National and International City Builders on the Vancouver Plan (Tues, Nov 23, 2021)

ABOVE: The “Planning Vancouver Together” board from the ongoing Public Open House that ends on November 30, 2021. Work on the Phase 4 Draft will take place between Dec 2021 and June 2022. Do either of the featured illustrations resemble any street in Vancouver?

(Post-meeting update: Brian Palmquist shares observations about this meeting in Conversation #16 “The Vancouver Plan—Listening to Neighbours or Nobodies?“)

Council has had a number of special meetings to get input from outside experts for the Vancouver Plan. A previous one we covered was on September 28, regarding data-driven planning for long-term growth.

Now, Vancouver City Council has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, November 23rd at 3pm to discuss the ongoing process to create a 30-year citywide official development plan: “Vancouver Plan – Emerging Directions and Big Ideas: A Dialogue with National and International City Builders.”

The meeting format will include panel presentations and a moderated discussion. No public speakers will be heard. However, members of the public can provide comments to Council on the comment page (link here) and also follow the live video feed.

We expect the discussion to center around the panel’s areas of expertise, but from the citizen’s perspective, we hope that a spotlight will be shone on how data is being used (or not) to project the city’s future needs, and how Vancouver planners are providing information (or not) and engaging (or not) with residents for the development of the Vancouver Plan. We hope the panelists know the background and how high the stakes are, that staff are racing to get the Vancouver Plan adopted as the city’s official development plan prior to the Oct 2022 civic election, and that the provincial government is talking about eliminating the need for public hearings for rezonings that fit the ODP.

Below is the basic flow and speakers.

Vancouver Plan – Emerging Directions and Big Ideas: A Dialogue with National and International City Builders

a) Introductions by Moderator Alex Bozikovic, Toronto-based Architecture & Planning Critic, Globe and Mail (See bio and link to his articles) [CityHallWatch note: Planning staff have picked a moderator who knows the field well, but he appears to come with biases that would simply reinforce Vancouver planners’ biases. Let’s hope he is able to maintain an open mind and provide balance as should a moderator. More below.]

b) Vancouver Plan Update from Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability staff

c) Panel Speakers:

i. Paty Rios, Executive Director, New Cities Foundation (Montreal). (Previously with the Happy Neighbours project and Happy City, and a lecturer at UBC on urban policy.)
ii. Andre Brumfield, Design Director, Gensler Cities & Urban Design (Chicago). (Past works include redevelopment in emerging urban districts; neighborhood and community revitalization; high-density, urban-infill; city-wide master planning…)
iii. Jay Pitter, Senior Fellow, Canadian Urban Institute; International Placemaker; and Author (Toronto) (website) (Past projects include the former Honest Ed’s, now Mirvish Village redevelopment project now under construction by Westbank in Toronto. The documentary There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace, was made about that project.)
iv. Solomon Wong, President and CEO, interVISTAS (Vancouver). Extensive work on airports, and the firm works with clients “to solve problems with credible, data-driven insights and forward thinking strategies,” so let’s hope he reads up on Vancouver’s need to get proper data to develop a citywide plan.

d) Moderated Discussion with Council Questions

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CityHallWatch comments: The public consultation phase on the Vancouver Plan ends in November. Something that has been conspicuously absent in this citywide planning process is the involvement of any kind of community liaison group, citizens’ assembly, or working group of volunteers. This contrasts with previous major planning processes. Some of our current Council members will remember this well. Before being elected, Councillors Fry and Swanson volunteered to help with the DTES LAPP (Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process) while Councillor Wiebe was a volunteer on the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee (MPIC). Councillors Carr and De Genova also attended meetings with residents in some of the previous community planning processes and received input from liaison groups. Why has this component — of active resident involvement in a plan — been dropped from engagement in the Vancouver Plan and from the concurrent Broadway Plan? Continue reading

Broadway Plan: The proposed ‘Shoulder Areas’ look like the downtown core. Heads up: In-person Open House Nov 20th (10-2 on Sat, 4 hours only)


Planning staff are proposing the establishment of ‘Shoulder Areas’ in the Broadway Plan that would include towers that could be significantly higher than currently permitted. This ‘shoulder area’ designation would apply to parts of Kitsilano, Fairview and Mount Pleasant (highlighted in the included maps). The City’s materials state: ‘Building heights will generally be 20 to 30 storeys‘ and also mention that they are considering some commercial uses at grade for housing and/or office space. It’s worth noting that offices generally have higher floor heights than residential. Thus a 30-storey office building can be over 122 metres or 400 feet in height (assuming 4m floor height and a higher first floor) and could be the height of a 44-storey residential tower. A ’30-storey’ residential tower might have a floor height of 2.75m (9 ft.) and could be over 85m (278 ft.) in height (9ft floor to floor with a taller 1st storey).

Consultation on this third phase of the Broadway Plan is ongoing until November 30th. There’s an in-person Open House scheduled for Saturday, November 20th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 511 West Broadway (ground floor, corner at Cambie). Registration is not required. However, the website does have a link to a registration page on EventBrite.

There are 104 panels in the City’s materials that can be reviewed online. The City has a survey that can be filled out for comments. The Phase 3 of the Broadway Plan is prior to the planned release of a draft plan “early in 2022.” We urge anyone interested to attend this in-person open house as a precious and rare opportunity to actually meet the human beings involved in this major planning process. Some people have found the city’s online workshops to be unsatisfactory as participants remain muted for nearly the entire meeting.

Everyone who is interested in the future of Vancouver should really be paying attention now. Simultaneously with the Broadway Plan, the City is nearing the end of consultation on the Vancouver Plan. As with the Broadway Plan, it is purportedly a 30-year plan. But of course it will determine the shape  and character of Vancouver for many decades beyond that. Now at Phase 3 (Options and Trade-Offs, ending this month of November), planning staff under the new chief planner Theresa O’Donnell are getting very close to what they are intending to bring to Council in Phase 4 (Revising and Final Plan, December 2021 – June 2022), after which they hope the proposal will go straight to a Public Hearing and be adopted as the City’s Official Development Plan prior to the October 2022 election. This could create the opportunity for Vancouver voters to make this whole thing an election issue. The next step appears to be that Vancouver would likely try to have the Vancouver Charter modified to match currently proposed BC legislative changes to eliminate the need for Public Hearings at the municipal level. So unless something changes in the process, the final opportunity for residents and communities to provide input and have any hope of influencing the outcome is approaching very quickly.

Many details are missing from what planning staff are calling this ‘Phase 3’ of consultation on the Broadway Plan. There’s no mention of the proposed density, setbacks, tower separation or podium size. Just for example, the City has apparently done absolutely no study of impact on shadows or the cumulative impacts of many tall buildings on solar access. All that’s provided is what City staff call ‘3D’ (actually, it is not 3D; what they are presenting is a single, dimensionless drawing for ‘illustrative purposes,’ reproduced further below). The details on the panels are vague and nebulous. The ‘shoulder area’ is large. We’ve re-coloured the map to show the areas in orange for clarity, and here below is a comparison with the City’s original map:

CAPTION: Compare our re-coloured map (top) with the City’s map (bottom). Does the colour scheme used by the City help you really grasp what they are proposing? Do the colours blend closely with colours used on False Creek? Do the proposed areas even look like what you would expect to be ‘shoulder areas’?

As to how staff came up with this proposal, there is nothing explanatory in their info panels but the headline ‘what we heard‘ (this is typical of similar planning processes by the City over the past decade). Did staff really hear a powerful message from residents that they want the City to make large swaths of the plan area resemble the downtown core? Or is this what they heard from their superiors?

The precedents that staff are showing in the photos of “What New Buildings Could Look Like” are both from the West End, at 1215 Bidwell and 745 Thurlow. The one at 745 Thurlow Street has a Floor Space Ratio of 16.1 and a height of 91.44m (300 ft).

“Potential future in 30 years” is prominently indicated in the presentation slides. So since they are using the West End as a model, this next point merits a careful read. Once the City approves a plan (and especially if Public Hearings are going to be eliminated), the City seems to lose control of the pace of development. On top of that, City does not even seem to be capable of keeping track of implementation and reporting to City Council. The West End Community Plan (WECP), adopted in late 2013, anticipated 7,000 to 10,000 additional residents over 30 years. But we calculate that within the first seven years, the thirty projects approved and/or in progress in Sept 2020 amounted to nearly 26,000 residents (estimated from numbers discovered in a Park Board report, not from City planners, see “Keeping track: Behold the West End’s new…” Maybe that is one reason the planners have still failed to produce a WECP implementation report or update for City Council and the public as we approach ten years after adoption of the WECP. There’s another connection between the West End and Broadway Plans – one of the same lead planners, Mr. Grottenberg, who was responsible for WECP implementation for at least the first five years.

Related, see also our recent post “Rental apartment zone changes being proposed under the Broadway Plan: Our initial analysis of what’s in there.”

Continue reading