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Update: State Supreme Court rejects Satterlee House case

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(WSB photo of the Satterlee House, 4866 Beach Drive, taken in 2008)
Just got word from the clerk’s office at the state Supreme Court that the justices have said “no” to the request that they take up the longrunning case of whether a specific 3-house development can be built in front of West Seattle’s city-landmark Satterlee House, aka the “Painted Lady of Beach Drive.” As previewed here Monday night, the court’s Department 2 took up the “petition for review” (along with dozens of others) yesterday, behind closed doors. This is a process that does not involve oral argument – the justices review the documents submitted in the case, and decide whether to take it on. And the clerk’s office tells WSB “the petition for review was denied.” They confirm that’s the end of the line as far as judicial review; we will be checking for comment from both owner William Conner‘s lawyer G. Richard Hill and the city’s lawyer, Judy Barbour; this case even had drawn national attention along the way. More to come. (We have covered this extensively over the past 2+ years, each step of the way through the system – our stories are archived, newest to oldest, here.)

2:33 PM: We’ve heard back from Barbour, who called the ruling “a nice retirement present for me! And I do hope that Mr. Conner will now give up the fight and let the old place be fixed up and returned to usefulness as a home.”

5:09 PM: Hill hadn’t seen the decision yet, so is reserving comment until he has. The denial has now been noted on the Washington Courts website, however.

Beach Drive’s Satterlee House to State Supreme Court tomorrow

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For more than two years, we’ve covered the fight over whether the owner of the “Painted Lady of Beach Drive,” the city-landmarked Satterlee House (4866 Beach Drive), will be allowed to build 3 houses on its expansive front lawn – subdivided into buildable lots years ago. The longrunning fight began in December 2007, when the city Landmarks Board rejected the specific 3-house proposal that owner William Conner wants to build, saying the houses would overwhelm the Satterlee House itself and aspects of the site that made it a landmark (a designation sought by its previous owner in the ’80s). Conner appealed the decision to the city Hearing Examiner, who ruled against him in April 2008, then to King County Superior Court, where he lost, then to the 1st Division State Court of Appeals, same result last December, and then (as reported here in January) it’s before the state Supreme Court as a Petition for Review. We’re mentioning it tonight because tomorrow is the official date that Supreme Court Department 2 is scheduled to consider it – it’s one of two “motion days” in the court’s current session. The court may, or may not, agree to review the case; that decision is based only on written materials – no oral arguments are scheduled at this stage. The city has maintained all along that it has not prohibited Conner from building on the site – it has only rejected the particular proposal he brought forth and declined to change. We don’t have the actual petition – Supreme Court case documents are not filed online (though decisions are), and our request to get it from Conner’s lawyer went unanswered – but we do have the city’s 21-page answer, which they provided after it was filed in February (see it here).

Satterlee House case: Owner’s taking it to the state Supreme Court

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An update tonight on the 2-year fight over what can be built on the expansive front lawn of the Satterlee House, the 103-year-old city landmark that’s also known as the Painted Lady of Beach Drive: The attorney for the Satterlee House’s owner says they’re taking the fight to the next venue – the state Supreme Court. This follows a series of rulings against the specific 3-home plan that Conner proposes for the land in front of the house: First, the city Landmarks Preservation Board rejected the proposal two years ago, saying the proposed homes’ size and scale would take away from the landmarked traits of the site. Conner appealed the decision to the city Hearing Examiner, who upheld it in April 2008; then he asked King County Superior Court to review the decision, where it again was upheld; from there it went to the state 1st Division Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments last June, and then announced on December 21st that it too upheld the previous decisions. Next potential step was asking the state Supreme Court to review the case, and tonight the lawyer who’s led the case for Conner all along the way, Richard Hill, confirms to WSB, “Yes, the Conners intend to ask the Washington Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision.” We’ll watch the court records and keep tabs on what happens next; as we reported after last month’s ruling, the case has drawn national attention.

Followup: Satterlee House ruling draws national attention

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By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

This week’s state Appeals Court ruling does not necessarily end the two-year fight over a three-house development proposal for the lawn of the city-landmark Satterlee House at 4866 Beach Drive (map). Owner William Conner can request a discretionary review by the state Supreme Court. His lawyer, Richard Hill, told WSB after the decision was announced (WSB coverage here), “We will be studying the Court’s ruling, and Mr. Conner will then decide whether or not to appeal.” In the meantime, the ruling (read it here) has drawn national attention: It could have nationwide significance, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Pacific Legal Foundation, which both had filed “friend of the court” briefs in the case, NTHP supporting the city, PLF supporting the property owner. More ahead:Read More

Appeals Court ruling on Satterlee House: Original decision affirmed

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A major ruling late today in the long-running fight over whether William Conner, owner of the landmark Satterlee House – aka Beach Drive’s “Painted Lady” – can build three houses on its expansive lawn. The city Landmarks Board originally declined to approve the specific three-house proposal; Conner challenged the decision before the city Hearing Examiner, who upheld the ruling (here’s our April 2008 report); then he took it to King County Superior Court, where a judge upheld the city decision (here’s our October 2008 report); then he took it to the 1st Division Court of Appeals, which has just upheld the decision. Read their ruling here; our report on the arguments before the state court last June is here. We’ll add more to this report as we seek comment and read the full ruling. (As noted in earlier reports, these decisions have not been rulings against ANY construction on the Satterlee House lawn, but rather against the specific proposal Conner took to the Landmarks Board, which has jurisdiction over changes to landmarked property; here’s our archive of case coverage, newest to oldest.) Summary of the case/decision, from the ruling document:

William and Marilyn Conner purchased a designated historical landmark property in West Seattle known as the Satterlee House. The Landmarks Preservation Board rejected their proposal to develop the site because it did not preserve the protected historic features. The hearing examiner and the superior court upheld the Board’s decision.

The Conners’ principal contention is that the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance is unconstitutionally vague as applied. They also contend the landmark restrictions on the property constitute an unlawful tax, a regulatory taking, and deprived them of due process. We reject their arguments and affirm.

Details: Court of Appeals hears Satterlee House arguments

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While Satterlee House owner William Conner is pursuing his development-rights appeal on five main points, only one of those points was spotlighted in oral arguments this morning before the state’s second-highest court: “Whether the city’s landmarks ordinance is unconstitutionally vague,” as Conner’s lawyer Richard Hill described it. The arguments went quickly – as we noted in the morning preview from the Court of Appeals-Division 1 courtroom at One Union Square downtown, each side gets 10 minutes, and a digital clock tracks the time in glaring red illumination – starting just after 10 am, and concluding, with some questions from the judges along the way, just before 10:30. Read on for details (and backstory if you haven’t followed this case before):Read More

At the Court of Appeals: Satterlee House case arguments

Almost 20 years in Seattle news, and there’s always a first. Today: Our first time in the 1st Division, Washington Court of Appeals, 2nd-highest court in the state, which hears cases at One Union Square downtown. satterleelawn.jpgThe case to be argued within the next hour or so: Satterlee House owner William Conner‘s appeal of a King County Superior Court ruling last October (WSB coverage here) upholding the city decision in April 2008 (WSB coverage here) not to let him proceed with a specific proposal for three 2,000-ish-square-foot homes on the lawn of the Beach Drive house also known as “The Painted Lady” (photo left). We do not have permission to photograph here but can tell you by means of scene-setting: This is homier than the usual courtroom; the gallery where lawyers and spectators are sitting has padded bench seating and windows with natural light. Two cases are on the docket before Conner’s lawyer Richard Hill and city lawyer Judy Barbour – who have been on this case all along – get their turn before the panel of three judges, who are sitting in a raised area reminiscent of City Council chambers. (Both already are here – Hill with Conner – seated, waiting, on opposite sides of the courtroom.) Each side in each case gets 10 minutes for their oral arguments – and there’s no messing around – there’s a digital countdown clock, illuminated in red, in front of where the lawyers stand, and once a lawyer begins, it counts down from 10:00. (Of course, plenty of written casework has been submitted well in advance; this is a supplement to that, and a chance for the judges to ask questions, as we are seeing with the first case under way here this morning.) We’ll report later on what’s said here, and what happens next; the audio from the hearing also should be posted later here. 11 AM UPDATE: Arguments were over by 10:30; full story to come – no rulings today – will be checking on a likely timeframe.

Also in court next week: Satterlee House front-lawn fight

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The Cooper School closure challenge isn’t the only big West Seattle case that’ll be argued in court next week. Wednesday is the date that lawyers for the city and for homeowner William Conner will be in the Court of Appeals to make oral arguments in Conner’s appeal of a city ruling against his proposal to build three homes on the front lawn of Beach Drive’s city-landmark Satterlee House:

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We have covered the case extensively here, including the Hearing Examiner proceedings that upheld the Landmarks Board‘s rule (here’s our coverage of that decision in April 2008; then the Superior Court arguments last October, and the ruling later that month which Conner is challenging in the Court of Appeals. The city contends that the landmark status of the property — which gives the Landmarks Board the right to approve or deny development proposals, remodeling proposals, and more — includes the front lawn, and Conner’s arguments say it doesn’t, among many other points. The city’s case does not say Conner can’t build anything on the lawn, however, but that this particular proposal would be detrimental to the landmark. The case is getting national attention – the National Trust for Historic Preservation has filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the city; read about it here. (Side note, since some have asked in previous coverage: Satterlee House owner William Conner founded Conner Homes, which is developing property at California/Alaska/42nd in The Junction, but it is now run by his son Charlie Conner.)

Satterlee House development fight: Owner to appeal latest ruling

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A week and a half ago, we reported from the courthouse as King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Barnett announced the latest decision in the fight over what, if anything, will be built on the lawn of the landmark Satterlee House (aka the “Painted Lady” of Beach Drive). She ruled against Satterlee House owner William Conner in his appeal of a decision made last April by the city Hearing Examiner (WSB coverage here). That decision in turn had affirmed a vote last year by the city Landmarks Board, denying Conner permission to build three 3,000-square-foot-average homes — not denying permission to build ANYTHING on the lawn, just rejecting this specific proposal as potentially marring the characteristics that led to the property being designated in the early ’80s as a city landmark. After Judge Barnett’s ruling on October 24th, Conner’s lawyer Richard Hill told WSB they would “digest” the ruling before deciding whether to continue the challenge; we checked back with Hill this morning to see if a decision had been made, and he replied, “Yes, Mr. Conner intends to appeal.” Next stop, the state Court of Appeals; we will continue to cover this, every step of the way.

Satterlee House ruling: Owner loses appeal of development denial

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ORIGINAL 11:27 AM POST (followed by updates): We’re at the King County Courthouse downtown, where Superior Court Judge Suzanne Barnett has just announced her ruling on Satterlee House owner William Conner‘s appeal of the city’s denial of his proposal to build three houses on its front lawn. The ruling comes a week and a half after both sides presented oral arguments (WSB coverage here), as part of Conner’s court challenge, filed following the city Hearing Examiner‘s affirmation in April of the Landmarks Board decision to say no to this specific development proposal. (Conner needed board approval because the Satterlee House, at 4866 Beach Drive [map] and also known as “The Painted Lady,” is an official city landmark.) Now, the ruling: The judge has affirmed the Hearing Examiner and Landmarks Board decisions against the development proposal. She said she did not agree with any of the reasons made by Conner and lawyer Richard Hill regarding why they felt the decisions were in error. We’ll add more details shortly, and we also will be following up on whether Conner plans to appeal the decision (the next step would be the Court of Appeals); important to note, again, this does not represent a ruling that no development can happen on the site – only that this it was legal for the city to deny this particular proposal for three 3,000-square-foot-average houses (which the judge termed “mini-mansions”) on the home’s front lawn along Beach Drive. 12:40 PM ADDENDUM: We talked to Hill outside the courtroom; he said they would “digest” the ruling before making a decision on whether to challenge it (they have 30 days to do that). 1:19 PM ADDENDUM: Here are details of what Judge Barnett said today in court:Read More

Details: Satterlee House court hearing

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As promised, here are the details of Monday afternoon’s oral arguments in the case of Conner vs. Seattle — that’s William Conner, who founded Conner Homes and is now retired, challenging the city Hearing Examiner‘s decision upholding the city Landmarks Board‘s rejection of his proposal to build three 3,000-or-so-square-foot homes on the big lawn fronting the Satterlee House (4866 Beach Drive; map). That board has to turn thumbs up or down on changes proposed to official city landmarks, which require a “certificate of approval” before such changes can proceed to the next step in any development process. This case is unusual and potentially precedent-setting because, as was noted during the HE hearings we covered in the spring, Landmarks Board rulings are seldom appealed, and this one not only went to appeal, the ruling on that appeal is now being challenged in court. Here’s what happened in court Monday (expanding on our brief initial report published Monday afternoon):Read More

Satterlee House court arguments over; ruling later this month

October 13, 2008 3:52 pm
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 |   West Seattle history | West Seattle news

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Just concluded in King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Barnett‘s courtroom: Oral arguments for and against Satterlee House owner William Conner‘s challenge of the city rulings against his proposal to build three homes, averaging about 3,000 square feet each, on the expansive front lawn of the city landmark also known as “the Painted Lady of Beach Drive.” Conner’s lawyer Richard Hill and the city’s lawyer Judy Barbour each spoke to the judge for about 45 minutes, Hill presented a few minutes of rebuttal, and then Judge Barnett set October 24th as the date she will announce her ruling. Full details of today’s proceedings later; this report includes backstory on the case (which is a followup to city Hearing Examiner proceedings we covered earlier this year, as Conner challenged the city Landmarks Board’s denial of permission to proceed with the development application – the argument isn’t whether he can build anything on the lawn, which is on the record as three separate lots, but whether what he wants to build would harm the characteristics for which the site was designated a landmark).

Satterlee House case goes to court next week

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Back in March and April, we brought you a series of reports about the city Hearing Examiner‘s consideration of an appeal filed by William Conner, owner of the city landmark Satterlee House on Beach Drive, challenging the city Landmarks Board‘s denial of his request to build three homes (averaging 3,000 square feet) on the house’s expansive front lawn. (The board has to review and approve changes proposed to official city landmarks.) After the Hearing Examiner ruled in April against his appeal, Conner filed a challenge in May in King County Superior Court. That case is finally coming before a judge, and we received word today that oral arguments are scheduled Monday afternoon. At the heart of the case is not whether Conner can build on the site, but what he can build on the site; he is asking the judge to rule that he has the right to go ahead with the original proposal. Meantime, online listings indicate the house remains on the market, listed for more than $2 million; listing agent AC Braddock had told us in May that Conner had approved one of the major repairs which he’d testified were needed, jacking up the house to fix major settling; the permit for that work was issued in July.

Satterlee House followup: Agent says repairs in the works

May 20, 2008 1:21 pm
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 |   West Seattle history | West Seattle news

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If you’ve been following the saga of the Satterlee House – the city-landmark-designated “Painted Lady” of Beach Drive (4800 block) – you know its current owner, William Conner, is challenging a city ruling against his proposal to build three 3,000-square-foot-average homes on its long front lawn (most recent WSB report here). In testimony before the city Hearing Examiner, who affirmed the city Landmarks Board ruling that Conner had appealed (WSB coverage of the decision here), it was disclosed that the house has significantly settled and that the problem likely had contributed to the failure of at least one purchase offer over the years. One of the witnesses at the hearing (as reported here) was the Satterlee House’s longtime listing agent, AC Braddock, who e-mailed WSB to say that Conner has committed to repairing the settling, and she believes that might “help someone to decide to buy the entire property as an estate. Having the house lifted and made more level should give a prospective owner more confidence in the viability of the home and seriously consider making the investment required to update the home and grounds as an estate home.” Braddock adds that she plans to schedule some open houses before and after the repair work.

Satterlee House owner goes to court to challenge city ruling

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The fight over what can and can’t be built on that large lawn in the 4800 block of Beach Drive, stretching westward from the city-landmarked Satterlee House, isn’t over yet. Richard Hill, lawyer for Satterlee House owner William Conner, has just confirmed to WSB that Conner is going to court to challenge the city Hearing Examiner‘s recent ruling on his development proposal. As reported here April 28th, Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner upheld the city Landmarks Board vote against Conner’s proposal to build three 3,000-square-foot homes on the land; it’s been subdivided into three lots for potential development, and it was suggested at the extensive hearing preceding the ruling (this archive includes all WSB coverage) that the board might have looked more favorably on smaller houses. The HE ruling was the city’s final say, so court action was the only means by which it could be challenged; the 51-page appeal asks King County Superior Court to review the decision – we won’t have time to review all 51 pages till later, but we’ve uploaded the document here in case you want to read it first.

Bulletin: Satterlee House owner loses city appeal

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Just received a copy of the decision issued this afternoon by city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner after several days of testimony we covered last month: The Hearing Examiner affirms the Landmarks Preservation Board‘s denial of a “certificate of approval” for Satterlee House owner William Conner to build three houses on the Beach Drive landmark’s front lawn (photo above). That doesn’t mean he can’t build on the front lawn, but the particular proposal he had put forth – which required Landmarks Board approval because of the property’s status as a city landmark – will not be approved. WSB was the only news organization to cover the hearing that stretched out across almost three weeks last month (you can find the previous stories in reverse chronological order by looking here). 5:15 PM UPDATE: We have messages out to Conner’s lawyer Richard Hill seeking comment; this is the city’s final decision in the matter, so any further challenge would have to come in court. Also, here is a link to the full 16-page decision if you would like to read it yourself. 5:20 PM UPDATE: Quick reply from Hill: “Mr. Conner respectfully disagrees with the Hearing Examiner’s decision. He will be reviewing his options.” No decision on that expected for at least a week. Meantime, we’re still working on the summary of the decision. 6:39 PM UPDATE: As promised, here’s our full writeup on the Hearing Examiner’s decision, with excerpts:Read More

Satterlee House development dispute: The final witness

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As of 1 o’clock this afternoon, the testimony’s over, and paperwork is what’s next in the fight over what can be built on the big front lawn of the landmark Satterlee House (the “Painted Lady” at 4866 Beach Drive, photo above). The city called one last “rebuttal witness” this afternoon — someone who almost wasn’t called to testify, as the city legal team explained while closing hearing-room proceedings with an official protest following the testimony:Read More

Satterlee House development dispute: Testimony almost over

March 18, 2008 6:53 pm
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 |   Development | West Seattle history | West Seattle news

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Now in its third (partial) week before city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner, testimony in the Satterlee House (above) case is almost over, with no more than 2 additional witnesses expected tomorrow afternoon. It wasn’t supposed to continue into this week; property owner William Conner, who is appealing a city Landmarks Board decision about what he can do with the house’s huge lawn, isn’t even sitting in on the proceedings any more as of today:Read More

Satterlee House development dispute: Owner testifies

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Today’s proceedings in the case of Satterlee House (Beach Drive’s “Painted Lady”) owner William Conner vs. the city Landmarks Preservation Board only ran three and a half hours in the morning, but that span included testimony from Conner himself:Read More

Satterlee House development fight: Afternoon testimony

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The city Landmarks Preservation Board lawyers have called all their witnesses, and now the lawyer for Satterlee House (aka Beach Drive’s “Painted Lady”) owner William Conner is calling his, with testimony continuing before city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner at 8 am tomorrow and 12:30 pm Tuesday. It’s already gone on for 2 1/2 days (coverage links: testimony from the house’s previous owner/namesake David Satterlee here; first full day, last Monday, wrapup here; this morning’s testimony here) and is attracting a fair level of attention in the historic-preservation and legal communities, since disputes over development involving official city landmarks almost never get to this stage (an appeal argued before the Hearing Examiner). Here’s what happened this afternoon:Read More

Satterlee House development fight: This morning’s testimony

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Looks like today will be the second full day of testimony in the case of Satterlee House/Beach Drive “Painted Lady” owner William Conner vs. the city Landmarks Board — it originally was set for a half-day but as we mentioned in our previous reports, the case has been taking so long, the city Hearing Examiner had to add extra time to the calendar. Backstory: Conner has owned the house since 2000. After a previous development proposal went nowhere in the early ’00s, nothing happened for a while, till he filed to subdivide the house’s huge front lawn into three separate lots. That was granted; but before anyone could build on those three lots, the city Landmarks Board had to grant a Certificate of Approval, since the house and site comprise an official city landmark. Conner took a proposal for three homes, about 3,000 square feet each, to the board, and it said no. His appeal of that decision is what is being argued now, courtroom-style, before the city Hearing Examiner, in her hearing room on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown. This morning’s testimony included revelations about how much Conner has spent so far — in legal fees as well as on the property — among other things:Read More

A matter of size: Satterlee House lawn-development dispute

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We reported briefly yesterday (morning update here; afternoon update here) about the start of proceedings before the city Hearing Examiner over what the owner of the “Satterlee House”/”Painted Lady” at 4866 Beach Drive will be allowed to build on the huge front lawn shown above. Testimony continues Thursday morning on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown; before too much time passed, we wanted to post a more complete wrapup of what we saw and heard while covering the proceedings yesterday:Read More

West Seattle history: Updates on two city-landmark houses

Updates on two of the three West Seattle residences that also happen to be city landmarks:

(WSB photo)

SATTERLEE HOUSE: The “Painted Lady” at 4866 Beach Drive SW has been on and off the market for years but finally has found a new owner. According to county records, it was sold in late July for $1,025,000. Some exterior work is under way, as you can see in our photo, taken last weekend; it was also an agenda item for the Landmarks Board last month, with approval sought for exterior-paint colors. The house’s history includes a tussle over a proposal to build three houses on its “front lawn,” denied by the city and taken by its former owner all the way to the State Supreme Court, as covered here 2008-2010. The lawn remains platted as separate lots, but no development proposals are pending.

HAINSWORTH/GORDON HOUSE: On the market for just under $2 million is the Hainsworth/Gordon House at 2657 37th SW.

(King County Assessor’s Office photo)
County records show it has changed hands four times in the past ten years, most recently a foreclosure sale at the end of 2013. Read some of its history here.

TO SEE ALL THE CITY LANDMARKS IN WEST SEATTLEexplore this map.