9 Best Places for Families to Live in San Diego 2024 | 2025

Welcome to America's Finest City, San Diego – a vibrant and family-friendly destination on the sunny shores of Southern California. With its warm climate, stunning beaches, and a plethora of family-oriented attractions, San Diego has rightfully earned its reputation as a top choice for families looking to put down roots. However, the key to finding the perfect haven lies in selecting the right neighborhood that aligns with your family's needs and desires.

Choosing the ideal neighborhood is a crucial decision for families as it sets the stage for their daily lives and profoundly impacts their overall well-being. Each neighborhood in San Diego offers a unique blend of amenities, schools, parks, and community spirit. Whether you seek excellent educational institutions, safe and secure neighborhoods, or a plethora of recreational activities, the right neighborhood can provide a nurturing environment for your family to thrive.

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To determine the best places for families to live in San Diego, several criteria were taken into consideration. These include the quality of schools, safety ratings, access to parks and outdoor spaces, family-friendly amenities, and the overall community atmosphere. By evaluating these factors, we have compiled a list of the top 9 neighborhoods that consistently exhibit exceptional qualities and cater to the needs of families.

From the upscale neighborhood of Carmel Valley, known for its outstanding schools and family-oriented ambiance, to the coastal charm of Del Mar and La Jolla with their breathtaking beaches and world-class educational opportunities, each neighborhood on our list brings something special to the table. Whether you prefer the suburban appeal of Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Scripps Ranch, or the coastal allure of Encinitas and Carlsbad, there is a perfect place for your family to call home in San Diego.

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As we delve into the details of these top 9 neighborhoods, we invite you to explore the unique features and attractions that make them stand out. Discover the educational opportunities, recreational offerings, and tight-knit communities that await your family's arrival. By the end of this article, we hope you will be inspired and equipped to make an informed decision about the best place to build lasting memories and create a truly fulfilling family life in San Diego.

Here's a quick rundown of our list:

1 - Carmel Valley 

Nestled in the picturesque northern region of San Diego, Carmel Valley is a gem of a neighborhood that effortlessly combines suburban charm with a touch of sophistication. Its prime location, just east of Del Mar and a short drive from the coast, offers residents the best of both worlds – easy access to the stunning beaches and a tranquil retreat away from the bustling city center.

One of the standout features of Carmel Valley is its exceptional school district, making it a sought-after destination for families seeking top-notch education for their children. The neighborhood is home to highly regarded schools, including Canyon Crest Academy and Torrey Pines High School, known for their academic excellence and diverse range of programs. The commitment to quality education in Carmel Valley ensures that families have access to outstanding educational opportunities that set the foundation for their children's future success.

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Beyond its outstanding schools, Carmel Valley exudes a family-friendly atmosphere that is palpable throughout the community. Residents enjoy a safe and welcoming environment, where children can play freely and neighbors become friends. The neighborhood boasts an array of amenities catering to families, such as recreational centers, community parks, and sports fields. Notable parks like Carmel Valley Community Park and Torrey Hills Park offer ample green spaces for picnics, sports activities, and playgrounds for kids to enjoy.

In addition to the community parks, Carmel Valley residents have easy access to a range of recreational activities. The neighborhood is in close proximity to the scenic Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, offering breathtaking hiking trails and panoramic ocean views. For those seeking retail therapy and dining experiences, the nearby Del Mar Highlands Town Center and One Paseo provide a vibrant hub of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

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Carmel Valley's blend of excellent schools, family-friendly atmosphere, and convenient amenities make it an ideal place for families to live and thrive. Whether you're strolling through the neighborhood's beautifully manicured streets, enjoying a family picnic in one of its parks, or taking advantage of the nearby beaches and outdoor activities, Carmel Valley truly offers a harmonious balance of suburban tranquility and an active, engaging lifestyle.

2 - Del Mar 

Tucked along the stunning coastline of San Diego County, Del Mar beckons with its idyllic charm and coastal allure. This picturesque beachside town is renowned for its pristine beaches, family-oriented community, and a vibrant village atmosphere that captures the essence of Southern California living.

Del Mar's coastal location is a major draw for families seeking a slice of paradise. With miles of sandy beaches, where the warm sun meets the rolling waves, residents enjoy a year-round playground right at their doorstep. Del Mar Beach, known for its gentle surf and inviting shores, is a favorite spot for families to frolic in the sand, build sandcastles, and take refreshing dips in the Pacific Ocean. The breathtaking sunsets paint the sky with vibrant hues, creating magical moments that become cherished family memories.

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Beyond its scenic beauty, Del Mar boasts a close-knit and family-oriented community. The village atmosphere exudes a welcoming ambiance, where neighbors become friends and community engagement is paramount. With its quaint streets lined with charming shops, boutiques, and eateries, Del Mar's downtown area offers a vibrant hub for residents to gather, socialize, and enjoy the local fare. The famous Del Mar Farmers Market showcases a variety of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and family-friendly events, creating a lively atmosphere for all to enjoy.

Del Mar is also home to excellent schools that prioritize academic achievement and the overall development of children. Del Mar Union School District offers highly regarded educational institutions, including Del Mar Hills Academy and Del Mar Heights School, known for their strong academic programs and commitment to student success. Families in Del Mar have access to quality education, ensuring that their children receive a solid foundation for their future endeavors.

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Outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves spoiled for choice in Del Mar. Apart from the beautiful beaches, the town is surrounded by natural wonders and recreational activities. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, with its breathtaking cliffs and hiking trails, provides an opportunity for families to explore nature's splendor and enjoy breathtaking ocean views. Del Mar also hosts the annual San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, a beloved event featuring rides, games, live entertainment, and agricultural exhibits that appeal to visitors of all ages.

With its coastal charm, family-oriented community, and an abundance of outdoor activities, Del Mar presents an irresistible invitation for families to immerse themselves in the quintessential California lifestyle. Whether you're spending sun-kissed days at the beach, embracing the warmth of the community, or partaking in the various family-friendly events, Del Mar truly epitomizes the perfect blend of natural beauty, community spirit, and endless adventure.

3 - La Jolla 

Nestled along the breathtaking coastline of San Diego, La Jolla stands as a prestigious neighborhood that seamlessly blends natural splendor with an air of elegance. Renowned for its scenic beauty, world-class beaches, and exceptional educational opportunities, La Jolla captures the hearts of residents and visitors alike.

La Jolla's charm lies in its picturesque setting. The neighborhood boasts stunning coastal views, rugged cliffs, and pristine beaches that leave visitors in awe. La Jolla Cove, with its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, offers a sanctuary for snorkeling, swimming, and exploring the underwater wonders. Windansea Beach, known for its picturesque surf break and captivating sunsets, beckons families to soak up the California sun and bask in the laid-back coastal atmosphere.

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Education takes center stage in La Jolla, as the neighborhood is home to top-rated schools that consistently deliver excellence. La Jolla is served by the highly acclaimed San Diego Unified School District, with schools like La Jolla High School and La Jolla Elementary School earning accolades for their academic programs and dedicated faculty. Families can rest assured that their children will receive a first-class education and have access to a wide range of extracurricular activities and resources.

La Jolla also offers a wealth of family-friendly amenities and activities. The neighborhood features an array of parks, playgrounds, and open spaces where children can run, play, and explore to their heart's content. Ellen Browning Scripps Park, with its grassy knolls and breathtaking ocean views, provides an ideal spot for picnics, family gatherings, and leisurely strolls along the coast. Families can also enjoy cultural experiences at the La Jolla Playhouse or delve into the wonders of marine life at Birch Aquarium.

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Beyond the outdoor attractions, La Jolla presents an abundance of fine dining options, boutique shopping, and art galleries. The vibrant downtown area showcases a thriving community with a plethora of events and festivals throughout the year, offering entertainment and activities for families of all ages. The La Jolla Open Aire Market, held every Sunday, is a beloved family-friendly event where visitors can peruse local goods, indulge in delicious food, and enjoy live music.

In La Jolla, prestigious elegance merges with natural beauty, creating a captivating neighborhood that nurtures both mind and spirit. From the world-class beaches and outdoor attractions to the top-rated schools and family-friendly amenities, La Jolla provides an idyllic haven for families seeking a vibrant coastal lifestyle. With its harmonious blend of sophistication, educational excellence, and captivating experiences, La Jolla sets the stage for families to create cherished memories and embrace the essence of Southern California living.

4 - Poway 

Nestled in the northeast region of San Diego County, Poway offers a welcoming and family-oriented community that combines a suburban feel with the natural beauty of Southern California. Situated just a short drive away from downtown San Diego, Poway provides a peaceful retreat with convenient access to urban amenities.

One of Poway's standout features is its top-rated schools and educational facilities, making it an attractive destination for families seeking excellent educational opportunities for their children. Poway Unified School District is renowned for its exceptional schools, such as Poway High School and Del Norte High School, which consistently rank among the best in the state. Families can rest assured that their children will receive a quality education and have access to a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities.

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Poway also offers spacious homes and family-friendly neighborhoods, making it an ideal place for families to lay down roots. The neighborhood boasts a variety of housing options, from single-family homes to larger estates, providing ample space for growing families. The community atmosphere in Poway is warm and inviting, with neighbors often coming together for block parties, community events, and celebrations. The focus on family values and a strong sense of community fosters a safe and nurturing environment for families to thrive.

In addition to its residential appeal, Poway offers a wealth of outdoor spaces for families to enjoy. Poway Community Park is a popular destination, featuring playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields, and even a dog park. The Blue Sky Ecological Reserve offers hiking trails, providing opportunities for families to explore the natural beauty of the area and spot local wildlife. Poway also hosts a variety of community events throughout the year, including the annual Poway Rodeo and the Summer Concert Series at Lake Poway, where families can enjoy live music and entertainment.

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Poway's combination of top-rated schools, spacious homes, family-friendly neighborhoods, and access to outdoor activities make it an attractive choice for families seeking a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. Whether you're enjoying the ample green spaces, connecting with neighbors at community events, or watching your children thrive in exceptional schools, Poway provides a welcoming and supportive environment where families can create lasting memories and embrace the best of San Diego living.

5 - Rancho Bernardo 

Welcome to Rancho Bernardo, a master-planned community nestled in the picturesque hills of northern San Diego. This suburban oasis embraces a family-oriented atmosphere, offering residents a tranquil and inviting place to call home.

Rancho Bernardo's master-planned design ensures a well-thought-out layout, with carefully crafted neighborhoods and amenities that cater to families. The community exudes a sense of serenity and harmony, providing a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. With its wide, tree-lined streets and manicured lawns, Rancho Bernardo epitomizes suburban living at its finest.

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One of the standout features of Rancho Bernardo is its dedication to providing ample recreational opportunities for residents of all ages. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at one of the community's renowned golf courses, such as the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course or Bernardo Heights Country Club. These lush green spaces not only offer a chance to enjoy a round of golf but also serve as picturesque backdrops for social gatherings and events.

Rancho Bernardo also boasts an abundance of parks and open spaces, where families can come together to enjoy the outdoors. Webb Park and Rancho Bernardo Community Park offer playgrounds, sports fields, and picnic areas, providing the perfect setting for leisurely family outings or community gatherings. Lake Hodges, with its scenic trails and fishing opportunities, invites residents to explore nature's beauty and engage in outdoor activities.

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In terms of education, Rancho Bernardo is home to several highly regarded schools. The Poway Unified School District serves the community, offering top-rated educational institutions such as Rancho Bernardo High School and Bernardo Heights Middle School. These schools provide excellent academic programs and extracurricular activities, ensuring that children receive a well-rounded education and ample opportunities for personal growth.

Rancho Bernardo further enhances its family-friendly appeal with a range of amenities and services. The neighborhood is dotted with shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment options, providing convenience and leisure activities for residents. The community also hosts various family-friendly events and festivals throughout the year, fostering a strong sense of camaraderie and creating opportunities for neighbors to connect and forge lasting friendships.

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Rancho Bernardo's master-planned layout, suburban feel, and family-oriented atmosphere make it an ideal place for families to put down roots. With its golf courses, parks, and recreational opportunities, along with top-rated schools and a wealth of family-friendly amenities, Rancho Bernardo offers a harmonious blend of convenience, tranquility, and community spirit that makes it a truly desirable place to call home.

6 - Scripps Ranch 

Welcome to the vibrant community of Scripps Ranch, a picturesque neighborhood nestled in the northeastern region of San Diego. Known for its family-friendly nature, Scripps Ranch offers a harmonious blend of suburban tranquility and a vibrant, engaged community.

Scripps Ranch is highly regarded for its top-rated schools and educational resources, making it an ideal destination for families seeking exceptional educational opportunities for their children. The neighborhood is served by the award-winning San Diego Unified School District, with schools like Scripps Ranch High School and Jerabek Elementary School consistently ranking among the best in the area. Families can rest assured that their children will receive a quality education, empowering them to reach their full potential.

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One of the highlights of Scripps Ranch is its abundant parks, recreational facilities, and outdoor activities. The neighborhood boasts a multitude of well-maintained parks, such as Hoyt Park and Lake Miramar, where families can enjoy picnics, hiking trails, and scenic views. The Miramar Reservoir offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and lakeside picnics. For outdoor enthusiasts, the nearby Mission Trails Regional Park provides extensive trails for hiking, biking, and exploring the natural beauty of San Diego.

Engagement and community spirit thrive in Scripps Ranch, as the neighborhood offers numerous opportunities for families to come together and connect. Community events, such as the Scripps Ranch Symphony in the Park series, bring residents together for live music and picnics under the stars. The Scripps Ranch Farmers Market showcases local vendors and fosters a sense of community through supporting local businesses. With its active homeowners associations and volunteer organizations, Scripps Ranch offers a platform for residents to get involved, make a difference, and build lasting connections.

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Scripps Ranch's family-friendly nature, top-rated schools, and abundance of parks and outdoor activities make it an idyllic place for families to create cherished memories. Whether it's exploring the neighborhood's natural beauty, attending family-oriented events, or engaging with the community, Scripps Ranch provides a nurturing and vibrant environment that celebrates the essence of family life. From its educational resources to its commitment to community engagement, Scripps Ranch truly offers a place where families can thrive and experience the best of San Diego living.

7 - Encinitas 

Welcome to Encinitas, a coastal city in San Diego County that captures the essence of laid-back beach living. With its stunning beaches, excellent schools, and family-friendly amenities, Encinitas is a paradise for families seeking a vibrant coastal lifestyle.

Encinitas exudes a laid-back vibe that reflects the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of its residents. The city is known for its surf culture, artsy community, and commitment to sustainable living. Whether you're strolling along the charming streets of downtown Encinitas, browsing local boutiques and art galleries, or savoring a delicious meal at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants, you'll feel embraced by the unique coastal charm that sets Encinitas apart.

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Education is highly valued in Encinitas, and the city is home to excellent schools that provide a nurturing environment for children. Encinitas Union School District and San Dieguito Union High School District serve the area, offering a range of top-rated schools. Institutions such as Ocean Knoll Elementary School and San Dieguito Academy are known for their academic excellence and dedication to student success. Families can feel confident that their children will receive a quality education, setting them up for a bright future.

Encinitas is blessed with beautiful beaches that are a magnet for families. Moonlight Beach, with its sandy shores and gentle waves, is a popular spot for picnics, beach volleyball, and building sandcastles. Swami's Beach, known for its world-class surf break and scenic views, attracts surfers and beachgoers alike. Families can spend sunny days playing in the waves, soaking up the sun, and experiencing the quintessential Southern California beach lifestyle.

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Outdoor activities abound in Encinitas, offering families a range of options to stay active and enjoy the coastal environment. The San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve provides opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and exploring the unique wetlands. The Encinitas Community Park offers playgrounds, sports fields, and picnic areas, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy. The city also hosts family-friendly events throughout the year, such as the Summer Concerts by the Sea series and the Encinitas Holiday Parade, fostering a strong sense of community and creating cherished memories.

Encinitas embraces the needs of families with its abundance of family-friendly amenities. From the inviting parks to the welcoming community centers, families have access to recreational facilities, community events, and programs designed to bring neighbors together and create a strong sense of belonging. The city's commitment to family-oriented activities and a supportive community make it an ideal place for families to thrive.

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In Encinitas, the coastal beauty and laid-back atmosphere create an enchanting backdrop for families to call home. With its excellent schools, breathtaking beaches, and family-friendly amenities, Encinitas offers a perfect blend of coastal charm and vibrant community life. Whether you're enjoying a day at the beach, exploring the local art scene, or participating in community events, Encinitas promises a coastal paradise where families can create lasting memories and embrace the best of Southern California living.

8 - Carlsbad 

Welcome to Carlsbad, a coastal city in North San Diego County that radiates a family-friendly atmosphere. Known for its picturesque beaches, excellent schools, and an array of recreational activities, Carlsbad offers a haven for families seeking a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle.

Carlsbad embraces a family-oriented culture, making it an ideal place to raise children. The city boasts a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where neighbors become extended family, and community engagement is a way of life. The sense of belonging and support creates a nurturing environment for families to thrive and create lasting memories.

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Education takes center stage in Carlsbad, with a variety of great schools and educational opportunities. Carlsbad Unified School District serves the community and offers top-rated schools such as Carlsbad High School and Aviara Oaks Elementary School. These institutions prioritize academic excellence, while also providing a wide range of extracurricular activities and resources to ensure a well-rounded education for children of all ages.

Carlsbad's coastal location adds to its allure, with miles of beautiful beaches that provide endless opportunities for family fun and relaxation. Families can spend their days building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, or enjoying a leisurely stroll along the shore. Carlsbad's stunning coastline creates the perfect backdrop for creating cherished memories and embracing the laid-back coastal lifestyle.

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Beyond the beaches, Carlsbad is home to numerous parks and recreational areas, offering an abundance of outdoor activities for families to enjoy. Batiquitos Lagoon is a nature lover's paradise, providing trails for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the diverse ecosystems. Carlsbad also boasts a variety of community parks, such as Alga Norte Community Park and Poinsettia Community Park, which offer playgrounds, sports fields, and picnic areas for families to gather and enjoy the outdoors.

Carlsbad is also renowned for its family-oriented attractions, most notably Legoland California. This world-famous theme park offers an immersive experience filled with LEGO-themed rides, shows, and interactive exhibits, providing hours of entertainment for children and adults alike. The park's commitment to family fun and imagination makes it a must-visit destination for families in Carlsbad.

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In Carlsbad, the combination of a family-friendly atmosphere, great schools, coastal beauty, and a wide range of recreational activities creates an enchanting environment for families to flourish. Whether you're exploring the beaches, engaging in outdoor adventures, or experiencing the excitement of Legoland, Carlsbad promises a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle where family bonds are strengthened and the joys of coastal living are embraced.

9 - San Marcos 

Welcome to San Marcos, an up-and-coming city nestled in the heart of North San Diego County. With its affordable options, excellent schools, and an abundance of outdoor activities, San Marcos offers a vibrant and family-friendly community that is quickly becoming a sought-after destination.

San Marcos stands out as a city that provides affordable housing options without compromising on quality. Families can find a range of housing choices, from cozy suburban neighborhoods to spacious homes, making it an attractive choice for those seeking a balanced lifestyle. San Marcos offers the opportunity to plant roots in a community that is on the rise, with plenty of potential for growth and development.

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Education is highly valued in San Marcos, and the city is home to good schools and robust educational resources. The San Marcos Unified School District serves the community and is committed to providing quality education. Schools such as San Marcos High School and Double Peak School offer rigorous academic programs and a variety of extracurricular activities, ensuring that children have access to a well-rounded education.

San Marcos is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with a wealth of outdoor activities and natural beauty to explore. The city is surrounded by picturesque trails, such as the Double Peak Trail and Discovery Lake Trail, providing opportunities for hiking, biking, and enjoying panoramic views. The nearby Lake San Marcos offers boating, fishing, and lakeside picnicking, creating a serene retreat for families to unwind and connect with nature.

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San Marcos also boasts an array of family-friendly amenities and parks. Walnut Grove Park, San Elijo Hills Park, and Hollandia Park offer playgrounds, sports fields, and picnic areas, catering to the needs of active families. The city's commitment to providing recreational spaces ensures that children have ample opportunities for play and outdoor fun.

Community engagement thrives in San Marcos, with a variety of notable features and community events. The vibrant Old California Restaurant Row offers a bustling dining and entertainment hub, where families can enjoy a wide array of culinary experiences. San Marcos also hosts events like the annual San Marcos Grand Summer Festival and the popular "Double Peak Challenge" trail run, fostering a strong sense of community and creating opportunities for residents to connect and celebrate together.

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San Marcos, with its affordability, good schools, outdoor activities, and family-friendly amenities, presents an exciting opportunity for families to settle into a growing and dynamic community. Whether you're enjoying the outdoors, exploring local parks, or participating in community events, San Marcos promises a warm and inviting environment where families can build a prosperous and fulfilling life.

Conclusion

It's important to remember that choosing the best place to live is a deeply personal decision that depends on individual preferences and priorities. While our list highlights some of the top neighborhoods for families in San Diego, it's crucial to conduct further research and visit the neighborhoods personally to gauge their suitability for your family's needs.

Take the time to explore the schools, amenities, community events, and outdoor activities that resonate with your family's interests. Reach out to local real estate agents, visit neighborhood websites, and connect with community associations for more information.

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Additionally, resources such as San Diego's official city website (www.sandiego.gov) and the San Diego County Office of Education (www.sdcoe.net) can provide valuable insights and contact information for specific neighborhoods and schools.

Remember that no list can capture every aspect and preference that may be important to your family. So dive into the research, talk to locals, and get a feel for the neighborhoods firsthand. By doing so, you'll be able to make an informed decision and find the perfect place for your family to thrive in San Diego's welcoming and vibrant community.

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Scott

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