The Setup

I’m writing a web app in python with Flask and SqlAlchemy with MySQL.

the solution…

The Code

Starting with the following (slightly snipped for brevity) python/SqlAlchemy code in <project>/markbox/

class UserBlog(ModelBase):
    __tablename__ = 'user_blog'

    id = sa.Column(sa.Integer, primary_key=True)
    uid = sa.Column(strcol)
    # blog title
    name = sa.Column(strcol)

    # returns a query => blog.sync_stats.all()
    sync_stats = relationship(
    	'models.SyncStats', backref='blog',

class SyncStats(ModelBase):
    Store various statistics about sync operations
    __tablename__ = 'system_syncstats'

    id = sa.Column(sa.Integer, primary_key=True)
    uid = sa.Column(strcol, sa.ForeignKey('user_blogsettings.uid'))

And this code in <project>/markbox/tools/

import sys
import os

print sys.path

from markbox.models import UserBlog, SyncStats

from sqlalchemy import create_engine
from sqlalchemy.ext.declarative import declarative_base
from sqlalchemy import Column, Integer, String, DateTime
from sqlalchemy.orm import sessionmaker

SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI = "mysql://markbox_user:markbox@localhost/markbox"

engine = create_engine(SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI, echo='debug')
Session = sessionmaker(bind=engine)
session = Session()

if __name__ == '__main__':
    blog = UserBlog.query.limit(1)

The Error

When run from the command line in <project>:

% python markbox/tools/

I get:

['/Users/sivy/Projects/personal/markbox/markbox/tools', ..., '/Users/sivy/Projects/personal/markbox', '/Users/sivy/Projects/personal/markbox/markbox']
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "markbox/tools/", line 25, in <module>
    blog = UserBlog.query.limit(1)
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 131, in __get__
    mapper = class_mapper(owner)
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 1112, in class_mapper
    mapper = _inspect_mapped_class(class_, configure=configure)
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 1045, in _inspect_mapped_class
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 2122, in configure_mappers
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 1244, in _post_configure_properties
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 231, in init
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 1031, in do_init
  File "/Users/sivy/.virtualenvs/markbox/lib/python2.7/site-packages/sqlalchemy/orm/", line 1220, in _generate_backref
    self, m))
sqlalchemy.exc.ArgumentError: Error creating backref 'blog' on relationship 'UserBlog.sync_stats': property of that name exists on mapper 'Mapper|SyncStats|system_syncstats'

What I’ve Done

I’ve already confirmed that:

  • the SyncStats model has no “blog” property (it used to have a method, decorated with @property).
  • I’ve deleted any existing *.pyc files to make sure that the interpreter is not picking up pre-compiled code.

The solution

So, the problem turned out to be that the models were being imported from two paths:

from models import UserBlog

and later:

from markbox.models import UserBlog

This caused the intilization code to be run twice, and the resulting error.