Banya Sues S.F. Over Giant India Basin Development

Naked rooftop yoga just isn’t the same with dirty air, the sounds of jackhammers, and cranes putting up two 14-story towers next to your spa.

Cindy Chew, SF Examiner

Hunters Point spa and bathhouse Archimedes Banya offers massage and spa services, mineral baths, and rooftop yoga sessions, all featuring gorgeous India Basin views like the one seen above. But a recently approved development next door plans to add 1,575 housing units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space, which Banya feels threatens the existence of their business. The Chronicle reports that Banya has sued the city of San Francisco to get the project put on hold.

This isn’t just some NIMBY hippy lawsuit where people are complaining about not having their pretty rooftop views for clothing-optional yoga. Banya has also cited significant air quality concerns, and their lawsuit calls out 300 units being slipped into the project after an environmental impact review (EIR) had already been completed.

“Significant new information had been added to the EIR after public notice was given but before certification, to wit, the addition of more than 300 residential units,” Banya’s attorney Alexander Golovets says in the lawsuit. “The proposed addition of residential units would create new and significant environmental impacts requiring further mitigation measures.” (Golovets did not return comment as of press time.)

Keep in mind that this project is adjacent to the Hunters Point Shipyard project, where toxic soil samples were falsified so the area could be declared safe for development. Two people have pled guilty to falsifying reports in that case. So it’s understandable that the neighborhood has environmental concerns. Banya and a group called Greenaction challenged the project with an appeal in September, citing “significant, harmful, and illegal levels of air pollution.”

“We are NOT trying to stop this project,” Banya said in an email appeal to its customers, reprinted by Broke-Ass Stuart. “We are only insisting that they follow the well-established rules for affordable housing and public disclosure.”

But the San Francisco Board of Supervisors shot down that appeal by a 10-1 vote, and approved the project in mid-October.

“The public comment really reflects the uneasiness that exists in the Bayview community when it comes to development, when it comes to environmental injustices,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the district. But she also said that the “CEQA evaluation is thorough. The project will undoubtedly be a benefit to the community.”

In contrast to the Banya’s stance, some Hunters Point residents welcome the development, and its added housing, grocery store, and park space.

We are going to suffer some short-term air quality issues during construction just like every other construction project that has ever happened in the history of humankind,” neighbor Jill Fox said at the appeal meeting. “But our long-term gains [are] here.”

Lou Vasquez, founder of the project’s sponsor, Build, Inc., told the San Francisco Examiner at the time, “We will do whatever we can to minimize the impact this project has on air quality.”

Both sides in the lawsuit are scheduled to appear in San Francisco Superior Court on March 5, 2019. The project will not be delayed in the meantime.

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