Historic Laundromat Development Delayed Over Concern of ‘Dank, Damp’ Shadow

The Planning Commission turns down a request to merge three land parcels and turn the so-called “historic laundromat” into 83 units of housing.

Joe Kukura, SF Weekly

The latest cycle in the saga of the Wash Club Laundromat was another drain on the efforts to build an eight-story housing project on the site.  Plans to turn the one-story Mission District coin-op laundry shop into a large residential development, which have drawn curiosity since opponents tried to designate the laundromat as a “historic resource”, have hit another snag. The Examiner reports that the Planning Commission denied a request to merge three current parcels into one, further complicating the future of a project in the works for more than five years.

While the since-dismissed historical resource designation has captured the most public attention, debate over the project has evolved into a dispute over whether the proposed building would cast too large a shadow on the adjacent Zaida T. Rodriguez Early Education School playgrounds.  The Board of Supervisors voted to delay the project in June so a shadow study could be performed, prompting a lawsuit from the developer. The findings of the shadow study were presented to the Planning Commission at a Thursday meeting.

Speaking for the 4-3 majority that voted to deny the conditional-use permit, commissioner Dennis Richards said, “The school playground will be moist in the fall, winter, spring, and if the sun doesn’t hit it early on, it will be dank and damp. What are the kids going to want to do? Will they want to play in the moisture?

“I think it will have an effect on the children, the school.”

Commissioners also voiced concerns that the project skirts affordable housing requirements by invoking a density bonus.

“It’s a bit unfortunate that the project sponsor is invoking the state density bonus,” said Planning Commission president Rich Hillis. “The biggest factor for me in that is the reduction of affordable housing — we go from a level that could be up to 25 percent to 11 percent.” (Though Hillis did eventually vote in favor of authorizing the conditional use.)

Project developer Robert Tillman would not comment to the Examiner after the vote, citing his pending litigation against the city. But a letter from his attorney says he intends to proceed with the project anyway, “because the project application was deemed complete prior to the relevant legislation” requiring conditional-use permits to merge the three land parcels. Lot mergers were not required when this project received initial Planning Commision approval in 2017.

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