Supes Block ‘Historic Laundromat’ Development

The Board of Supervisors was awash with concerns over an eight-story housing development, and upheld an appeal to hamper the laundromat's conversion.

The plan to turn a run-down laundromat into a 75-unit housing development heard a heavy load of complaints from the Board of Supervisors, who upheld an appeal Tuesday blocking the construction of a proposed eight-story apartment building at what is now the Wash Club at 25th and Mission streets. The debate has drawn public curiosity since a February appeal proposed that the laundromat should be considered a “historic resource.”

That claim was hung out to dry by a June 11 Planning Department evaluation that the building is not a historic resource. But the board voted unanimously for “additional study and analysis of the shadow impact on the two schoolyards” of the adjacent Zaida T. Rodriguez Early Education School and Child Development Center complex.

Sup. Hillary Ronen, who represents the district, pressed the Planning Department on whether they’d conducted a thorough analysis of the shadows that the eight-story project would cast on the preschool. 

“There are two different campuses with two different schoolyards, and my understanding is that one of the schoolyards wasn’t even discussed in the hearing before the Planning Commission,” Sup. Ronen said. “The particular human beings that I’m worried about in the impact are these children.”

But the property’s owner sees flawed logic that is legally out of line with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under which this appeal was submitted.

“According to law, shadow impact on a schoolyard is not a CEQA affect,” owner Robert Tillman tells SF Weekly. “The Board of Supervisors disregarded what’s in the record from the Planning Department, and said ‘We’re going to uphold a CEQA appeal on the basis of something that isn’t a CEQA affect.'”

The city may have to defend that decision in court.

“The result of the decision is that I only have one alternative to move my project forward, and that is to file suit against the city,” Tillman said. “There’s no further appeal I can make. I’m at an end with the city and its process.”

Around two dozen public commenters spoke out against the project, wearing pink ‘Protect Our Children!’ stickers. They claimed Planning Department’s shadow studies were shady, and that the laundromat conversion represented a rapid rinse of gentrification in the Mission.

“Mission Street is the backbone of the Mission,” said attorney J. Scott Weaver, representing the Calle 24 community organization who submitted the appeal. “But it’s getting upscaled from low price-point, community-serving businesses to fancy wine bars and restaurants and high-end retail.”

This development was proposed way back in March 2014, but has been held up in red tape ever since. Prior to the four-month delay to evaluate historical significance claims, the Planning Commission balked at the “bulky” design, and neighborhood activists complained that the project used a density bonus loophole to set aside a smaller percentage of affordable units.

The proposed eight-story apartment complex couldn’t have been completed any earlier than 2020. But as the saga of the “historic” laundromat is spinning into a new cycle, the neighborhood will see if either side folds.

SF Weekly has updated this article with comment from property owner Robert Tillman.

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