The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday sided with Mission District activists challenging a housing development on the site of a former laundromat, ordering the developer to conduct a shadow study looking at the project’s impacts on an adjacent school.
The board voted unanimously to require additional study on the plan to build 75 units of market rate housing at 2918-2924 Mission St. in response to an appeal filed by the Calle 24 Cultural District
The proposal to build housing on the site of a 5,200 square foot building that houses a laundromat and 6,400 square foot parking lot has been in the works since 2014. It was approved by the Planning Commission in November but has been delayed by multiple challenges since then, with neighborhood activists pushing for greater affordability.
“There are a number of things we find troubling about this project, [including] the direct impacts on the preschool children who every day for 18-24 months will see construction noise, dust debris, fumes [and] disruption to their learning, play time and nap time,” said attorney Scott Weaver, who filed the appeal on behalf of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.
Weaver added that the Calle 24, which was formed to preserve and advocate for Latino culture and businesses in the area, was “also troubled by the lack of an up-to-date assessment of the cumulative impacts on projects such as this.”
Weaver argued that the number of market-rate apartments that have been developed in the Mission in recent years have long surpassed what was anticipated by the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, a 2008 city plan for the area.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes the site where the project is proposed, cited the need for an additional study and analysis “on the shadow impact on the two school yards that are impacted by the project” as the impetus of the project’s delay.
While the environmental review process, or CEQA, requires shadow impact studies on public parks and spaces, it does not require such a study on school yards, argued Mark Loper, an attorney for developer Robert Tillman.
“Shadow impacts on the school’s playgrounds is not a CEQA issue…just on publicly accessible parks and open spaces, that’s the rule,” said Loper. “Neither of the two [play areas are] publicly accessible.”
But according to Ronen, the school will soon be part of The City’s Shared Schoolyard Program, which seeks to open school yards to the public after school hours.
“There has been, in my opinion, not enough analysis as to how the shadow impacts of this project will impact that public open space,” said Ronen.
During public comment, opponents of the project also criticized its affordability. Only about 10 percent of the proposed units are affordable to the neighborhood’s working class residents, and activists argued that its construction would accelerate gentrification in a neighborhood that has seen dozens of luxury residential and commercial developments crop up in recent years.
“I see my community change in front of my eyes. This is about more than children playing in the sun — this is about who are we building for and who do we see [in] the future of San Francisco,” said a neighbor of the the project who gave her name as Lucia. “ Newcomers with money come and they have everything at their reach. Who are we building for? I think the children should be our priority. The future of this city should be our priority."
After approval for the project was granted by the Planning Commission last November, Tillman faced pushback from the Calle 24 advocates and neighbors, who alleged the more than 90-year-old building was a historic resource, as it once served as offices for local advocates and nonprofits who contributed to the community’s fabric.
But four months later, an investigation by the Planning Department found that wasn’t the case.
Loper argued that if the appeal were denied, the new housing could be “ready for occupancy by mid-2020.”
Supporters of the project argued that The City’s “project by project” assessment hindered the construction of crucial housing in the midsts of San Francisco’s housing crisis.
“We can’t keep making decisions like this. If we want to stop building market-rate apartments in the mission then we need to downsize the Mission and upzone wealthy communities,” said Laura Foote Clark of YIMBY Action. “We have to build housing, we have to stop this project-by-project tearing each other apart.”
However, dozens of Mission community members and community advocates who showed up in support of the appeal overshadowed the project’s supporters.
“I want you all to take a few seconds to think about being a kid in school, [about] running around in a sunlit playground [and] the ways in which access to recess and open space and safety helped you develop. That is now becoming a privilege to school children in The City,” said Maria Zamudio, an anti-displacement organizer. “Our city should not be a city where the profits of a millionaire should be more important than children’s access to the sun.”