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‘Historic’ laundromat owner threatens to sue city over delays

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Seventy-five unit housing development appealed again by NIMBY concerns

Designs for a would-be mixed use building at the cite of a present Mission laundromat. Rendering courtesy of BuzzBuzzHome

Mission landlord and developer Robert Tillman, who has spent four years trying to build an eight-story, 75-unit housing development on the site of a laundromat he owns just south of the 24th Street BART station, says he’s had it with City Hall, threatening to sue over the latest round of delays to hit the project this week.

The Planning Department approved construction at 2918 Mission in December, but neighborhood group Calle 24 lodged an appeal in February claiming that the 90-plus year old building might be a historic resource.

Four months later, the Planning Department concluded that the site had no particular historic value and passed on the objection.

But this week Calle 24 presented another appeal, this time alleging that the building and its construction would negatively affect two nearby schools, in particular citing CEQA and concerns over shadows cast by an eight-story structure.

Scott Weaver, attorney for Calle 24, testified before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, saying, “There are a number of things we find troubling about this project: The direct impacts of the schoolchildren who every day will see construction, noise, dust, fumes maybe, and disruption to their learning, their playtime, and their nap time.”

In a forum that lasted for hours, dozens of San Franciscans, most bearing pink stickers declaring “Protect Our Children,” questioned the appropriateness of the 2918 Mission site.

“It’s gonna be a disaster,” resident Tom Gilberti predicted, adding, “Moths, rats are gonna fly all over the place” and suggesting that dust from concrete pouring “can get into your lungs, it’s a disaster.”

Some others stepped up to defend the project, including San Francisco Housing Action Coalition adviser Tim Colen, who declared, “Here we go again,” further adding, “[There’s] a tendency [...] to come to a hearing and say, ‘We like it the way it is, there’s no room for you, get lost. My neighbors in Forest Hill used this argument very effectively.”

But most of the speakers Tuesday favored the appeal. After public comment, Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission, defended the community from accusations of NIMBYism, turning to speak to the gallery and nearby press saying:

“Nobody is saying that newcomers and change aren’t welcome here. But not when it pushes out and decimates a community that’s already there. The Mission community are the first to push for as many 100 percent affordable projects you can fit in one neighborhood. So this idea that this community is saying not to housing is just not true. That term NIMBY came from people who did not want affordable housing in their neighborhood.”

The board eventually voted 11-0 in favor of more study, delaying potential construction again.

In response, owner and developer Tillman says he’s finished doing it City Hall’s way and threatened to take San Francsico to court over what he alleges is an improper use of California’s CEQA laws.

“Essentially, the Board of Supervisors ‘made up’ a CEQA effect that is not legally a CEQA effect,” Tillman told Curbed SF via email. “I will be in court in six to eight months in a writ of mandate lawsuit—i.e., no jury, no witnesses, no discovery, no depositions, no experts, and no material allowed apart from what is already in the record.”

Tillman added, “If the trial is long, it might take three hours.”

Nobody at the SF City Attorney’s office was immediately available for comment.