The proposed eight-story housing development at 2918 Mission Street — the site now commonly known as the “historic laundromat” — failed to clear a key hurdle Thursday when members of the Planning Commission said the project’s potential shadows will have too large an effect on a neighboring preschool.
“I look at the shadow study and think, ‘Wow, the school playground will be used most in the fall, winter and spring, and if the sun doesn’t start hitting it early on, it will be dank and damp,’” said Commissioner Dennis Richards. “Will kids want to play in moisture? Not even my dogs want to lay out on the deck when it’s wet.”
The 4-3 vote to essentially continue the discussion on the project until October 11 bucked the Planning Department’s recommendation, that the shadows would not have a major enough impact on the Zeita T. Rodriguez preschool’s two schoolyards.
“Although occupants of nearby property may regard the increase in shadow on public streets and sidewalks and private properties as undesirable, the limited increase in shading as a result of the proposed project would not be considered a significant impact under [the California Environmental Quality Act],” the department’s shadow study concludes.
Yet the most concern revolved around shadows during the school’s early-morning recess.
The study found that in late spring and early fall, the project would cast a shadow on two-thirds of the schoolyard during the students’ morning recesses — roughly 63 percent of the schoolyard, during some months. During other times of the year, however, it would cast a shadow on a quarter of the schoolyard during those times.
Some commissioners felt that was too much.
“I’m perplexed by language in shadow analysis,” said Commissioner Myrna Melgar. “I don’t see how you can see a 63 percent increase as insignificant.”
In June, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen asked the Planning Department to re-evaluate the project’s shadow impacts, given that the preschool’s playgrounds could become part of the Recreation and Parks Department’s Shared Schoolyards Program. That program allows the public to use schoolyards during certain hours. Ronen’s request has paid off, for now.
Robert Tillman, the owner of the property and proposed project’s developer, told Mission Local that he paid no heed to the meeting. “I don’t even know what [the vote] was,” he said, noting that he is currently in litigation with the city over the Board of Supervisors’ decision to delay the project’s construction until after the additional analysis.
In that vein, Tillman declined to comment, but pointed to a letter sent to the Commission before the meeting.
“Please note that the project that you approved in November and the project that Staff has now placed before you are identical,” the letter reads. “RRTI (Robert Tillman’s company) did not submit a new development application, and the only change since November is that additional studies were performed that demonstrate that the project will not create new historical or shadow impacts.”
The project, which would include 75 units of housing, only 11 percent of which would be affordable — thanks to Tillman’s use of the California density bonus program — has become a community flashpoint. In many ways, it’s brought out the worst from both sides of the issue.
The project became instantly famous in February, when the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to study the laundromat’s building as a potential historic resource.