Robert Tillman said he had no reason to gloat after winning a major victory to entitle his project. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

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. 

A rendering of the proposed 2918 Mission Street project by Gould Evans.

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.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Now the planning commissioners are shadow experts? This is ridiculous. They paid money for experts to analyze the shadows and the experts said there is not a significant impact. If they are going to ignore the experts, why waste time and money on the study? So fucking idiotic. It’s shit like this that gets assholes like Trump elected. Please get new planning commissioners.

    1. Hey John: if it were your desire for more housing built and lots of it there’s probably no one you’d want in your corner more than Donald Trump. That is a fact. He’s spent a lifetime dealing with neighborhood groups, local and state governments and especially people and groups that have way, way too much power and way over-inflated egos. He rejuvenated many, many of Manhattan’s most run-down neighborhoods when no one else thought it could get done. As the saying goes: build it and they shall come. The upshot is that it probably starts with re-zoning – never easy. The Mission St corridor is absolutely perfect for multi-story housing but it will never, ever get done by the public sector to even make a small dent. Gotta’ throw some dolla’ bills in that pool. Try the article.

  2. In crafting this article, under what journalistic principle did you decide to include the modifier “only” in the phrase “and only 11 percent affordable units”? It’s as if you are advocating for a higher percentage of “affordable units,” instead of reporting the facts as they exist.

  3. The Planning Commission, by their unprecedented retroactive application of new development standards, is now circling the “City Family’s” wagons around the Board of Supervisors’ illegal decision.

    The Hearing quite the self-righteous display of petulance on the part of Melgar and Richards with Moore and Johnson going along for the abuse-of-power ride.

    The SF government has thus far — and for the better part of 5 years — treated Mr. Tillman shamefully and it continues to heap abuse upon him.

    Thankfully, he’ll have his day in court (about 5 months from now) and the demagoguery of the Commissioners and Commissars, the Ronens, the Melgars and the MEDA/Calle 24 nativist crowd isn’t going to play there.

    Unfortunately, we, the taxpayers, are going to pay the bill for their misdeeds.

  4. How is this project any worse than the 9 story buildings MEDA is planning to build right next to In Chan Kaajal Park — their 2060 Folsom project?

  5. Why should the height be cut even one inch? This isn’t the French Quarter – Calle 24 or whatever it’s called aside. In ten years, fifteen maybe, twenty stories will be the norm – promise you. We will have highrises in the hood. The public will demand it. The Mission will be dotted with cranes. And it won’t be “affordable” housing either. It will be market rate with few exceptions. San Francisco is so behind the times on infrastructure yet we think we’re cutting edge. There should not be one whit of question why we have a housing shortage. How many decades have we been wrangling over the former Hunters Point shipyard? Didn’t the Navy give us that for a buck, literally? Radiation, smadiation – only in Frisco. Excuses, nothing but excuses by politicians that come and go. How much was that Transit Center overrun? Or the Bay Bridge rebuild for that matter? Does anyone doubt that Millennium will eventually be taken down? Plan on it. Tell me one more time why BART can’t keep the escalators running? Has anyone EVER received a straight answer? Give it a try. Does anyone remember how long it took to rebuild 280 after the earthquake? Ten years? LA rebuilt in a year after their earthquake. And now we have discussions about taking down 280? Doesn’t mean a whit to me other than the fact it’s the same old suspects telling us what’s best for the City – and that’s suspect in itself not to mention a hell of a lot more cars will be clogging our streets. I’m tingling thinking about the promenades sure to follow. Imagine our infrastructure if we were fighting freezing weather or sunstroke heat like the rest of the country. Is there nothing the City can do about the incessant gridlock? Zero? What exactly are they doing on Van Ness? The Golden Gate Bridge took less time to build than whatever they’re doing on Van Ness. Not only that, Van Ness should be one-way with Gough and Franklin going the opposite direction. Figure it out City Hall. Anyone else see a pattern? All that aside, as I’m stuck in traffic drinking my mocha latte through a straw am I breaking state or local law?

  6. “Jade Praerie”,

    You need to stop demanding and complaining, roll up your sleeves and come up with the necessary $’s to subsidize your fantasy world and/or corral the forced labor to construct your utopia.

  7. MEDA now wants to build an 18 story building at 18th and Mission, and yet opposes my project. Complete hypocrites.

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