Battle over SF Tennis Club site heats up as developer axes replacement club

Local recreation group says it was double-crossed by developer

A rendering of the planned office campus at 88 Bluxome Street (TMG Partners, iStock)
A rendering of the planned office campus at 88 Bluxome Street (TMG Partners, iStock)

Locals are outraged by a Pasadena developer’s decision to drop tennis from a planned 775,000-square-foot office campus on the site of the San Francisco Tennis Club.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities won the city’s permission from the city to transform the site, at 88 Bluxome Street, into biotech offices after would-be anchor tenant Pinterest backed out of a pact to lease half the space, the San Francisco Business Times reported. The developer said it was re-evaluating costs as it laid out plans to eliminate a 130,000-square-foot replacement tennis club on the basement levels — a condition previously set by recreation advocates.

The nonprofit San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation filed a claim with the city’s Board of Appeals to reverse approval of the change. The group said it felt betrayed by the switch and that it couldn’t advance without another authorization and public hearing by the San Francisco Planning Commission. Alexandria declined to comment to the outlet.

“This feels like a total double-cross,” the group’s Seth Socolow told the Business Times. “We supported them, they got this approved, and now they are trying to remove the tennis club with minimum consequences.”

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The group, formed after Alexandria bought the site in 2015, collected enough signatures to place a measure on the 2016 ballot that would have required any developer that removed a recreational facility of a certain size to replace it with another within a reasonable distance of the original. Alexandria reached an agreement to include a replacement in exchange for the group dropping the ballot measure.

The group said Alexandria used the deal to promote the project by touting its retention of the historic site as an amenity central to the project and even asking group members to lobby for its approval. The planned replacement tennis facility was “explicitly used to partially justify a huge reduction” in otherwise required production, distribution and repair as well as other exemptions.

The board is expected to discuss the appeal on Dec. 8.

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[SFBT] — Victoria Pruitt