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Upper Market neighbors criticize restaurant plans to replace laundromat

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Little Hollywood Launderette is seen with shuttered windows and a padlocked door near Market and Laguna streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Patrons of a laundromat near the Duboce Triangle will have to walk farther than before to use a washer and dryer under plans to open a Scandinavian restaurant at the recently closed Little Hollywood Launderette.

The Planning Commission will decide Thursday whether a restaurant called Kantine SF can replace the laundromat on the ground floor of a six-story residential building at Market and Guerrero streets.

The restaurant plans have stirred anger in the community with long-term tenants concerned about the neighborhood losing laundromats.

“Many of us who do not live in the new condo buildings with all the amenities sprouting out all over Upper Market/Hayes Valley have to rely on it for a basic need such as laundry,” neighbor Dorian Saintier wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “This is the kind of situation that slowly makes it impossible for the lower classes to live in San Francisco.”

There are six other laundromats with self-service washers and dryers within a half-mile of the building at 1906 Market St., but plans are underway to turn the next closest laundromat into housing, according to city planning records. That laundromat is about three blocks away.

Sonja Trauss, head of pro-development group BARF and a candidate for the District 6 Board of Supervisors seat to represent the Tenderloin and South of Market, is spearheading the opposition to the restaurant.

Trauss is concerned about the lack of laundromats in the neighborhood for residents who live in buildings without washers and dryers, she said in a discretionary review request to the Planning Commission filed June 1.

Trauss said that “laundromats are closing all over San Francisco” because new and renovated units have washers and dryers.

“However, not everyone lives in a new unit,” she wrote. “Longtime San Francisco residents, and new residents in unrenovated (aka affordable) buildings, need laundry facilities.”

Nichole Accettola, co-owner and chef of Kantine, said in a letter to the Planning Commission that the laundromat did not close because of the restaurant but recognized that the plans put some neighbors in “an understandably challenging situation.”

“The circumstances surrounding the tenant’s decision to close the laundromat transpired long before we discovered the space ourselves,” Accettola said. “Nevertheless we understand the importance of being able to wash ones clothes outside of the home for some city dwellers.”

City planners also affirmed in planning documents that “the laundromat’s closing is not a result of the restaurant’s recommended approval.”

Accettola said that the laundromat has the right utility hook-ups and ventilation “to make transforming a ‘non-restaurant’ space into a restaurant easier and less expensive than other types of commercial space conversions.”

The restaurant plans have support from some neighbors, groups including the Castro Merchants and nearby businesses such as the Orbit Room bar.

Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District Executive Director Andrea Aiello said the plans will help spur the trend of new specialty restaurants in the neighborhood.

“Kantine will feature Scandinavian food, harking back to the history of this neighborhood and will be open for breakfast and lunch,” Aiello wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “A specialty restaurant such as Kantine will help activate the block.”

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