Tenderloin residents concerned about post office closure in light of proposed new building 

A longtime post office in the Tenderloin will close by the end of the year to make way for a proposed eight-story mixed-use building, one of a handful of such projects in the area that suggest the neighborhood is far from immune to The City’s development boom.

Developers plan to demolish the one-story commercial structure that has been rented by the U.S. Postal Service since 1990 and construct an eight-story, 80-foot-tall building in its place.

The proposed development would comprise nearly 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 85 residential units, including 10 that are below market-rate.

“The project will reinvigorate this part of the neighborhood by providing ground-floor retail and 85 residential apartments,” said Albert Costa, architect for San Francisco-based Costa Brown Architecture Inc. that is designing the building.

“The design … is a mix of contemporary and vernacular architecture.”

But some in the neighborhood are concerned about the impacts of losing the post office, which offers general delivery service relied on by many homeless or low-income Tenderloin residents.

“This is very important for the Tenderloin because a lot of people here don’t have regular addresses … and people need a permanent address to register for all kinds of benefits,” said Alexandra Goldman, community planner for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

The organization, a below market-rate developer in the Tenderloin, has not taken a stance on the building planned in place of the post office.

Costa, however, noted that only 20 percent of the P.O. Boxes are being used at the site.

“It’s basically underutilized as a post office facility,” he said.

The project is among four others that will bring some 500 market-rate units to the neighborhood in the coming years — far more of such development than the neighborhood has seen the past three decades, when new legislation was enacted to protect single room occupancy units and impose height limits, Goldman said.

Today it appears that effort has only temporarily stalled market-rate housing from seeping in.

“The planning legislation [that] passed in the 1980s has helped keep the Tenderloin relatively safe from gentrifying forces,” she said. “But now there’s a lot of companies in mid-Market and the housing crisis in general, [and] people are seeing opportunities in the Tenderloin that they haven’t seen before.”

However, the ground-floor retail could be a welcome sight to the area, Goldman noted. The post office is opposite UC Hastings College of the Law and next to senior housing - both of which do not encourage much foot traffic.

“One of the positive things the project will bring is more activation to that corner and more eyes on the street,” said Goldman.

Michael Nulty, a neighborhood activist who rents a P.O. Box at the Hyde Street post office, said customers — particularly those who are homeless or low-income — have been left in the dark about where their boxes will be moved.

“We don’t know what the outcome will be for the postal services that are located at 101 Hyde,” Nulty said.

The lease for the post office expires Dec. 31, said Augustine Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. The postal service is looking for a storefront within the area to continue general delivery, but a new location has not yet been secured. Additionally, P.O. Box delivery may be transferred to the Fox Plaza post office, located at 1390 Market St.

“We’re currently shopping around,” Ruiz said. He added that the post office will reach out to P.O. Box customers to alert them of the move.

Meanwhile, the loss of the post office to a mixed-use development signals a changing neighborhood, Nulty said.

“It’s just one project of many that are in the pipeline,” he said. “It starts the ripple effect. There had been some housing developments around the edges of the Tenderloin, now they’re starting to be right in the middle.”

The project will be presented to the Planning Commission for the first time on June 11.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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