A real estate conglomerate is trying to unload an unfinished property where they’d agreed to rebuild a tennis club they’d previously razed. Now a local tennis group is saying, ‘We’ll see you in court.’
The tennis court you see above no longer exists. What had previously been the San Francisco Tennis Club — part of the Bay Club — has seen a bizarre volleying of circumstances since the real estate firm Alexandria Real Estate Equities bought its Fifth and Brannan Streets site in 2015, with plans to transform it into a 1.2 million-square-foot office and retail development called 88 Bluxome. The following year, the SF Tennis Club won a legal concession that Alexandria would build them 12 replacement indoor tennis courts on a subterranean level of the project.
The ball took some unexpected bounces once the pandemic hit. First, the facility was supposed to be converted into a temporary homeless shelter in March 2020, though SFGate broke the story that that never happened. More urgently, Pinterest backed out of their lease at 88 Bluxome before the offices were even built, which led to Alexandria eliminating the tennis court plans in April 2021 — claiming they could no longer justify the extra expense. But a group called San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation (SFFSR) won an appeal in December to ensure the court would still be built.
Fast forward to late May of this year, and the SF Business Times reported that Alexandria was trying to unload the property for an undisclosed price. But the tennis group is backhanding that proposition right back at them, as the Business Times reports that the SFFSR is suing them to block the sale — based on a complicated contract they apparently signed with the developer.
"We have sole discretion to give consent to anybody they want to sell the property to,” SFFSR executive director Seth Socolow told the Business Times. “We told them that in a letter — they did not respond. Now we're asking a judge to interpret the contract, that it does indeed assert that we have that right."
That lawsuit was filed about two weeks ago. In follow-up reporting on Tuesday, the Chronicle notes that it’s more than just tennis courts at stake. “The 88 Bluxome project has vast community benefits including land for 90 affordable housing units, a new park and two public swimming pools that would expand Gene Friend Recreation Center,” the Chron explained. All of those plans are in no man's land if Alexandria does indeed sell the property.
Image: Save Bay Club SF Tennis via Facebook