It was well over a year ago that San Francisco’s Planning Department issued Notices of Violation and Penalty for the following twenty-two properties operated by the Academy of Art University:

1. 601 Brannan Street,
2. 1080 Bush Street,
3. 1153 Bush Street,
4. 58-60 Federal Street,
5. 631 Howard Street,
6. 2225 Jerrold Avenue,
7. 2801 Leavenworth Street,
8. 1727 Lombard Street,
9. 1916 Octavia Street,
10. 1055 Pine Street,
11. 1069-1077 Pine Street,
12. 491 Post Street,
13. 2340 Stockton Street,
14. 620 Sutter Street,
15. 817 Sutter Street,
16. 860 Sutter Street,
17. 740 Taylor Street,
18. 466 Townsend Street,
19. 1849 Van Ness Avenue,
20. 2151 Van Ness Avenue,
21. 2209 Van Ness Avenue, and
22. 2211 Van Ness Avenue.

And although documented Planning Code violations for the properties date back to 2010, an agreement to continue to stay enforcement of the violations as long as certain deadlines were met – including the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Academy of Art’s holdings and growth by October 28, 2013 – was issued.

The Draft EIR has yet to be published, the final report is over a year behind, and the consultants hired to finish the document have apparently stopped work due to AAU’s failure to pay them.

As such, the Planning Department has issued a new new deadline for the AAU to publish a draft of their Environmental Impact Report. And if the the DEIR is not published by November 1, 2014, penalties will begin to accrue. Or perhaps a new new new deadline will be issued.

From City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a letter to Planning Director John Rahaim, having accused the Academy of continuing to engage “in a game of obfuscation and delay” and the city’s Planning Department of having played right along:

“I find it inexplicable that despite the (Academy’s) repeated disregard of you, your department, and the laws you are charged to enforce, you would allow the (Academy) to continue to violate the law without consequence.”

The City Attorney’s letter was written in 2012.

26 thoughts on “Academy Of Art Continues To Disregard Planning, Penalty Free”
  1. So they missed the first deadline, and then the second one, and now we are giving them a third chance, soon to be followed by a fourth? I’d love to cite this as a precedent if the city ever came after me for not pulling a permit.

  2. “Stop, or I shall say ‘Stop’ again!”
    This is ridiculous – can’t put a chain retail store into a long-empty storefront, but Academy o’ [Art] can trod all over the City and nothing happens.

  3. pretty sure the academy of art has displaced more tenants and taken away more housing stock than the ellis act and tech buses combined. Let’s protest their buses!

  4. One might say that the Academy has developed disregard for planning rules into an art form.

  5. Commence eminent domain proceedings and sell the property to the highest bidder for affordable housing.

  6. How does an unemployment factory like the AAU have 22 properties in SF? This seems like as good excuse as any to shut them down or force them move to a single central location, either in the outskirts of the city (e.g., Daly City), or somewhere in Oakland.

  7. This is pretty bad, an apparent egregious abuse, but I think the lady and her family who run the school have some juice, the Ed Lee brand of juice, not the generic variety. What always amazes me is how many students they continue to enroll at that very high tuition. It is hard to believe that all those graduates get jobs, but they seem to keep coming.

  8. They have quite a few foreign students. My friend told me they fail you a couple times to keep the tuition checks coming in.

  9. I have heard that there is a rule that allows “Schools” to disregard some of the occupancy rules that normal buildings have to agree to. AA could treat their buildings as defacto dorms, put multiple students in the same room but still charge them high rents, prevent long term tenancies by manipulating visas or requiring move outs at the end of the school year, thus keeping the total rent roll closer to true market rates.
    Also, if they are the lenders for their student’s loans, they basically loan money and then collect the principle back in the form of rent at very high rates. Student loan debt is not dis-chargeable in bankruptcy, so its a good note to write and unlike housing debt is not subject to a loss in value like a home.
    And they are a private school so they are not required to disclose anything to anybody.

  10. In defense of the AAU they do provide the best of the best baristas. Highly knowledgeable in current trends, best music choice, very stylish even in uniform, and just enough ennui to make you think you’re in Saint Germain Des Pres.

  11. “The following types of dwelling units are also exempt from the Rent Ordinance, regardless of when the building was constructed…”
    “…Housing accommodations in dormitories owned and operated by an institution of higher education, a high school, or an elementary school;”
    Had to look it up, I don’t own any dorms.

  12. Nothing against AA , but I was sort of shocked when I noticed how may building rent control buildings they converted to dorms.

  13. I’ll pile on with what everyone else seems to be saying. It would be interesting to add up the number of rent controlled units removed by the Academy of Art and compare with Ellis Act evictions. But they seem to have so much juice that if they do not listen to this warning (about housing busses, etc.), the city will have no choice but to issue another warning.
    Walk past a campus. It’s all entitled rich kids, many of them foreign. Getting a “degree” has the same relevance to their life trajectory as getting a “job”.

  14. I had a friend who took a few classes there. A few of her classmates had Astons and a Lamborghinis and the like – they were in their early 20s. Forget the rich techies, we need to go after the rich art students.

  15. AAU may have a hard time getting enough votes when (if) the EIR and permits go before the planning commission and BOS.

  16. I love the idea of blocking their buses. Of course, those protesting probably see them as “artists” rather than the parasite that they are.

  17. The people kicking tenants out using the Ellis Act, are following the rules. You may not like the rules, but at least it’s allowed.
    The Academy of Art is kicking tenants out and doesn’t even bother following the rules. Why does the city not do something?
    (This is a rhetorical question; I know why and so does everyone else: $. That doesn’t make it ok.)

  18. More than most socketsite discussions, this is pointless. The Academy of Art is immune from the rules, and it will stay immune.
    The city has much smaller and vulnerable fish to fry and that is where the enforcement will occur.

  19. Conifer, true.
    But it would be hard to think of another issue where everyone, from across the spectrum, is in such complete agreement.

  20. They should be “strongly” encouraged to consolidate and build a campus. They could easily raise money selling existing properties and then build something representative for an art institution.

  21. The Academy of Art is a for-profit enterprise, even though as a school they’re mentally lumped in with the traditional academic institutions.
    Right now the AoA’s profit extraction strategy depends on student loans. It matters not whether the loan will be paid back, just whether the student qualifies for a line of credit. Given the AoA’s abysmal record (compared to, say, a state or community college) of placing their graduates in sustainable careers, I’d expect there to be a groundswell of backlash. Their access to student loan funds could be cut off at any time.
    When/if the AoA is cut off from student loans they’ll need to downsize. And, hey, guess what? They’re sitting on a treasure trove of newly vacant downtown property. Ka-ching!
    I don’t think that the mad acquisition of underpriced residential property was to meet the demands of their students who could have simply rented on the open markeet just like other students do everywhere else. This property portfolio is part of the AoA’s exit strategy. Just wait.

  22. So, is this the same or a similar strategy that the City/Community College District is employing regarding all that potentially prime real estate out there near 280? (The whole “credential” issue thing?)

  23. I wrote to my supervisor (Jane Kim) to ask whether she believes the AoA is in violation and, if so, what she is doing about it. I realize there may not be great faith in representative government on this blog, but writing a letter seems at least a tiny bit less pointless than simply writing a world-Gweary comment.

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