1080 Bush Street

As we first reported last year, of the 40 known properties currently operated by the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, 30 appeared to be operating illegally without necessary permits or approvals.

But upon further review, it’s actually 33 of the 40 properties, or 82.5 percent, which are operating illegally, including nine buildings, such as 1080 Bush Street above, and over 620 beds of student housing which are ineligible to be permitted or legalized without legislative amendments to San Francisco’s existing Planning Code.

AAU Property Breakdown 2016

AAU Unapprovable Properties 2016

The legislative amendments, however, would result in the loss of at-risk uses the City is on the record as fighting to preserve, including residential housing and Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) space. And as such, it will be interesting to see how the City approaches these sites.

In addition to the nine (9) properties that are operating in a manner not allowed under San Francisco’s existing Planning Code, ten (10) of the Academy of Art’s properties require Conditional Use Authorizations which haven’t been approved, thirteen (13) require historic preservation reviews which haven’t been performed, and one (1) requires a Building Permit Application to be secured.

The public hearing for the University’s long-overdue Environmental Impact Report, which was expected to be certified next month, has been pushed back to July, after which San Francisco’s Planning Department “will embark on the processing of AAU’s [buildings] that require legalization.”

37 thoughts on “Academy of Art Has More Illegal Buildings than First Reported”
  1. Imagine if all these the units in these older (mostly rent-controlled) buildings came back on the market…that would be a modern SF miracle. Shut ’em down.

  2. Does anyone know how AAU gets to run roughshod over the law? Who are they juiced in with in the city?

  3. It is inexcusable that AAU does not get the proper permits, and that the City does not enforce the law. That being said, 100% of these units are occupied by students, who would be occupying other units were these not available. Its not like these units are being held off the market. Shutting down these buildings would only put added pressure on other buildings.

  4. If the city does not plan to enforce the law against a major property owner, but puts the screws to smaller ones, what respect should anyone have for those regulations and planning guidelines? And in they end they are likely to give AAU some sort of out, which makes it all worse.

    1. There is no chance that anything happens to AAU. They have flagrantly violated a variety of ordinances for years (decades?).

      1. AAU has been doing this since the 90’s. At some point, wouldn’t laches or the statute of limitations apply?

  5. I know several people who went to AAU and have well paying jobs. I don’t see what the problem with them owning even 100 buildings is to house their international and local students.

    Should everyone go to the Art Institute and get $0 & no work & be unemployed or live on your parental trustfund…forever? I don’t understand the anger.

    AAU, and I know teachers there as well as students, get people into real life jobs. With salaries.

    1. All of which is good. None of which excuses them ignoring the city’s rules (illegal buildings, illegal busses, etc).

  6. AAU is largely a scam school where foreign students with rich parents come to spend a few years living in SF. If they’re the exception, they actually graduate and maybe they get a job, here or elsewhere. Most I’ve known have enjoyed their time here but never graduated and ended up eventually going home. AAU makes a mint, and people with real ties to SF (like jobs, etc.) can’t live here because AAU is illegally occupying so many buildings.

  7. It’s no scam. If they don’t graduate, they went in over their head. I worked very hard to graduate there and have a successful career now. They can too. It’s just no art school that’s a cake walk.

    1. If a school has an abysmal graduation rate, that’s a problem with the structure of the school (accepting students not prepared skill-wise or financially for the program), not that the students are not working hard. Harvard is no cake walk and they boast high graduation rates. If they did not, they would loose their accreditation.

      “But behind the shiny façade is a less than lustrous business: luring starry-eyed art students into taking on massive amounts of debt based on the “revolutionary principle” (Stephens’ phrase) that anyone can make a career as a professional artist. No observable talent is required to gain admission to AAU. The school will accept anyone who has a high school diploma and is willing to pay the $22,000 annual tuition (excluding room and board), no art portfolio required.

      It would be easy to accuse AAU of being a diploma mill, except the school doesn’t manufacture many diplomas. Just 32% of full-time students graduate in six years, versus 59% for colleges nationally, and that rate drops to 6% for online-only students and 3% for part-time students. (Selective art schools like the Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons graduate 90% of their students; see “Why Art School Can Be A Smart Career Move.”) The few AAU students who manage to collect a degree are often left to their own devices in finding employment in a related field.

      In marketing itself to dreamy prospects, the school touts its success at placing students at Pixar, Apple and Electronic Arts. But the morning shift at the local Starbucks is just as likely for some students. That and a mountain of debt. In the 2013-14 academic year 55% of the school’s roughly 10,700 undergraduates had federal student loans totaling $45 million.”

  8. The problem is the Planning Dept. We have a jackass for a Zoning Administrator.

    Taking residential hotels and converting them to student housing shouldn’t be an issue.

    Turning offices into classrooms, and library shouldn’t be an issue.

    You can debate the PDR space, CU to a health club, but it’s currently storage, which should be permitted under PDR.

  9. People complain about tech shuttles but no word about Academy of Art shuttles covering for a real estate front.

    1. But they’re using their own real estate, and wouldn’t the shuttles prove it’s not merely a front? Is the Catholic Church a real estate front too? What about Salesforce?

  10. So the buildings are zoned residential and they have students living there? On my list of issues for the City to address – poop and pee on the streets – a ridiculous amount of car break-ins, bike theft, petty theft, and general political corruption at City Hall, some minor permit issues with AAU ranks dead last in importance.

    1. This case appears to be an example of the political corruption in SF. That’s the usual explanation for how they’ve be able to do this for so long and so broadly, so openly. Besides, illegally converting and operating 33 buildings over a period of many years is not “some minor permit issues.” Fortunately, SF govt has many departments and employees, allowing them to address (ineffectually) more than one issue at a time.

  11. AAU is a crime ring with ties to NATO. Look into Nancy P. Houston who is the head of the Stephens Institute. This is not a school. The school is a front for numerous illegal schemes. AAU continually and fraudulently harasses and harms students and if you need any proof of that look into the Murder and cover up of AAU student Aaryn Goldberg. Her death was COVERED UP by AAU and the National Park Service.

    They pressure police and politics using money and “Influence.” They alter their Title IX numbers and make it seem like they are creating a safe Campus but it’s a VERY dangerous place to go to school.

    Someone needs to shut this place down.

    1. I went to AAU and I knew Aaryn Goldberg.

      Aaryn Golberg didn’t even die on the school’s campus, or even in San Francisco where this school is located. She was visiting the neighboring Marin county when she died. The death wasn’t covered up.

      The school notified everyone living in the dorms of her death. Her body was found in a beach not accessible to the public because it was off a cliff. She willing took a cab to a park late at night, alone. Why would anyone do such a strange thing? She wasn’t forced or dragged there. Her body was pounded against rocks from being tossed in waves in the ocean. To investigate the nature of how she died would be very hard because of all the rock and water damage. To figure out how or why someone falls off a cliff is hard too.

      I am very familiar with the campus. It is very safe. I lived in the same dorm as her. Very safe. San Francisco has some scary neighborhoods, but it’s easy to avoid, though some of their buildings are near these scary neighborhoods. It’s hardly the school’s fault. It’s the cities fault on that.

      The school is huge, there is a huge faculty and the school’s curriculum and teachers are very, very serious for an art school. Saying shut it down for petty reasons is ridiculous. The school may let anyone in, but there standards are very strict once you are in. They will make you take prerequisite classes before you are allowed to proceed.

      1. Hi Lynn. Out of curiosity, which dorm did you live in with Aaryn? Bluxome? “Everyone living in the dorms” is sort of a broad statement.

      2. Lynn,
        You seem to think that you’re well-informed. The investigation into Aaryn Goldberg’s murder is ongoing and we are curious about where and who you received your information, your knowledge about those involved, and who you represent.

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