Planning's Preliminary Recomendations Map

While now battling a civil suit filed by the City with respect to its illegal conversion and unpermitted use of the vast majority of the 40 properties it owns in San Francisco, the Academy of Art University is about to learn that it could lose over a quarter of its student housing.

San Francisco’s Planning Department has just completed a review of each of the University’s illegally converted properties and their impacts on the City’s stated policy goals, “such as the desire to increase housing supply and reduce the loss of industrial space.”

And based on the aforementioned review, which will be presented to San Francisco’s Planning Commission next week, Planning’s inclination and preliminary recommendation is to disallow the legalization of four of the University’s seven housing sites which require Planning Code amendments to allow for their continued use as dorms:

AAU Preliminary Recomendations Housing

The buildings at 1080 Bush, 1153 Bush, 1055 Pine and 860 Sutter Street currently provide a total of 498 beds of student housing.  That’s roughly 28 percent of the University’s student housing overall, and 40 percent of the beds which the University has been seeking to legalize.

Planning is, however, “inclined to recommend approval” for the legalization of the University’s student housing at 1916 Octavia, 2209 Van Ness and 2211 Van Ness (which together total 123 beds), as well as permitting the University’s use of the former hotel and motel buildings at 1727 Lombard, 817-831 Sutter, and 620 Sutter, which currently provide another 432 beds:

AAU Preliminary Recomendations Hotel sites

The necessary permits for the University’s apartment buildings at 655 and 680-688 Sutter Street, which provide 233 beds of housing, are preliminary recommended for approval as well.

The remainder of the University’s residential buildings at 1900 Jackson, 736 Jones, 560 Powell, 575 Harrison and 168 Bluxome, which provide 499 beds of student housing, are operating with permits and within the law.

24 thoughts on “Academy of Art Could Lose a Quarter of Its Student Housing”
  1. Suppose they do lose this battle. The owners of the AAU are wealthy enough to simply Ellis Act these properties or leave them vacant forever. AAU was always just a real estate accumulation engine and the owners are now fabulously wealthy as a result. I see more downside for the city than for AAU with this adversarial action.

  2. AAU could dry up and blow away and I am not sure anyone would miss them.

    Applying the Ellis Act to these buildings doesn’t really even make sense unless their plan was to sell individual units as TICs, and I don’t think any of them are suited for that. Yes, they could just leave them empty but they’d probably be squarely in the radar of housing activists who would occupy and trash them or something. I could be wrong but doubt that would be their strategy.

  3. They have flouted the law for years and should be treated accordingly, just like any other homeowner or landlord in this town.

    1. Yes yes yes! We have planning rules. Some of those rules are dumb, and you may not agree with them, but everyone should have to follow the rules.

  4. *yawn* So this is the City’s response to AAU’s first settlement offer. A few more back and forth rounds and then the remaining issues dwindle, and then simply go away. The other option is to fully litigate this and expose the pay to play strategy the AAU and various city officials had for decades and look at how Democrats really work in this town. Great strategy for an election year and makes good election year debates, no?

  5. So the 498 students that get kicked out live on the Street in a cardboard box? The SF Planning Dept knows that the students sure can’t afford to rent elsewhere in SF. Seems kind of a vicious solution. Poor students on Street – property will be occupied by “others and industrial space”… Unfortunate priorities in the middle of a housing crisis…

    1. No, they will ask their parents for more money to rent an apartment or go elsewhere and pursue something else. If I’m not mistaken, the only admission requirements for AAU students is money. These kids do not come from struggling families.

    2. The school year is ending soon. The responsible thing for AAU to do is to not rent out these buildings to next year’s students. Especially now that AAU has the preliminary recommendations from the Planning Department, they will be knowingly placing students in housing that they may need to evict them from mid-year.

  6. I will leave it to some more outspoken SS commenter to explain the social coding of this question — why are these students considered different from other students, not due whatever sympathy and protection others students would be due.

    They will certainly get the cold shoulder from neighborhood activist types that would normally align with students and against landlords, even from the planning department.

    Moral hierarchy of student institutions in SF:

    SFSTATE ( exemplify the struggle, incompetent ( a moral plus) unaccountable landlord)
    CCAC / SFAI (pure, even if rich parents)
    UCSF (med research **, but powerful state, unaccountable landlord)
    USF (jesuit conservative landlord)
    AA ( for profit, unaccountable landlord till now)

    apologize for any errors

    1. So illegal activities should be forgiven because it hurts people who aren’t breaking the law to enforce the law?

    2. I haven’t heard that these other schools have illegally converted any buildings into student (for-profit) housing. If they did, then I also would expect that the laws would be enforced against these schools. So the difference is that these other schools (as far as I know) follow the law while AAU does not. It is a stretch to finger any discrimination against particular students here.

      Any of us could make a lot of money buy buying homes (or other buildings), installing bunkbeds in every room, and renting them out as “student housing” (I estimate I could net $80,000 – $100,000 a year just on my one home). But it is not legal to do so – “think of the students” does not change that.

        1. Frankly, I could fit one in there that is about as worthwhile as AAU . . .

          And actually, I forgot about our garage — another couple of bunkbeds in there and my “dorm” could net me another $25,000/yr.

          1. I know (that is, I read on the internet) that AAU is accredited by WASC, the same body that reviews most private schools in Northern California. My spouse has organized WASC accreditation reviews for a private high school in the area and it is not a rubber stamp. You could not fit an accredited university in your garage, I can assure you.

            Do some kids waste their time and come out of AAU with a degree that doesn’t lead to glory and joy and economic success? Of course. Just like kids from SF State, and UCSF, and Harvard for that matter. In my experience, success in college, like much of life, is much more a function of how much effort is input rather than the framework for the input itself.

          2. That should be Academy of Art’s new marketing campaign. We are just like Harvard and UCSF and SF State! If you apply yourself. And with more housing!

      1. yes, and if only you and many others would do this we might solve the housing crisis. There is even an app and a cloudy service to make it easy for any SF homeowner or tenant to rent out a portion of their abode without bothering with tedious SF gov’t permits, registration, and other petty political meannesses. And then your bunkbedders could rent out a share of their space, and so on recursively until victory over the housing crisis. We have always been at war with the housing crisis.

        “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel

  7. All they have to do to legalize is allow non-students to rent in those buildings – then it becomes just a regular residential hotel that happens to be popular with students.

  8. I have a question regarding what this will mean for the students attending next year ? Our daughter has signed up and we just paid the housing and tuition deposits.

    1. Hopefully the college won’t oversubscribe their housing. If they do they will need to refund the housing deposits of students not placed who will then need to find alternative housing.

    2. @Caroline: I doubt this will be completed before the beginning of the academic year, and once that has started, it would look quite bad for the city to send students like your daughter packing. It might be more challenging for the ’17-’18 school year.

      But don’t look for much sympathy here. Some people here apparently think your daughter should move to Vallejo and that the value of an AAU education is on a par with Trump University. What do you think?

  9. The Academy is just a cash cow for the Stephens family. Not just the buildings, but the cars too.

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