San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the Academy of Art University today, alleging that the institution “schemed to violate state and local laws in its aggressive acquisition and use of vast real estate holdings in San Francisco.”
As we first reported earlier this year, over 80 percent of the University’s 40 properties in San Francisco are operating illegally, including nine buildings and over 250 units of housing which are ineligible to be permitted or even legalized for student use without legislative amendments to San Francisco’s existing Planning Code.
As we also wrote at the time:
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.
And now we know.
Herrera’s complaint contends that AAU has unlawfully deprived San Francisco of some 300 residential dwellings that are desperately needed in the midst of a severe affordable housing crisis. The suit also alleges that the AAU defendants’ unfair and fraudulent business practices have illegally denied San Franciscans their rightful role in neighborhood planning decisions, and disadvantaged honest competitors in the city’s real estate marketplace.
Or in the words of Herrera (or at least his press team):
“Academy of Art University is one of San Francisco’s most egregious land use scofflaws, and its defiance persists at the worst possible time for our residents.
For more than a decade, city officials have worked cooperatively with AAU to try to resolve its rampant violations. We extended every professional courtesy, and showed patience beyond what I was sometimes happy about, quite frankly. But no one can doubt San Francisco’s good faith in working with AAU. And yet — again and again — AAU met our good faith with bad faith. Again and again, AAU sought more time to address its violations, even while scheming to commit new violations, at newly purchased properties. Again and again, AAU set deadlines it missed; made promises it broke; and hired lawyers it soon after fired—simply to frustrate progress toward resolution.
With our lawsuit today, the ‘again-and-agains’ end.”
The litigation seeks a permanent injunction compelling the Academy of Art to restore all the units that they “unlawfully displaced from San Francisco’s affordable housing stock” and abate all violations, along with penalties of no less than $200 per day for each violation of the San Francisco Planning Code, up to $2,500 for each act of unfair or unlawful business under the California Business and Professions Code, as and all attorneys’ fees and costs of pursuing the civil action. Problems with estates/property can be sorted out through the proper legal channels, luckily they are doing that here with lawyers who are like Caldwell Wenzel Asthana, hopefully this will yield the right response and the courts will respond positively to that