While the original terms of the Academy of Art University’s nearly $60 million settlement with the City of San Francisco – to resolve allegations that the institution had systematically schemed to violate state and local laws in its acquisition and use of real estate holdings in San Francisco over the years – have changed since the tentative deal was reached back in 2016, the size of the settlement has not.

In addition to $7 million in penalty payments and in excess of $3.5 million in fees, the Academy will now make an $8.2 million payment to the to San Francisco’s Small Sites Fund and an additional $37.6 million cash payment to the City, to be used solely for affordable housing purposes, “with a first priority for uses related to the creation or preservation of single room occupancy (SRO) units in those supervisorial districts in which the City alleges the Academy unlawfully converted SRO buildings to student housing,” rather than providing any subsidized housing themselves, for total payments in excess of $58 million.

The Academy has also agreed to meet all future housing needs for its student body through the permitted construction of new units on property that is legally zoned for such a use or through the conversion of existing “non-residential, non-PDR” structures (and “to not promise new students more housing units than the number of lawful units that are at its disposal” nor temporarily house students in non-Academy facilities, with a few exceptions).

The Academy will also vacate and cease all Academy related operations at the following nine (9) properties:

150 Hayes Street
168 Bluxome Street
460 Townsend Street
700 Montgomery Street
1055 Pine Street
1069 Pine Street
2295 Taylor Street
2340 Stockton Street
121 Wisconsin Street

And if approved by Planning this week, the remaining thirty-four (34) properties which the Academy owns throughout the city will be brought up to code, legally permitted and authorized for Academy use, including the three buildings at 1142, 1946 and 2550 Van Ness Avenue which aren’t currently being used by the student body.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Anne C. Lawrence

    The settlement should be for more money. Many violations occurred in the purchase and build-out of student housing and in the school’s recruiting process.

    Many promises were made by Richard A. Stephens during my 7+ year tenure. An out of court settlement was for a small annuity.

    • Posted by SFRealist

      I agree. Is there any entity in San Francisco which has removed more affordable housing than the Academy of Art? It’s easy to point out a greedy landlord here or there, but the Academy of Art did the same thing on an industrial scale. This is small change to them.

    • Posted by Neighborhood Activist

      I agree, they are getting off way too easily. Money talks, and they have a lot of it. It shouldn’t be that way.

      AAU is responsible for taking far more housing off the market than this settlement will ever create to replace it.

  2. Posted by Cody

    it says a lot about the folks in San Francisco government that this situation was allowed for many years. Poor governance!

    • Posted by SFRealist

      Is there a list somewhere of which SF elected officials have received their donations over that years? It would make interesting reading, to compare that list with people who claim they support affordable housing.

      I give Herrera credit for going after them. Like you said, this has gone on for decades and no one else said anything.

      • Posted by Rose

        Willie Brown for one

      • Posted by SFRealist

        Oh, obviously Willie Brown. But he’s not alone. Ed Lee, Jane Kim, etc. etc. I don’t know if a list exists, but it would make for interesting reading if it did.

        Of course, it was great business for the Academy of Art. The money they made was much larger than whatever their contributions were, and this “penalty” is a pittance.

  3. Posted by Hunter

    “The Academy will also vacate and cease all Academy related operations…” does that mean those buildings will become affordable housing? Are they selling them off or giving them to the city? If not providing rent-controlled units again, it does seem like the $58 mil is chump change. That wouldn’t cover a single new affordable building, nothing near the many buildings they removed from the market.

    • Posted by Adam

      If you look the properties up on google maps, it’s just a collection of warehouses. One of them is a parking lot they have used for their shuttle buses. Another just looks like a portable classroom. Presumably as well these sites could eventually be built out- vacate is not the same as forfeit. Plus the other sites they now have permission to start using on Van Ness more than make up the space. So this means nothing.

      • Posted by Chris

        700 Montgomery is an office building in North Beach. 1055 Pine Street is a residential building that was used for student housing and the city plans to have developed into senior affordable housing (it was formerly a nursing home if the elderly). 1069 Pine is a small building used as a gym, though I believe it use to contain a few housing units, and I think the city wants it to be a community use building. The other buildings are primarily PDR or commercial spaces.

  4. Posted by Drew

    There goes the Academy of Art business model…!

  5. Posted by MDG399

    they (AAU) got off easy & cheap…..

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