SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The Academy of Art is one of San Francisco’s biggest employers and landowners. But a new city report says there’s a troubling pattern of building code violations.
“It’s a situation that has been going on much, much too long,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
A new Planning Commission report found 32 of academy’s 40 buildings are out of compliance with city codes and have been for some time.
“Building code violations. Buildings being utilized and operated in ways that they are not allowed to be utilized,” Herrera said.
The buildings, converted classrooms, offices and dorms, are scattered throughout the city and make the academy one of the biggest landowners in San Francisco.
“The planning department has been aware of this for close to a decade and I’ve been screaming about this in letters to the planning department since way back in 2012. And unfortunately the planning department has not enforced the law against AAU like they do against every mom and pop operator,” Herrera said,
Peskin adds, “But the planning department has been dragging their feet and if you listen to the Planning Commission meetings, a lot of it sounds very political.”
Just about every move at City Hall has a political angle. While the academy is not overtly political, with an estimated 10,000 students, it is one of the city’s biggest employer’s, bringing millions of dollars to the local economy.
And university president Elisa Stephens is a big donor to civic and charitable causes, in fact cars from their world famous antique collection are often used in city parades.
“If they would have enforced the notices of violation that they could have enforced three or four years ago, we could have gotten in excess of $3.5 million of penalties,” Herrera said.
Whatever the case, Mayor Ed Lee was in no mood to talk about the report when KPIX 5’s Phil Matier met up with him.
Matier: “I’m here to talk about the Academy of Art report coming out of the Planning Department, your comments?”
Lee: “Let’s talk about homelessness, this is what I’m focused here.”
Matier: “Do you have any reaction to it?”
Lee: “I haven’t read it. I don’t know what report you are talking about?”
Matier: “The one from the Planning Department to the Planning Commission that says about three quarters of the Academy’s buildings are not in compliance.”
Lee: “I’ll read it and I’ll see what we can do about it.”
The Academy of Art said that they contest the number of violations. They say that there’s 26 buildings that are still requiring a certain level of appraisal. They say that they have been working with the city since 2007 and that they are going to continue to provide all the information needed to get all the permits.