Academy of Art University: Planning in San Francisco is hard 

City lawmakers on Monday could ask senior city planning officials why they have allowed the Academy of Art University to flout their department’s housing and zoning laws.

The Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing to discuss the academy’s housing practices.

“The hearing is to hold the Academy of Art accountable,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who requested the hearing.

“The basic question is, ‘Why has Planning allowed this to go on?’” Mar said Sunday.

Mar said allegations related to the for-profit university’s violations of various planning rules have persisted for five years.

Officials from San Francisco’s fire and building inspection departments are also expected to attend the hearing, according to Mar.

“There have been allegations that the Academy crams four to five students into a room at a time that might be potential violations of the fire code,” Mar said.

On Thursday, city lawyers, planners and planning commissioners met behind closed doors to discuss whether to initiate litigation against the for-profit university for violating city planning rules. Afterwards, commissioners voted to keep the content of their discussions a secret.

Some of the academy’s code violations relate to the illegal conversion of residential and industrial buildings and churches for classrooms and student accommodation.

On Friday, the university published a first-hand account of Project Manager Paul Correa’s work in San Francisco.

“Last December I applied for a permit from San Francisco’s Planning Department for a bench outside our building at 410 Bush Street,” Correa wrote in the article. “Getting a permit for a bench doesn’t sound like a big deal. But this short story says a lot about how we work with the city — and what I do.”

After outlining the university’s efforts to correct the violation of planning rules related to the installation of benches on public thoroughfares, Correa provided an update about work that he is undertaking to correct other planning code violations.

Correa did not indicate when he expects the violations to be corrected.

“I really enjoy working in a field that deals with community development and the built environment,” Correa wrote. “I’m up thinking about it some nights, but that makes it exciting, too — how you put together a plan that resolves all the issues and satisfies multiple stakeholders. It’s fun.”

The university’s president is “totally behind our efforts” to resolve the violations, Correa wrote.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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