City Attorney pushes to enforce Academy of Art code violations

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerThe City's Planning Department has not upheld city building codes for the Academy of Art University. The Planning Department has threatened to start fining the school

San Francisco's Planning Department has repeatedly come up short when it comes to upholding city building codes for one of the city's worst code breakers.

The City's Planning Department was taken to task by the city attorney in a Dec. 29 letter for its failure to hold The Academy of Art University to account.

“The Department has given the AAU unprecedented extensions and accommodations, despite the AAU's long-outstanding violations of law,” noted City Attorney Dennis Herrera's letter. “And to date, the AAU continues to occupy buildings and use properties violating the Planning Code. The Department's treatment of the AAU undermines and jeopardizes the City and County of San Francisco's … enforcement efforts and suggests that AAU is above the law.”

The school, which has roughly 50 buildings across The City in old churches, office buildings and other properties, came to an agreement with The City in the spring of 2014 over code violations at multiple properties and a long-awaited environmental impact report.

At the time, the Planning Department threatened to start fining the school for noncompliance starting on Nov. 1.

But that deadline came and went without any fines. Instead, the Planning Department once again gave the school an extension, citing the department's own internal process as a cause for the delay in a required environmental review.

Now Herrera has drawn a line in the sand. In his recent letter, Herrera wrote that he will call for hearings at the Board of Supervisors if AAU does not complete its draft EIR within 60 days of Dec. 29.

The City Attorney's Office must first wait until all administrative actions have been exhausted by the Planning Department before taking any legal action.

The school's spokesperson, Jennifer Blot, said AAU was working with the city to resolve the issues.

“The City Attorney's office is well aware of how hard Academy of Art University and the City have been working to complete the Draft EIR,” wrote Blot. “It's been a team effort with the Planning Department, the City Attorney's office and our university and we remain willing to cooperate in any way we can to expedite this process.”

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